Cheap Comfortable Bike Saddles and Reviews

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Sunday, July 26, 2015
One of the big problems I had when I first started getting into cycling again a few years ago is that I couldn't ride for more than about 25 minutes. My legs weren't too tired to ride, my butt just couldn't handle being on the bike anymore and it was too uncomfortable to ride again the next day. After getting a more comfortable saddle and a good pair of bike shorts I was able to ride all day long! I've tried a few different affordable saddles under $50 and wanted to share my opinions and some tips.

The saddles I'm review are the Serfas Dual Density Men's Bicycle Saddle, Planet Bike 5020 Men's ARS Standard Anatomic Relief Saddle with Gel, Saddle Vader V103 Road Bike Saddle and the Cannondale Stage Ergo just because it came with my new road bike. Below is a photo of the saddles for size comparison.

How To Get The Right Size Saddle

Before we get to the reviews, let's talk about bike saddle sizing.

One of the most important things when it comes to getting the right bike saddle is to get one that is the appropriate width for your sit bones. It's quite easy to measure the distance between your sit bones.

After a long ride it's painfully obvious where your sit bones are if you have an uncomfortable saddle so you can just reach back, put a finger over each sore spot and have a close friend measure the distance between the centers of your fingers in millimeters using a tape measure.

If you don't have that type of close friend that's fine touching and staring at your butt you can also measure your sit bone distance yourself using a flat surface, some corrugated cardboard and chalk as seen in this video.

Simply place the cardboard on a hard, flat surface such as a bench, table, countertop, etc and sit on it in a similar position that you ride. Wait about a minute then scrape the side of the chalk against the cardboard to find the two depressions created by your sit bones. Measure the center to center distance in millimeters using a tape measure. If you don't have chalk hold the cardboard up to a light at a steep angle to see the shadows. An LED work light works very well.

For either measurement add about 25 to 30 mm and look for a saddle with that width.

Other factors such as how soft or hard the cushion of the saddle is, whether it has an anatomical cutout for the perineum (the area between the testicles and the anus, AKA the taint in less polite circles), the covering material, etc. will come down more to personal preference and riding style. For example I prefer a wider, softer saddle on my mountain bike which I use for more recreational riding and a narrower, firmer saddle when on my road bike.

Basic Saddle Construction

To understand the reviews a little better lets' go over some basics of the different parts of the saddle. At least what I refer to them as.

Rails are the metal bars that attach the saddle to the seat post. Many rails have markings that help position the saddle if you ever have to remove it for maintenance.

Base is the material that makes up the base of the saddle that the cushion rests on and provides structural support. It is usually a flexible plastic.

Cushion is the material used to provide softness to the saddle over the base.

Covering is the material that covers the saddle to protect the cushion and provide a more durable and comfortable surface for the rider.

Nose is the thin front of the saddle.

Serfas Dual Density Men's Bicycle Saddle

The Serfas Dual Density is the saddle that got me to love cycling again. It's currently selling for about $44 on Amazon. It's also the saddle I have had the longest, using it almost exclusively for the past few years and it's still very comfortable and in great shape minus the lettering rubbing off.

The Serfas is a wide saddle accommodating riders with a sit bone distance of around 120-180mm. It has a very soft yet the gel foam under the seat bone area provides firmness.

The base of the Serfas Dual Density is comprised of two different types of material. First there's a rigid yet still flexible base that has a cutout under the perineum area to allow more flexibility there as well as cutouts under the seat bone area. The cutouts of the sit bone area are filled with a rubber material (blue-green in the photos) which are molded to the plastic base and give more flexibility while still offering support for the sit bones.

The foam cushioning has a lot of give yet is still firm and has held up well for over 4 years. There's gel under the sit bone area that makes it very comfortable. While there is no cutout, the cushion is recessed under the perineum so that there is less pressure on it. If you prefer a saddle with a cutout the same saddle is available with a cutout, the Serfas Dual Density with Cutout is only a few dollars more.

The covering is lycra. It doesn't repel water or sweat but I don't leave my bike out in the rain so that hasn't been an issue for me. The covering is very durable and not so much as a stitch has failed.

The nose is about 60mm wide which makes it a little too wide for me on my road bike but is fine on my mountain bike which I use for more recreational riding these days.

The Serfas Dual Density Saddle is a very comfortable and well built saddle for riders who have wide sit bones.

Planet Bike Anatomic Relief Saddle With Gel

The Planet Bike Anatomic Relief Saddle Standard (A.R.S. for short so you don't forget what part of your body it's used for) is another affordable saddle for riders with wide sit bones. It is similar to the Serfas Dual Density in many ways with some nice enhancements. It's also a few bucks cheaper.

The ARS looks like it will accommodate riders with sit bone distances of around 80-150mm. The cushioning is a little firmer than the Serfas but it does have the comfortable gel under the sit bone area.

A channel runs the entire length from font to back, so there isn't much pressure on the perineum area, as well as a cutout which I like because it provides some cooling. The shape of the cushion under the testicle area causes it to have more give which I find comfortable.

The nose is only about 50mm wide and I find it comfortable to use on my road bike where I ride a little harder as well as my mountain bike which I take out for more casual rides. I haven't had any issues with rubbing or chafing against the nose since I've been using it.

Like the Serfas, The base is comprised of a rigid plastic for support as well as soft rubber (grey in photos) molded together to provide additional cushioning under the sit bones. There's plenty of flex in the base to absorb shocks from bumpy roads.

The covering appears to be a grey synthetic material in the center with a synthetic leather-look black covering the rest of the saddle. It's easy to move around from side to side on the saddle and water can be wiped right off. The cover is glued and stapled to the base.

Construction and materials are very high quality but the main cover looks a bit thin. This is one of the most reviewed bike saddles on Amazon and most people love it. I agree. Even when I'm road biking I do take it easy on some long rides and the extra comfort is a blessing. It's a little thinner than the Serfas so this will likely live on my road bike most of the time.

Saddle Vader V103 Bike Saddle

The Saddle Vader V103 Road Bike Saddle was a surprising find at only $14 with free Prime shipping from Amazon! I'm not very familiar with the brand but from what I can tell Saddle Vader may make cheap knock-offs of more expensive saddles costing $100 or more.

The V103 is a narrower saddle that looks like it will accommodate riders with sit bone distances of about 80-130mm. I'm on the upper end of that range but still find the saddle comfortable for rides of a couple of hours with a good pair of padded bike shorts.

Quality is actually better than I expected. There's not much foam cushioning but what is there is firm and comfortable and the synthetic leather covering appears to be of very good quality. It looks like a thick bonded leather.

Most of the cushioning comes from the plastic base which is very flexible. There's no rubber molded inserts or anything to give additional comfort but the flexible design does absorb a lot of impacts over bumps in the road. I'm on the upper end of the sit bone size for this saddle which puts my sit bones on an area that isn't quite as flexible so I don't like using it for longer rides. If and when it does fail it's probably going to the the base that eventually fatigues from all the flexing.

The 45mm nose width leaves a lot or room for my legs to work up and down the sides without rubbing. If I'm going on a short ride where I plan to just pump  my legs as hard as I can the whole way, therefor putting most of my weight on the pedals not the saddle, I'll throw this saddle on my road bike. So far The longest ride I've done on it has been about 2 hours but it started to get uncomfortable about 90 minutes in.

Even though it does have a cutout I did also feel more discomfort in the perineum area than I did with the more comfortable saddles like the Serfas Dual Density and the Planet Bike A.R.S.

One neat little feature is a little rubber collar on the rails to help you remember the installed position front and back on the seat post.

Not the most comfortable saddle but a lot more comfortable than the stock saddle with more flex and give. The narrow design may not fit all riders but the smaller size makes it easier to pedal when you're out on a ride where you're pedaling hard and not just enjoying the ride and views. For only $15 it's worth a shot.

Cannondale Stage Ergo

This is the stock saddle on the Cannondale CAAD8. I'm including it here for comparison.

The design is similar to the Saddle Vader V103 in that it is narrow and has a simple, solid base. It lacks the cutout and the base is a lot more rigid. While construction and materials appear to be better the rigidity of the base makes it a lot less comfortable, especially when going over bumps.

The base does have a cut out under the perineum area and a channel in the cushion but no opening in the cushion. It does alleviate some of the pressure in the perineum but after about 30 minutes, even with bike shorts, my sit bones were feeling a bit sore.

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