Find the right women’s specific road bike saddle, and you’ll find yourself riding in comfort. There are more saddles than ever to choose from, so I’ve tried and tested a selection of the most popular ones available on the market to help you narrow down the right choice for you, comparing weight, materials, shape and cost.
Saddle choice is a very personal thing, of course. Everyone’s body is different and unique, and this also applies to the nether regions, so a saddle that may suit one rider may not be right for another.
And although many women find female-specific saddles work well for them, others find that unisex saddles perform better.
It’s a question of trial and, sometimes, error. Good news then that more manufacturers and shops are offering fitting services, demo saddles, trial periods and money-back or exchange programmes if you don’t get on with your new perch.
Getting the right saddle is crucial for a comfortable ridePhil Hall / Immediate Media Co
Women’s specific road saddles are designed to support the main pressure points of the sit bones, dissipating the pressure over a wide area, but alleviating the pressure on the soft tissue of the external genitalia.
On road bikes, the pelvis of the rider is tilted further forward than on mountain bikes and some hybrid or commuter bikes, which means more of that soft tissue is directly underneath the rider. A central groove or channel, or a cut-out, is often used in women’s saddles to alleviate this pressure.
Specialized Power Expert saddle
5.0 out of 5 star rating
A unisex saddle that’s proved very popular with many female and male road ridersAoife Glass / Immediate Media Co
Although this is not a women’s specific saddle, it’s proved very popular with many female riders, including me.
Interestingly, it shares a number of features with the fi’zi:k Luce saddle (below), such as a wide rear platform and a central cut out. However, the nose on the Power saddle is significantly shorter, which may help relieve pressure on the front of the sit area when riding forwards in the drops.
The shell is carbon-reinforced with minimalist but effective polyurethane padding and a water-resistant cover. There is also a range of colours available.
For those who like to ride as unencumbered as possible, the Power saddle is compatible with Specialized’s SWAT (Storage, Water, Air, Tools) system, which means you can clip on several elements, such as a tube and CO2 inflator, to the saddle and save your pocket space for snacks.
The Bontrager Ajna and the Specialized Oura (below) have a similar basic shape, with a long, narrow nose and flared winged-back section. However, the Ajna has a slightly wider nose section, a more curved surface on the wing and a flatter top profile with a longer central cut-out, designed to suit an aggressive ride position.
Bontrager suggests this saddle is suitable for both road cycling and mountain biking.
In action, I found this saddle very comfortable, with the firm padding providing just enough cushioning. So long as the shape suits your body, the Ajna provides the firmest cushioning of all the saddles tested here.
Bontrager alters the curvature of the saddle depending on the size and the Ajna comes in three width fittings: 144mm, 154mm and 164mm. It’s also available in either black or white.
For the price, this is a very well designed and lightweight saddle. If you’re a fan of the shape but want a lower price point, you can get the Ajna Comp for £59.99 / €49.99 / $79.99 / AU$89.95, which has hollow CroMo rails.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Ajna Pro Carbon (£149.99 / €199.99 / $199.99 / AU$249) is designed for competition level performance with oversize carbon rails and a carbon-reinforced shell.
The Luce Carbon from fi’zi:k is a light, minimalist, race-focussed saddle with a distinctly different outline to the majority of other women’s specific saddles. It features a more angled cut to the wings, and a more rectangular platform towards the back of the saddle with a narrow central cut-out.
fi’zi:k invested a significant amount of time conducting research with the aim of making a high-performance women’s race saddle, and as a result, developed an interesting three-part construction with a central carbon-reinforced spine, with the wings of the rear section made from a more flexible thermoplastic elastomer.
The rail is a one-piece carbon construct, designed to have greater flex — though no less strength — than the usual two-piece rail construction. fi’zi:k calls this a Mobius rail construction, because it’s a continuous loop.
In practice, I found the saddle very comfortable. The long nose with central cut-out provided great support when in an aggressive position down on the drops, and the more angled wing shape meant that they were out of the way from the upper legs when in this position, so there was minimal rubbing. In a more upright position that wide rear area provided good, comfortable support.
Although the saddle is minimalist, the padding has more give than on some of the other saddles tested, and combined with the flex of the carbon rail system helped make this one of the most comfortable saddles on test.
This is definitely a saddle for riders who prefer a more aggressive, race-focused body position. Also, the outer point of the wings may be a point of friction for some riders, though I didn’t experience this myself.
The Oura Pro is Specialized’s top-of-the-line women’s specific endurance saddle and consists of a size-specific saddle with light padding and a long central groove and large cut-out to alleviate pressure on soft tissue when in a road cycling position.
It has a curved profile with an upwards curving rear and downwards curving nose, which provides support that works with you as you move between different positions — from drops to the hoods. Padding is a medium-density — firm but supportive foam — which provides enough cushioning to feel comfortable on long rides.
The carbon rails are oversized, which is great for strength and vibration-damping, but awkward in that it won’t fit every seatpost — it’s not compatible with 7mm side clamps, for example, so check before you buy. The shell is carbon, and reinforced with what Specialized calls ‘women’s tuning’.
In action it provides a good combination of stiffness and flex, supporting body weight on the sit bones without discomfort to the soft tissue, even when putting the power down in an aggressive riding position.
The saddle is available in three sizes, 143mm, 155mm and 168mm, and Specialized retailers will be able to measure each customer to determine which size is required.
The saddle is also compatible with products from the Specialized SWAT range, such as saddle bags and spare inner tube holders, which can be clipped on rather than strapped on.
If you’re after the fit of the Oura saddle, but don’t want to spend quite so much, or want something that will fit most seat clamps, then the lower-priced Specialized Oura Expert Gel saddle is worth a look.
It provides the same shape and fit but features hollow titanium rails and thicker gel inserts for greater cushioning.
The Griffon, according to PRO, is designed for riders who tend to shift position in the saddle when riding, and this women’s version has a different shape and increased padding to the men’s version.
It features a carbon-reinforced base, which is good to see at this price point, and hollow rails to reduce weight.
Padding is certainly softer and thicker than on either the Specialized Oura or Bontrager Ajna, so this sits at a good intermediate position between these saddles, and the Vesta in terms of shape, design and padding.
The central cut-out is shorter and narrower than the other saddles on test, with a very slightly curved profile and a flat rear portion with a steep curve to the wing section at either side. It also has the widest nose section.
If you like to move your position on the saddle when moving between positions on the bike, the Griffon certainly allows for this, and the level of cushioning feels plush and comfortable on long distances — though is less useful for those who want a fixed position for more aggressive riding.
I had mixed feelings about the central stripe of shiny smooth material because it formed a slight ridge towards the nose of the saddle and created some discomfort.
The PRO Griffon is available in two widths, 142mm and 152mm, and in black or white. PRO also suggests this saddle is suitable for mountain biking as well as road cycling.
PRO offers a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can take the saddle for a good ride to see if it works for you, and if it doesn’t, you can return it and you won’t be out of pocket.
The Vesta from fi’zi:k is a popular saddle and the entry-level model here features manganese rails with a carbon-reinforced nylon shell.
Spend a bit more and you’ll get the lighter version with K:IUM rails. In case you’re wondering what K:IUM is, fi’zi:k describes it as a combination of the titanium alloy it uses plus a proprietary tube design and finishing process that results, it says, in an 8 percent weight reduction and better corrosion resistance.
The Vesta features fi’zi:k’s Integrated Clip System (ICS), which allows fi’zi:k’s lights and saddle bags to snap securely into place without the need for straps and clips.
With the usual disclaimer that saddle choice is a personal matter, I found the slightly more domed nose of the Vesta, combined with the shallowing of the central channel towards the nose of the saddle, caused uncomfortable rubbing and pressure on the soft tissue of the undercarriage area.
The wings also sit longer and lower than the other options tested here, so if you know you are susceptible to catching your leg on this part of the saddle, this is something to be aware of.
However, we also know plenty of women who swear by this saddle, so as with the others, test if you can.
The version tested here is one that comes supplied with a bike, identical to the retail version in all but colour. The Vesta is available to buy in matt black with a slightly textured look and sleek cover on the wings, designed to allow friction-free movement of the legs against the saddle.
This saddle is also thicker in terms of the overall structure than many of the others on test, with thick but firm padding. This is something to be aware of when thinking about your bike fit, and you may want to drop your seatpost by a few millimetres to compensate if you’ve been fitted to your bike with a thinner saddle.
Women’s cycling brand Liv makes a selection of road saddles that available in two forms: Forward and Upright.
The Forward saddles are designed for a more aggressive road riding position where the pelvis is tilted forward, while the Upright version are designed to support the undercarriage when riding in a more upright position.
This version features a carbon composite shell and alloy rails.
While not technically a women’s specific saddle, the Fabric Scoop Sport Shallow saddle is popular with many riders, not least for its accessible price point.
The Scoop Sport Shallow consists of steel rails, foam padding and a microfibre cover. It’s only available in one size, 282mm by 142mm, and is designed for a moderately inclined ride position, aimed towards endurance road riding rather than a full-on aggressive race position.
There are other versions of the Scoop available with different profiles, padding levels and widths to accommodate a range of riding styles from road racing to leisure cycling.