Saddle design was a logical next step for Ergon, a German company focused on ergonomic improvement for cyclists. The SM3 gets high marks for comfort but the lack of sizing system might leave some consumers guessing which width is right for them.
The SM3 is available at three build levels – the base SM3 (tested here) features hollow titanium rails and a plastic shell, the Pro gets a carbon shell, and the SM3 Pro Carbon adds carbon rails. Upper construction is similar on all three models, with multi-density foam padding and a synthetic leather cover.
The SM3 is currently available in two widths. At its widest point the Small measures 135mm, while the Large is 146mm. The former size is designed for riders with sit bones measuring 10-13cm, while the latter is intended for those with 12-15cm sit bones. Claimed weights are 255g and 265g, respectively.
Proper positioning is critical to getting the most out the SM3. The wide, padded nose sits several millimeters higher than the concave recesses that cup your sit bones. As a result, we settled on a slightly nose-down positioning of approximately one degree. This eliminated all perineum pressure without shifting too much weight forward.
Unlike many saddles, which have a gradual transition from the nose to the perch, the SM3 is designed with an abrupt change from front to back. This reduces the likelihood of chafing and gives your hips more room to move freely.
The Ergon SM3 has a wide, flat nose
The recesses cupping your sit bones and a slightly flared rear end provide a bit of leverage to push against during hard efforts. The wide nose has ample padding should you need to inch forward during steep climbs, and the smooth, synthetic leather cover and rounded edges make the SM3 easy to maneuver around while you navigate technical sections of trail.
While it appears Ergon has done its homework designing the SM3, there's no fit system or demo program allowing riders to figure out which width saddle is right for them. This is disappointing, although both aids are reported to be in the works.
In the meantime, the company recommends that potential buyers measure their existing saddles and size accordingly. Our point of reference was a Specialized Henge, which is offered in three widths, and the Large SM3 was comparable to a Medium. Ergon plans to adjust its sizing for 2013; the current Large will be rebranded as a Medium, making room for a third, bigger size.
German engineering and Italian craftsmanship (the SM3 is built by storied saddle manufacturer Selle Italia) make for a saddle that's quite comfortable for cross-country and endurance mountain biking. The only thing holding it back is that fit system.