This article features what I consider to be some of the best leather road bike saddle in the market.
Before I show you the contenders, I have to make a couple of things clear. Some things you might already know yourself.
For starters, leather isn’t a material you’ll find being used on saddles for road bikes today. That’s because it’s both expensive and heavy. The majority of listings here are Brooks saddles and that brand is highly associated with more vintage oriented bicycles or nimble single-speed bikes.
All of the saddles shown here have designs which predate the turn of the millenium. That means they are classic designs. Predominantly wide and long. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with classic designs and some of them are still featured today.
Especially Brooks saddles are known for their breaking in period. That means that over time the saddle adjusts to your particular anatomy and placement of the sit bones. That’s because Brook saddles don’t have a separate shell, but rather a really thick piece of leather that’s stretched.
Leather is an organic material, which is extremely durable, robust, can be made waterproof, is naturally breathable and looks great when maintained well. It has a certain allure that non-leather saddles just don’t have.
But you probably already knew all of this, so here are my top picks for the best leather road bike saddle your money can buy.
Contenders best leather road bike saddles
Brooks B17 Narrow
The Brooks B17 Narrow is the slimmer version of one of the most renowned saddles in Brooks entire lineup: the B17.
For today’s standards the 151 millimeter isn’t all that narrow, with most non-retro bike saddles falling well below that number, but none of Brooks’ saddles can really be called narrow when compared to other big brand names.
Fortunately, as long as you don’t feel your thighs chafing, the width has less impact considering the fact that the 5mm tanned leather upper adjust to your sit bones gradually. The lack of supporting shell means sit bone width matters less, if at all.
Inexpensive is not a word that coexists with the entire lineup of Brooks. All of their saddles demand a premium. But the hand-crafted saddle with steel rails is truly a timeless beauty and a classic finishing touch for an retro build or vintage bicycle.
Riding a Brooks saddle and feeling it a shape over time is an something that has to be experienced to appreciate, and the B17 Narrow offers that experience as a high-quality leather road bike saddle.
Brooks B17 Narrow Carved
The Brooks B17 Narrow Carved is the exact same version as the B17 Narrow without the center cutout.
For a saddle with such a vintage build, a center cutout behaves a bit differently than on a saddle with a shell. To keep the shape of the saddle in place, there’s a lace that ties underneath the leather upper and keeps the sides from pulling away from each other.
As with all Brooks saddles, the B17 Narrow Carved has a breaking in period, where the thick leather upper adjusts to the rider. But after a considerate amount of miles both the breaking in and center cutout make for an exceptionally comfortable retro-styled saddle.
This saddle is definitely a special piece of bicycle equipment for the vintage connoisseur who doesn’t mind the time necessary to grow towards the ultimate riding experience. And as such the B17 Narrow Carved offers its goodness for those who’re willing to wait for it while riding.
The Brooks Swift is a stunning piece of art with its hand-hammered copper rivets in a sleek design.
The steel rails support a 5 millimeter tanned leather upper of 272 x 150 mm. Because of the materials used and how they are created, none of the Brooks saddles are lightweights. This saddle tips the scales at 510 grams. That being said, Brooks saddles are meant to be experienced for their ride quality and comfort they offer over time. Not to be fitted on your hill-climb bike on race day.
The logo is accompanied by skived edges that do nothing more than add to the design, creating a clear distinction between the shiny leather and suede.
Even though it’s just as heavy as the B17 Narrow, the fact that it’s less high means that for some people it’ll fit the design of a vintage road bike better.
Color options are available in standard black, brown and honey.
The Brooks Swallow is longer and more narrow than the Brooks Swift and just a tad bit lighter sitting at grams.
Because of its elongated shape, the saddle has two flaps that are attached to each other underneath the leather upper. This keeps the saddle from sagging to much and moving outwards while sitting.
The saddle has an entire chromed steel frame including the rails. It’s long nose and relative low height when compared to other Brooks saddles ensure it has a definite race feel to it.
As I said before, you buy such an eccentric-looking piece of saddle equipment for the experience. And as far as experience goes with an authentic leather saddle, the Brooks Swallow probably offers the best road bike experience of them all.
Selle Italia Flite Racer
The original Selle Italia Flite was introduced in1990 and introduced the concept of lightweight in the bicycle saddle industry.
Over time the original Flite has seen many iterations, but the Selle Italia Flite Racer is and ode to the past and introduces the same design, or close enough, of the saddle that turned heads three decades ago.
It’s swooping narrow design inspired dozens of other saddles and set a benchmark for saddle design that some argue, hasn’t been improved. This iteration has a beautiful brown leather cover on a padded shell with titanium rails. The shell has a very rounded shape without any cutout and the rails are long enough to provide a considerable amount of fore and aft configuring.
It’s easy to find the correct position on a saddle with gradually sloping sides, and the swooping design make for a comfortable position for medium to long distance rides. Although at 146 millimeters, the width might have been considered narrow back in the day. It isn’t anymore by today’s standards, which easily go far beneath 140 millimeters.
At 230 grams it’s actually comparable in terms of weight with a lot of other road bike saddles, and will definitely look good on classy road bike or single speed.
Selle Italia Turbo Racer
For the introduction of the Selle Italia Turbo we have to go back to 1980. The saddle was such a success that it also achieved mass adoption in the burgeoning mountain bike community.
If you’d ask somebody to design a saddle for a road bike, the Selle Italia Turbo is what they would probably come up with. The Selle Italia Turbo Racer is a reissue of this iconic model with a brown leather cover and Turbo proudly displayed on the back.
It’s a bit longer than the Flite and much heavier at 390 grams with steel rails holding a very well padded shell, with the leather tightly stretched across. Even with all that padding, the plastic shell might feel a bit stiff and is best suited for a more aggressive riding style. This might be the reason that it achieved such success with mountain biking.
There’s nothing really outstanding about the saddle, which might be why the design has been deemed classic. But then again, a lot of road bike frames from the eighties were not nearly as eccentric as they are today. Thin steel tubing is well accompanied by such a saddle as the Turbo.
Selle San Marco Rolls
I can clearly remember the moment my cycling buddy came with his brand-spanking new carbon road bike sporting this saddle. He obviously chose comfort over looks because the Selle San Marco Rolls is from a pre-carbon era.
Every road racer worth his or her salt knows the red on gold back of this saddle, with the distinctive camo cracked Rino leather (not to be mistaking with Rhino). It’s actually calf-skin leather across a polymer shell with carbon steel rails, weighing in at a respectable 382 grams.
As with a lot of classically styled saddles it has a round shape, and though it doesn’t look that way, the plush padding ensures you get to be positioned firmly in the middle. Of course it doesn’t have a cutout and all that padding may not be for everyone.
Tour winners Bernard Hinoult and Greg Lemond rode this beauty so if they can you probably could to. I’ll leave that up to you to decide, but one thing is undeniable. This leather road bike saddle is winner on any old-skool road bike. My cycling buddy would agree.
Selle San Marco Regal
Due to popular demand the iconic Italian brand rereleased the Selle San Marco Regal. An eye-watering retro beauty of a road bike saddle that’s actually seen use in the Pro peloton decades after it was first introduced.
At 283 x 149 millimeters in size, the thing is huge with a sloping nose and eye-popping copper rivets. A thin layer of Rino calfskin leather sits atop a carbon injected nylon shell supported by carbon steel rails.
The overall design and aesthetics are absolutely breathtaking and obviously the saddle provides such a level of comfort that people still rave about it today.
Although Selle San Marco talks about using lightweight components the saddle is still on the heavy side at 380 grams. It means you won’t buy this saddle for its weight-saving aspect, because there is none.
But the length, shape, padding, and overall design made Tom Boonen use it during Paris Roubaix, albeit in a slightly altered version. That has to say something right?
Specifications best leather road bike saddles
|Name||Rail||Retail Price||Dimensions||Weight||Shell||Padding||Buy at Amazon||Buy at Ebay|
|Brooks B17 Narrow||steel||150 euros||279 x 151 mm||510 g||none||none||link|
|Brooks B17 Narrow Carved||steel||150 euros||279 x 151 mm||510 g||none||none||link|
|Brooks Swift||steel||165 euros||272 x 150 mm||510 g||none||none||link||link|
|Brooks Swallow||steel||190 euros||285 x 153 mm||490 g||none||none||link||link|
|Selle Italia Flite Racer||TI 316 Tube 7 mm||170 euros||146 x 280 mm||230 g||link|
|Selle Italia Turbo Racer||FeC Alloy 7 mm||130 euros||146 x 275 mm||370 g||link|
|Selle San Marco Rolls||carbon steel||109 euros||282 x 143 mm||382 g||Techno-polymer||Biofoam||link|
|Selle San Marco Regal||carbon steel||109 euros||283 x 149 mm||380 g||Techno-polymer||Biofoam||link||link|