Of all the components on your bike, when it comes to comfort, the saddle is perhaps the most important. It’s also one of the most personal choices because everyone’s anatomy and riding style is different.
This presents a number of problems though. There are road-specific issues such as how aggressive your position is and the fact you might have to sit on something for a number of hours in one go. But chiefly, how are you supposed to find out what’s best for you personally?
In reality, the best way to know is to test every option yourself until you find nirvana, but that’s obviously not realistic. It is more realistic for us to test those options for you though, so that’s precisely what we’ve done.
Our team of expert testers have ridden a huge range of different saddles, in various shapes and sizes, and we’ve assembled a list of what we think are the most comfortable bike seats for road cycling.
While this might not quite be a substitute for personal testing, this guide should help you narrow down your choices and enable you to make a more informed decision for your next purchase.
The best road bike saddles in 2020
Selle Italia Novus Boost Kit Carbonio Superflow: £220 / €239.90 / 99.99
Specialized Power Pro Elaston: £190 / €239.90 / 75
Tioga Undercover Stratum: £170
Fizik Aliante R1 Open: £164.99 / €179 / 99
Fizik Aliante R1 Versus Evo: £189.99 / €210 / €199
Prologo Dimension Nack: £200 / €195
Prologo Dimension NDR Tirox CPC: £165 / €159
Scicon Elan: £180 / €199 / 29
Specialized Power Arc Pro: £175 / 25
Syncros Tofino 1.0: £134.99 / €164
Selle Italia Novus Boost Kit Carbonio Superflow
Selle Italia’s Novus Boost Kit Carbonio Superflow saddle. Immediate Media
- £220 / €239.90 / $299.99
- Comfortable with plenty of freedom to move around
- ID-match fit system helps you find the right size
It’s not cheap and it has a frankly ridiculous name, but we got on really well with the Selle Italia Novus Boost Kit Carbonio Superflow – it’s an extremely comfortable saddle that’s especially well suited to aggressive riding positions.
Thanks to Selle Italia’s ID-match fit system, our tester was able to quickly find the right size, and if you can’t quite stomach the price of this top of the range model, the Novus Boost starts at a more affordable £79.99 / $109.99 / €89.90.
Specialized Power Pro Elaston
Clearly proud of their saddle, Specialized’s designers opted for a blatant callout of the Elaston material. Thomas McDaniel / Immediate Media
- £190 / €239.90 / $275
- Amazing anatomical features
- Incredibly comfortable
The Specialized Power saddle has existed for a few years, and is generally very well regarded, but the addition of Specialized’s Elaston technology is another game changer – it looks like a load of tiny pillows on the surface of the saddle, and to be honest, that’s pretty much how it felt in use.
Our tester said the Specialized Power Pro Elaston was as close to perfection as he’d ever experienced – high praise indeed. So why not five stars? Well the price is pretty high and the looks aren’t our favourite, but if those things don’t bother you, this could be the last saddle you’ll ever buy.
Tioga Undercover Stratum
It’s rare to find a saddle that stays comfortable for hours on end. David Caudery
- Plush ride
The Tioga Undercover Stratum saddle uses a web-like shell covered in a thin X-Pad SL closed-cell EVA foam. The foam layer takes care of vibrations, while the shell’s role is to flex under pressure – something it does very well.
Helped by a decent sized central cutout, comfort levels are fantastic, and at just 145g it’s also a very lightweight saddle.
If the high price puts you off, there are cheaper versions available with CrMo or titanium rails.
Fizik Aliante R1 Open
Fizik’s Aliante R1 Open saddle. Immediate Media
- £164.99 / €179 / $199
- Great shape
- Central channel offers good pressure relief
The Open is Fizik’s latest update to the popular Aliante saddle. The channel isn’t as deep along the full length as on Aliante Versus models, but the hull gains a hole in a key area.
These changes combine to give the feel of the classic Aliante shape – with its kicked-up rear section providing a bit of extra leverage when climbing – but with much reduced pressure on your sensitive parts.
At just 196g, the carbon railed version is also reasonably lightweight, making it the perfect addition to a race bike.
Fizik Aliante R1 Versus Evo
Fizik’s Aliante R1 Versus Evo. Immediate Media
- £189.99 / €210 / €199
The Aliante R1 Eve differs from the Open version by having a more flexible carbon hull and more generous padding.
It’s designed to be the ideal Aliante for endurance riders, but we found it was also very good if you spend a lot of time hammering away in the drops, sitting forward on the nose of the saddle.
There, the generous padding and channel help relieve pressure on your soft tissue, but still offer a stable platform to put the power down from.
It weighs just 188.7g too, so it’s nicely lightweight for such a pillowy saddle.
Prologo Dimension Nack
Prologo’s Dimension Nack saddle. Immediate Media
- £200 / €195
- Great shape
- Good balance of comfort and stiffness
At 157.6g, the Prologo Dimension Nack is one of the lightest short saddles we’ve tested. Like the Specialized Power saddle, it has a large pressure-relief channel, with high density padding and a stepped nose that makes riding in an aggressive position very comfortable.
The cover’s printed texture works well at keeping you in position when it’s dry, but it’s less effective in the wet – this isn’t ideal when the saddle is designed around you staying in one position all of the time, but it wasn’t a major issue.
The only real downside is the price of the carbon railed version, but you can get a version with ti-alloy rails for £80 less if you don’t mind it gaining 20g in weight.
Prologo Dimension NDR Tirox CPC
Tirox is the name Prologo uses for the titanium tubing employed on the Dimension. Immediate Media
- £165 / €159
- CPC cover is very grippy
The Prologo Dimension NDR Tirox CPC uses carbon fibre for it hull construction, with varying degrees of thickness for targeted stiffness and flexibility across the saddle. This, combined with the generously sized P.A.S. (perineal area system) channel and NDR high-density padding, makes it a supremely comfortable saddle.
The CPC cover is a real advantage. The tiny volcano-shaped rubberised tubes offer phenomenal grip in both wet and dry conditions, and keep you firmly planted in the right place.
The only downside is it comes in just one width – 143mm – so if this doesn’t suit your anatomy, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Its generous padding and deep centre help to create a supremely comfortable saddle. Immediate Media
- £180 / €199 / $229
- Supreme comfort
- Grippy surface texture
Despite the Elan being Scicon’s first ever racing saddle, it’s a great start. The padding is very generous, and this combined with a large, central cutout and flexible hull means it’s a supremely comfortable saddle.
It’s short and wide design means it’s great for hunkering down in an aggressive position, with the grippy surface texture helping to prevent positional slippage, but it’s just as comfortable for long days out too.
Our only complaint is the underside is a touch sloppily finished, with a few creases and some exposed staples.
Specialized Power Arc Pro
The Specialized Power Arc Pro features a more curved Body Geometry shape. Immediate Media
- £175 / $225
- Two choices of width
The Power Arc Pro is a more recent addition to Specialized Power range. It features the same sizings and length as a standard Power saddle, but uses a more curved shape. Specialized says this gives a feeling of sitting “in the saddle” rather than on it.
Our tester found it to be a very comfortable racing saddle, with the large, central cut-out providing excellent pressure relief. We also liked that it comes in multiple widths to suit different riders’ anatomies.
Syncros Tofino 1.0
The padding is deep and plush in all the right places. Immediate Media
- £134.99 / €164
- Plush padding
- Effective cut-out design
At 248mm long and 135mm wide, it’s slightly longer and narrower than other short saddles, such as the Specialized Power, but the flat profile, large cut-out and plush padding make this a very comfortable perch nevertheless.
As expected for a saddle of this price, the base and rails are both carbon, and there are hidden mounting bolts for a range of accessories.
What to look for when buying a road saddle
It’s an unfortunate fact that most road saddles are designed with male anatomy in mind by default.
That’s not to say that a saddle designed for men can’t work for women too, but the realities of biology mean fit requirements are likely to be somewhat different.
Don’t worry though, BikeRadar has handily produced a guide to the best women’s road bike saddles, so if you’re yet to find saddle nirvana, this could be a great place to start your search.
The most important differentiator between road saddles is shape. Long, curved shapes like the Selle San Marco Concor were the hot item through the eighties and nineties, then we had long and flat like the Fizik Arione in the 2000s, and more recently the trend has been for short and wide, such as the Specialized Power.
Personal preference will always play a big role, so ideally you want to be able to try out saddles of different shapes before you commit to anything. That said, it’s becoming more generally accepted that for optimum comfort and performance you want to put the pressure on your sit bones and off any surrounding soft tissue, so finding a saddle that enables you to do this is often crucial.
A high quality bike fit from a reputable brand can be a godsend here – all good fitters should have a sizeable range of saddles for you to try. You can of course go it alone, but the trial and error process can get expensive very quickly unless you beg, borrow and steal from your riding buddies.
If you’re taking part in time-trials or triathlons it’s also worth considering a saddle specifically designed for those disciplines, such as an ISM saddle. These saddles tend to feature more radical shapes and designs, all with the intention of maximising soft tissue pressure relief while in an aggressive riding position.
Once you’ve found a shape that works for you, the next variable to look at is width.
Some brands make a bigger deal about width than others, but no one’s anatomy is the same, so it intuitively makes sense that sit bone width will vary between riders.
Specialized, for example, offers an in-store method of measuring the distance between your sit bones and determining the ‘correct’ width saddle you require. A comprehensive bike fit would also take this variable into account.
As already mentioned, the current trend is for shorter saddles that aim to fix you in a single position (i.e. with the pressure on your sit bones) while you ride.
This doesn’t work for everyone though, and there are many who prefer the extra room to move around that a longer saddle provides. Longer saddles offer the opportunity to shift your weight around, rather than keep it concentrated in one place for the duration of your ride.
This sounds great in principle, but if you’re finding that you just can’t get comfortable on any saddle, and need extra length to move around and constantly relieve the pressure on your undercarriage, there may be other fit issues at play, such as excessive saddle to bar drop.
In any case, if you’re suffering, it’s always worth seeking out professional advice from a reputable fitter.
It might be counterintuitive, but when it comes to padding, less is often more. Shape is usually the biggest determinant of comfort, hence why full carbon saddles can be surprisingly comfortable.
That said, most saddles do incorporate some sort of padding as a method of protecting against vibrations and bumps in the road. Generally speaking, though, we would tend to recommend harder padding for road cycling because a saddle that’s too soft can often lead to an inconsistent fit over the course of a long ride.
If you’re finding pressure building up in specific areas, more often than not it’s a problem with shape or width, rather than a lack of padding.
Again, we’ll have to caveat this by saying that everyone is, of course, different and that a good bike fit is often the best way of targeting any specific issues you’re having.