A saddle is one of the most personal things on a bike. Finding the perfect saddle is the kind of thing that can sometimes take time and a lot of effort. No one can tell you exactly which to choose. The right saddle for you has to do with the type of riding you are doing, which is why the best gravel bike saddle will differ from the best road bike saddles.
It will also depend on how flexible you are, your levels of core strength, your sit bone width, and your unique soft tissue. Even once you've taken all that into consideration, and found your perfect saddle, it will change. It will change as you age and it will change as you take part in different types of cycling. It's important to continue your quest for the perfect saddle because you can have any of the best gravel bikes and wear the best cycling shorts available, but pair them with an ill-fitting saddle and your ride will be reduced to probable discomfort, possible pain, and potentially worst of all, walking.
The needs of a road cyclist are different than the needs of a gravel cyclist. Unlike a road bike saddle, mud, dirt, trees, traction, and branches come into play for gravel saddles. Spend some time hiking with your bike then sliding it under a downed tree and you might want a different saddle than what's on your road bike.
Even within the gravel cycling umbrella, there is a huge range of different types of riding. If you are a gravel racer your needs are going to be a lot different than that of a bikepacker. If you like to take on the most technical trails a drop-bar bike can handle that warrants a different type of saddle again.
Whatever your needs there are some general ideas to consider, which we run through at the bottom of this page, but first, we've gathered our pick of the best gravel bike saddles to help you find something that will work for you.
Fizik Tundra M1
A long, thin, and flat saddle that allows for plenty of leg movement
Rails: Carbon | Shell: Composite carbon co-injected Nylon WingFlex | Widths available: 126mm | Weight: 160g | Price: $240.00
The Fizik Tundra M1 is the premier Fizik cross-country race saddle from Fizik. It includes a tough Microtex upper that's smooth at the back. There are no seams and it's a flat profile.
This kind of saddle is going to be best for those who are flexible and have pretty narrow hips. The smooth back makes it easy to slide on and off the saddle and get your weight over the rear on descents. The long front helps with controlling the bike but limits the amount of forward pelvis tilt that is possible. You'll need to be able to bend at the waist without needing to tilt your pelvis a lot.
Brooks Cambium C13 Saddle
Ultra stylish and so durable there’s never a need to worry about scraping it
Rails: Carbon | Shell: Vulcanised Natural Rubber | Widths available: 145mm, 158mm | Weight: 295g | Price: $220.00
There's a certain mystique about Brooks saddles. They are just one of those brands that seem to show up on the bikes of the coolest people. Unfortunately, the traditional leather construction of Brooks saddles isn't suited to off-road riding. The Cambium C13 is an answer to that need.
The construction of the Brook Cambium C13 is different from most of what's out there. Instead of a shell with padding and a cover, there's a carbon fibre frame covered with a thick piece of rubber. The unsupported nature of the rubber provides all the necessary shock absorption with more durability.
The Cambium C13 is so durable I can't imagine it ever wearing out, even after a crash.
Ergon SR Pro Carbon
A men's-specific carbon-performance saddle priced very reasonably
Rails: Carbon | Shell: Carbon Composite | Widths available: sit-bone width of 9-12cm and sit-bone width of 12-16cm | Weight: 175g | Price: $189.95
The SR Pro Carbon uses a design targeted for men who ride in an aggressive position. Most companies who use a relief channel use a deep channel that splits the shell from the nose to the rear of the saddle. With the Ergon SR Pro the channel is shallow with a rearward bias. Ergon claims this better reflects male pelvis tilt but it also maintains the integrity of the saddle. With only a small spot for water to drain the saddle is stronger and mud and dirt don't have a way to get through from below.
A carbon composite shell and carbon rails can make for an expensive saddle. The Ergon SR Pro Carbon is a rare offering at just over $100 for top of the line materials and low weight.
Fabric Scoop Shallow Race
A high-quality, low-price option with a gentle wave and lots of flexibility in the shell
Rails: Titanium | Shell: Flexible Nylon | Widths available: 142mm | Weight: 254g | Price: $105.00
Fabric saddles offer three profiles for different types of riders and riding. The shallow profile represents what it considers a medium-aggressive, all around, option. It has a rounded rear section and medium padding that should work well for a setup similar to most endurance focussed gravel bikes. There is a slight wave but it's not aggressive and strikes a nice balance between locking the rider in and allowing movement.
The real strength in the Fabric Race Shallow saddle is the design of the base. Fabric has gone for a flexible nylon base that provides plenty of shock absorption as it moves. There's enough strength that it won't break down but the movement adds a suspension effect that's great for gravel.
Bontrager Verse Pro
A versatile saddle for men or women, on-road and off-road, and available in a size for everyone
Rails: Carbon | Shell: Carbon Reinforced | Widths available: 135mm, 145mm, 155mm, 165mm | Weight: 184g | Price: $219.99
A saddle for everyone runs the risk of being a saddle for no one. The Verse line of saddles from Bontrager targets men and women and all surfaces and it works. Trek, and its accessory company Bontrager, is a company with a culture of data. An extensive dealer network helped Bontrager hone what was working for people.
Sales, returns, and fitment data from the dealer network showed the way forward. The most popular sizes and configurations of previous saddles have come together in a saddle designed for everyone. There's a wide nose paired with a wide midsection and a generous central cutout. To further broaden potential users the Bontrager Verse saddle has four sizes available and an extra-long usable mount area on the rails.
Selle Italia X-LR Kit Carbonio Superflow
Thoughtful details specific to gravel come together to form one of the lightest saddles on the market
Rails: Carbon | Shell: Nylon12 and Carbon fibre | Widths available: 130mm, 138mm | Weight: 130g | Price: $319.99
Selle Italia has a reputation for some of the lightest weight saddles on the market. Weight is rarely the best lens through which to view components and that's especially true of gravel saddles. Still, if you can have your cake and eat it there's no reason not to choose a lightweight saddle. The Selle Italia X-LR Kit Carbonio Superflow is so light it makes offerings from other brands seem unreasonable.
While creating a lightweight masterpiece, Sella Italia didn't skimp on gravel-specific features. The sides, and front tip, of the saddle have downward angles so it's easy to move on and off without catching the edges. There's also protection on both sides to protect from scrapes.
Specialized S-Works Power Mimic Saddle
A revolution for aggressive riding that borrows from women’s-specific design
Rails: Carbon | Shell: Carbon | Widths available: 143mm, 155mm | Weight: 170g | Price: $300
Back in 2015 Specialized released the Power saddle and launched a revolution in the industry. The idea was that a wider, shorter, saddle solves pain and numbness in a deep, aggressive, and relatively static riding position. Given that the nose of a saddle not only helps with bike control but also gives different seating positions the idea is controversial.
The Mimic variation of the Power saddle lineup drops the cutout for a depression paired with a much softer padding at the front. For gravel riding, this kind of saddle is going to work best for riding that falls into the all-road umbrella as opposed to drop bar mountain biking. Gravel races with long hours of hard riding, where aerodynamics matter, is an ideal use case.
Velo Angel TT
If you like the short nose saddle trend but want a more flexible rear and low weight, the Velo delivers
Rails: Carbon | Shell: Carbon | Widths available: 143mm | Weight: 139g | Price: $290
Velo saddles is the manufacturer behind many of the saddles from other brands on the market. Velo produces over 15 million saddles a year and they are the largest manufacturer of bike saddles in the world. Despite that, until recently, they were almost unheard of and actually purchasing one was near impossible. New distribution avenues hope to change all that and if you haven't taken a look now is a good time.
The Angel series of saddles is the highest performance saddles that Velo offers. The Angel TT starts with the Velo Angel Glide and shortens it. The two saddles are exactly the same other than the Angel TT is wider and shorter. That means the same stiff padding and the same Y shaped cutout that lets the shell flex with your hips.
How to choose the best gravel bike saddle
Most people assume that because they have pain in the saddle area, they need a new saddle. Many experienced cyclists have been through a lot of saddles and have built a kind of religion around what works for them. Be careful. It's easy to fall into a correlation without causation hole of never-ending saddle purchases. Just because a particular saddle worked at a particular time does not necessarily mean that it is the only saddle that will ever work. By the same token when you have pain in your saddle area that doesn't always mean the saddle is the issue.
Kevin Schmidt, the owner of Pedal PT, and an expert in bike fit has three primary considerations for saddle fitment. Most important when you purchase a saddle is width. You can't change the width of a saddle after the fact so make sure you have an understanding of the width of your sit bones and choose a saddle to match. Once you've got the saddle, make sure it's level. That doesn't always mean level with a bubble level. Instead, it means level in a way that keeps you feeling stable and not sliding forward or backwards when pedalling.
The last point Kevin brings up is height. Saddle height is a part of bike fit not typically considered for saddle choice but an incorrect height can cause unexpected saddle pain. For example, if your saddle is too high it can cause you to rock slightly as you reach for the bottom of the pedal stroke. This rocking can cause chafing at the saddle even though you might have a perfect saddle.
Waved vs flat
Another point of considerable discussion in the saddle world is flat vs waved. Most brands have recommendations for one or the other based on pelvis tilt. Instead of thinking about pelvis tilt consider how much you like to move around on your saddle.
If you like to move around a lot on your saddle then a flat saddle is the way to go. If you want a more locked-in feeling then a waved profile, as viewed from the side, will help keep you in a single position. There's not really a right or wrong choice here unless it's an aspirational choice.
If you are a rider that likes to move around a lot, don't buy a waved saddle because you think you shouldn't move around. The waved saddle might keep you more locked in sometimes but it's likely you'll still move around. As you move around with a waved saddle your fit will change. Move forward onto the central peak and you've effectively raised your saddle height.
Although a discussion about saddles applies somewhat to all bikes this is a discussion specific to gravel cycling. There are some considerations that are unique to gravel cycling. Of course, as always, gravel cycling is a broad range of different types of cycling. Depending on how race vs adventure and all-road vs off-road your gravel cycling is, some features will be more, or less, important to you.
Many gravel bikes use a more relaxed endurance position that makes the rider more upright. As you sit upright your pelvis widens out and the necessary saddle width will change. Make sure you keep an eye on your position when measuring your sit bones.
Compared to a road bike, gravel cycling might have you moving around on your saddle more. Traction and balance are much more of an issue on uneven dirt, mud, and gravel. Seasoned mountain bikers have experience shifting to the rear of a saddle, or the nose, as terrain requires it. It's one reason mountain bike saddles are a popular choice for gravel cyclists and it might have you choosing a different saddle for a gravel bike.
Along with moving around on the bike for traction, you might find yourself staying seated more often. On a road bike a steep gradient will often have the rider up and out of the saddle which also gives a break from a sitting position, but it's not always possible on loose terrain. When you need to keep your weight over the rear wheel to hold traction on a steep hill you can't stand to climb. That means more time planted on your saddle and more need for a comfortable, shock-absorbing, saddle.
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