Weighty Matter: Bicycle Saddles

This is part of our ongoing series about making your adventure bike lighter, more durable, and funner to ride.

Today we're talking about saddles.  Choosing the right performance saddle is one of the easiest and best ways to pull more than half-a-pound out of your bike.

Saddle:  Contemporary vs. Classic Leather

Weight Savings:  Weight variation between saddles can easily be more than 250 grams or 9 ounces.  For example:

  • Fizik Alliante saddle:  250 grams.  This is a high quality, durable, contemprary saddle.  There are many like this.  You can get a durable saddle that's as light as 170 grams.
  • Brooks B17:  530 grams.  This is nearly 330 grams heavier - more than 11 ounces - than a good light saddle.
  • Brooks Cambium C15:  405 grams.

We can't tell you how many times we've hear "lightweight bike" and and "Brooks B17" in the same sentence.  These two concepts have a very difficult time going together.

Also, saddle weight is disproportionately noticeable on a bike because it sits so far from the bike's center or gravity that the weight is more noticeable when standing.

Of course, saddles are like shoes:  Everyone has a different preference.  

Most people choose a leather saddle for one of two reasons:

  1. Aesthetics:  If you prefer the style of a leather saddle, done.  Go for it.  but know that you are paying a high price.
  2. Comfort:   This is the primary reason we hear people switching to a leather saddle.  The best fitters we know remind us that if you think a leather saddle will solve your saddle-to-body issues, you're most likely wrong; something else is going on.  In other words, a leather saddle is rarely, if ever, the proper solution to saddle soars, saddle pain, numbness, or chaffing.  If you have any of these issues, work on the fit of the bike and invest in a high-quality saddle, but leave a leather saddle as the last resort; we bet you won't have to end up there.  Contemporary saddle quality and hundreds of options almost guarantee that you wont resort to leather.

Leather saddles also require care and maintenance.  The idea of protecting your saddle from rain and inclement weather, and having to adjust it as it breaks in, are two concepts we don't want to think about during a six-day adventure ride.

By the way, we love Brooks; they make some great items and they're very supportive of adventure riding.  They make some of their own goods - such as saddles, and they have a good spirit.  And, we rarely recommend any of their full leather saddles.