Tainted Love

Six saddles that won't leave you brokenhearted

Photos by Anthony Smith

MTB Seats

WTB VOLT TEAM | $130 | WTB.COM

Since saddle comfort is mostly about fit, it's tough to review them. What I find comfortable might feel horrible to you, so we must stress that finding the right saddle usually requires trying a few out. The Volt is now offered in three widths to increase the odds of a good fit (I liked the 135 millimeter). The rails, however, are short–if you need a lot of fore-aft adjustment, you may need to shop elsewhere. Most saddles these days have a pressure-relief area in the center, and the Volt is no exception. The back flairs up a bit to keep the rider in position, and the nose slopes in the front with a gentle downward curve, so steep climbs don't feel like you just dropped the soap. Out of all the seats in the test, the Volt has the cushiest foam, but not so cushy that you sink into it. The Team version has titanium rails, but it's also available with carbon, cromoly and steel. –Ryan Palmer

FIZIK THAR | $150 | FIZIK.IT

I don't know how it's possible to make a 29er-specific seat, but that's apparently what the Thar is. Really though, it just has super-long rails that allow for a ton of fore-aft adjustment. The flat section of the rails measure 95 millimeters–at least 15 millimeters longer than any of the other seats tested. Depending on how long your seatpost clamps are, you can expect 40 or more millimeters of adjustment. I'd say that's pretty sweet, no matter what wheel size you're running. The Thar is the only saddle we tested that doesn't have a pressure-relief recess, but that might not be an issue if the fit is right. Measuring 125 millimeters at the widest point, it's on the narrower end, but I found that my sit bones (which measure 110 millimeters) fit nicely on the flat-shaped seat. I loved the wide, stubby nose, which made this saddle one of the most comfortable ones for steep climbs. –RP

PRO VULTURE | $120 | PRO-BIKEGEAR.COM

The Vulture is short, flat and has a wide nose for climbing comfort–the nose on this saddle is a good 5 millimeters wider than the Thar's. This made it easily the most comfy seat for me to climb with. Even though it's only a few millimeters shorter than some of the other saddles tested, I almost felt like I was riding a size smaller bike with all the extra hovering clearance it provided. These things, combined with the saddle's 132-millimeter width, made it a top contender for me. I used to avoid V-shaped backs like the plague because they'd cause baggies to snag, but dropper posts mostly alleviate this problem. The two points do give the Vulture some serious talons, though, which manged to inflict a few bruises in key areas. Everything else about this saddle is perfect for me, but the back is fairly sharp for being so close to sensitive areas, which could be a deal-breaker for some. –RP

MTB Seats

SPECIALIZED WOMEN'S MYTH COMP | $100 | SPECIALIZED.COM

The Myth is the only female-specific mountain-bike saddle Specialized sells. While some brands might commit more to the category, the mid-range Comp offers quality at a reasonable price. I rode both the 143-millimeter and 155-millimeter widths, and found the 143 to be better suited to my body (my sit bones measure about 120 millimeters). Specialized also offers a 168-millimeter to fit the wider sit bones characteristic of many females. The saddle's contour is designed around the women's Body Geometry fit system and incorporates a deep V-groove channel to reduce soft-tissue pressure. That, combined with the highest density of foam padding Specialized makes, means multiple hours aboard the Myth don't feel akin to sitting on a cement block. One thing I noticed right away was the ease of transferring my position out of the saddle on climbs, which is likely due to low-friction padding on the front and rear panels. Those looking for a lighter saddle will need to go elsewhere for a carbon-fiber shell or carbon rails, but at 289 grams for the 155-millimeter, the Myth's weight is respectable. –Nicole Formosa

SQLAB 611 ACTIVE MTB TITUBE | $189 | SQLAB.COM

By far the longest in the test, the Active MTB allows plenty of real estate to move around on–something that might come in handy for some riders on longer slogs. The Active MTB also incorporates a very aggressive down step from back to front, which is meant to relieve pressure as well as provide a sort of buttress to push against on steep climbs. At first, I found the step-down awkward and had a difficult time settling into a comfortable spot, but after some time I grew to really like the feel and added pressure relief the step-down provided. In addition to the step-down, the tail sways side to side a bit in order to follow the rocking of the hips while pedaling. I'm not sure how much this added to the overall comfort, but it was detectable. Most importantly, this flex didn't make any noise. Its long length can make it tough to maneuver the bike around underneath you, so I'd recommend this saddle for riders who would rather go out on all-day epics than launch their nearest road gap. The Active MTB is available in 130-, 140- and 150-millimeter widths. –RP

TIOGA SPYDER OUTLAND | $140 | TIOGAUSA.COM

Definitely one of the most curious-looking seats on the market, the Outland would definitely be Spiderman's top choice if he rode mountain bikes. Rather than using foam to provide comfort, Tioga went a completely different route. Their Spyder saddles start with a composite material they call "Carbonite" for the frame, which is covered with a flexible plastic-like web. The result is a saddle that has a good suspension feel without all the weight of foam. I found it soft enough to be comfortable without it feeling like I was sinking into the saddle. Removable silicone pads on the rear portion of the Outland provide much-needed traction. When not installed, I found the surface very slippery. It would be nice to see a permanently affixed silicone topcoat for the whole saddle because I found the nose too slippery to remain planted on during steep climbs. A more traditional, rounded shape and 125-millimeter width make it more likely to suit riders with narrower sit bones. –RP

Related:

Full Coverage: Six Gloves Put to the Test

Landing Gear: Six Forks Put to the Test

Roll Models: Six Wheelsets Put to the Test