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The top 14 best road bike saddles for touring

In this article I’m going to give you a number of some of the best road bike saddles for touring. While creating this list I’ve made a number of assumptions to get to a selection.

First one is that weight is less of an issue, if it’s an issue at all. Nobody cares about 50 or 100 or 200 grams less for a saddle if you’re toting full bags around weighing dozens of times more. Or at least, you shouldn’t care.

A touring saddle core focus is on comfort, on making it through long hours in the saddle. And doing it again, and again, and again. Not as a professional rider in the peloton, but as a passionate cyclist who’d like to see the world from his or her bike. That means you’re not sprinting away for points in the overall rankings, bent over the bars with hands in the drops. It means that in general you have an upright position.

With that out of the way, my definition of a good touring saddle, besides being somewhat affordable, is generous levels of padding on a shell that supports an upright riding position. Obviously high quality materials that are abrasive resistant are a plus for a saddle that will be thoroughly used.

So without further ado, here’s my list of the best road bike saddles for touring.

Fabric Line Elite Shallow

Line Elite Shallow
Line Elite Shallow

The Fabric Line Elite Shallow is a great value-for-money allround saddle that will suit the majority of riders.

Its nylon shell is supported by titanium rails and has a narrow width of 134 millimeters and a length of 270 millimeters. For the materials used and the padding it has a reasonable weight of 237 grams.

Shallow means the saddle supports a more upright position with a medium amount of padding versus the more race-oriented flat saddles. This means it’s suited for riders who like to ride on the hoods, but it’s safe to say that the saddle feels equally comfortable in the drops.

The very clean design of the saddle features a non-padded center that runs the length of the saddle, with padding on either side.

The overall allure of this saddle resides in the combination of price, comfort, design and allround suitability. It’s the perfect choice for weekend warriors who favor short leisurely rides that won’t cross the 100 mile mark. Although saddles will also always be a very personal choice, this saddle has been in Fabric’s lineup for years for good reason.

Expert Experience

Hollis Jones | Contributor – May 27, 2020

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s going to be the out and out best choice of saddle for serious mile-munching, but for me it’s ideal for my usual training distance of about 50-60 miles. At this mileage I suffered zero numbness in the perineum, and I didn’t get soreness anywhere either.

Pros and Cons

Fabric Scoop Elite Flat

Scoop Elite Flat
Scoop Elite Flat

The Fabric Scoop comes in many versions with the carbon version nearing the 300 dollar mark. This Fabric Scoop Elite Flat sits well under 100 dollars but has the exact extremely comfortable design.

Flat means this is a true road racing saddle with less padding and a thinner nose. At 244 grams the weight is about what you can expect for a road bike saddle in this price range.

The saddle has standard 7 mm cro-mo rails sitting underneath a nylon shell, and has a classic all-black design without a cut out in the base of 142 mm. At 244 mm in length it’s not a long saddle, which means less moving around and higher comfort.

It’s a no-frills design that does it all, comfort for long rides, durability, and nice aesthetics for a decent price.

Expert Experience

Jim Clarkson | Contributor – August 19, 2020

The Scoop is similar to the Fabric Line I tested a while back, but it lacks a channel – fine by me as, whilst comfy, such channels can just fill with mud and water off road. Even without one, the Scoop is comfortable from the very first ride, and stays that way over many miles.

It has enough space to move around when climbing technical trails, and the neutral, shallow shape is fine for sitting down and spinning out miles when you have to. Though lacking the obvious scuff guards and fabric patches of others, both the cover and the rails are tough enough to easily endure the usual abuse.

Pros and Cons

Brooks B17

B17
B17

The Brooks B17 is the most iconic model in the entire lineup. It’s the first bicycle saddle I ever saw, because my father rode it for decades on his daily commuter.

What can you say about this saddle that hasn’t already been said before. It’s probably the best-selling saddle for touring cyclists for years.

The entire notion behind the classic lineup of leather Brooks saddles is that they don’t offer a shell, but rather a very thick piece of leather that sits on top of a steel railing.

The biggest issue with saddles is that they have to fit your specific anatomy. Or, more specifically, they have to ensure you sit on your sit bones, not other more tender parts.

By using a product such as leather for the shell, it means the saddle conforms to your physique. Over time that is. And that period is called the breaking in period. And it’s probably the core reason why the B17 is the go-to choice for many touring cyclists.

A Brooks saddle such as this one is not without downsides, besides the breaking in period. The B17 is very wide at 175mm. It’s also very heavy and relatively expensive. So the wide shape might not suit everyone.

Leather is a natural product, and is much more difficult to make fully water resistant. Because the leather stretches, without the proper care it can stretch to the extent where there is an extreme level of sag, especially when riding in wet conditions.

So it has pros and cons, but its track record has no equal.

Expert Experience

Nick BruckBauer | Contributor – October 24, 2019

The Brooks B17 is a truly a beautiful saddle. First introduced in 1898, the B17 has been in production for over 100 years. Superb craftsmanship and a vintage yet timeless design set it apart from other touring and commuting saddles. The tensioned leather evolves over time, giving each saddle a unique character. It does not offer the performance and low weight of more modern designs, but it does offer style and comfort for the more casual ride. It is not cheap and requires a bit more TLC than most, but with the proper care, it could last longer than many other components on your bike.

Pros and Cons

Brooks B17 Carved

B17 Carved
B17 Carved

The Brooks B17 Carved is the version with a center cutout. To maintain the shape of the saddle the center is held together with a leather lace.

The main benefit over the standard B17 is that the B17 Carved takes less time to break in. Having less simply makes this saddle more supple and easy to adjust to your body.

After that, for those who appreciate saddles with cut outs, the Carved version obviously adds an extra level of comfort besides the general pros the B17 offers in this department.

Expert Experience

Mike | Site Owner – August 18, 2022

The best test I’ve had is a 6-day ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. I went along the Great Allegheny Passage trail and the rutted C&O Canal towpath. The ride was a fantastic adventure, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing, especially on the 185-mile C&O Canal portion from Cumberland, MD to DC. The path is gravelly, and the surface sends a constant teeth-chattering vibration through the bike’s contact points. At 60+ miles a day, that can get pretty fatiguing. My hands and wrists were feeling at the end of each day.

Luckily, the B17 was an absolute champ. It soaked up vibrations and kept me comfortable no matter how rough it got. After that ride, I was sold. Since then, my B17 has only improved in feel, as the leather has softened and molded itself into my own unique saddle, custom-shaped by me, for me. I may never go shopping for a new saddle again.

Pros and Cons

Brooks C17

C17
C17

The Brooks C17 is the Cambium version of the iconic B17 traditional leather saddle. But though the shape is relatively similar that’s about where the comparison ends.

It’s both longer, slimmer and cheaper than the B17, trimming 10 millimeters off the side and adding that to the length. You end up with a saddle measuring 283 x 164 mm.

But the entire structure is way different, with the C17 resembling the characteristics of a more traditional saddle, though Brooks does have their proprietary vulcanized leather for their entire Cambium lineup.

This rubber is very pliant but requires no breaking in period. The downside of that is that it won’t conform to your anatomy as a leather saddle would. So you have to be more picky about choosing the right shape.

But Cambium models are waterproof, extremely abrasion-resistant and durable, which make them the perfect companion for touring cyclists. Especially since the very maintenance-free characteristic is a big plus for touring cyclists and road racers in general.

If you’re looking for the best maintenance free saddle money can buy for a reasonable price, the Cambium C17 is the best option.

Expert Experience

Paul Robson | Editor – June 11, 2020

The rubber used to make the saddle flex exceptionally well, which helps to recreate the famous slung ‘hammock’-style flexibility of Brooks’s leather seats. This ensures excellent comfort and keeps you in contact with your saddle, rather than bouncing around on rougher surfaces.

There is a small weight penalty over a performance saddle due to the C17’s steel rails, and you might not want a Cambium on your full-on race bike – there is surely a trade-off in power for this much comfort – but for an endurance or touring bike, commuter or winter trainer this is a perfect saddle when it comes to performance and looks.

Pros and Cons

Brooks C17 Carved

C17 Carved
C17 Carved

The Brooks C17 Carved is the C17 with a center cut out for pressure relief.

Unlike leather models of Brooks lineup, the Cambium models don’t need rivets or laces to prevent the shell from deforming. It’s another trait that makes the Cambium models with a center cutout behave more like current saddles.

The C17 Carved is a bit less firm than the standard C17, simply because there is less material to hold the rider. Especially if you’re planning on riding rougher terrain this might suit your needs, since you have better natural damping from the saddle.

Pros and Cons

Fizik Aliante R3

Aliante R3
Aliante R3

The Fizik Aliante R3 is less budget friendly, but does offer a flexible carbon composite shell. Carbon is known for its great damping properties. And by making the shell partially from carbon you have a more lightweight, race-oriented offering, that will be the perfect saddle for bikepackers.

The traditional shape measures 279 x 154 millimeters, which I recommend for off-road purposes unless you know your sit bones sit really close together or you like to sit further back on the saddle.

Fizik uses TwinFlex technology, which basically means the saddle is more flexible at the inner curves. This adds a more natural riding feeling because the saddle moves just a bit with your legs, instead of digging into them, which I know from experience is painful and very uncomfortable.

Because of the relative delicate nature of the carbon shell it has been reinforced with scuff protectors at the side. So less worries when you might accidentally take a fall.

This saddle is more expensive than many other entries on this list. What you get in return is an extremely high-quality carbon composite offering for cyclists who feel very at home on road bikes.

Expert Experience

Stu Kerton | Senior Product Reviewer – April 21, 2022

The swoopy shape works well, I found. The raised back gives you something to push against when you want to get the power out, and if like me you like to move back in the saddle when climbing, there is still plenty of padding there for it to be supportive and comfortable.

The padding is firm throughout – the nose section especially so, I found, which caused some discomfort when riding to start with – but after about 300 miles it seemed to soften and mould to my shape.

Pros and Cons

Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow

Lady Gel Flow
Lady Gel Flow

The Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow is a saddle obviously meant for female riders. They are actually offered in two widths. The wide version measures 160 millimeters, which is great for a relaxed upright position. There’s also a much narrower version at 135 millimeters if you’re very familiar with road cycling and prefer a saddle with a more race-oriented shape.

Selle Italia ditched the leather cover for a more maintenance free microfiber one. It will also mean the saddle is more durable than a thin leather cover, and more waterproof as well, which were two cons of earlier editions of this saddle.

This is a true touring saddle for people who like their behinds to sit on well-padded seats and don’t like aggressive riding in the drops.

Pros and Cons

Selle Italia Man Gel Flow

Man Gel Flow
Man Gel Flow

The Selle Italia Man Gel Flow is the male version which only comes in a single size of 151 x 275 millimeters.

The same applies for this saddle as for the female version. Don’t buy it for road cycling, but for upright leisurely touring and overall shorter rides.

Pros and Cons

Ergon SM E-Mountain Core Prime Women

SM E-Mountain Core Prime Women
SM E-Mountain Core Prime Women

Don’t get confused about the name of the Ergon SM E-Mountain Core Prime Women. It’s not specifically for E-bikes and not specifically for mountain bikes.

This is not a road bike saddle. Not its weight, not its design, not its padding hints in that direction. It is a great option for a robust touring / gravel / MTB saddle.

The strong CroMo steel rails support 2 variations with the widest measuring 160 millimeters at a standard length of 278 millimeters.

Their sales page features a lot of impressive medical copywriting. But it doesn’t take away that saddles can still be hit or miss. Why you might want to consider this saddle is that it really does feature several layers of unique feminine oriented padding in a design that also has a large center depression.

Those various levels of padding create flexibility in the saddle, firmness where necessary, and added comfort and damping properties as well.

The saddle has a very premium and solid look, which feels much more at home on a touring or mountain bike than on a road bike.

Pros and Cons

Ergon SM E-Mountain Core Prime Men

SM E-Mountain Core Prime Men
SM E-Mountain Core Prime Men

The Ergon SM E-Mountain Core Prime Men has the overall same dimensions but a much larger center depression. I don’t have to explain why.

It’s interesting to note that where Selle Italia opts for a wider version of a feminine saddle with the same characteristics otherwise, it feels like Ergon at least changed the overall upper shape of their saddles.

That kind of makes sense considering the fact that there are serious differences between a male and female. Apart from all of the other factors that make this saddle great for touring. Like the multi-layered padding and overall flexibility. All that padding doesn’t mean it’s a cushion. But it performs a bit like memory foam, where a couple rides in you feel more adjusted to the saddle.

Expert Experience

Paul Burwell | Contributor – October 19, 2020

Ergon has really upped the plushness – the SM E-Mountain Core Prime has got an armchair ride, but at the same time it feels supportive. It’s almost like memory foam in this respect. The problem I have with it, apart from the price, is that it’s a tall saddle. And since most e-bikes have issues with dropper post insertion (the motor gets in the way) this saddle isn’t going to help that. When I’m descending I can feel it underneath more than the one it replaced.

For all that though, I’m going to switch back to a lower-profile model for the riding I do, because for me the extra clearance makes all the difference.

Pros and Cons

Ergon SMC Sport Gel Women

SMC Sport Gel Women
SMC Sport Gel Women

As with the Core Prime models the Ergon SMC Sport Gel Women features a very distinctive feminine oriented cut out in a saddle with a large seating area.

It’s more affordable, has the same saddle ergonomic shape, but gel padding instead of the memory foam like substance of the Core Prime. Unlike the male version, this saddle has such a large open space you can deem it an appropriate center cut out.

It supports an upright position with enough cushioning to take out any irregularities in the road.

Expert Experience

Kristen Bonkoski | Site Owner – June 13, 2023

Thus far, I’ve used the Ergon SMC Sport Gel on countless lunchtime rides, a half dozen long days, and two bikepacking trips. The longer the ride, the more I like it!

I’ve had zero saddle sores, zero chafing, and *almost* no discomfort even at the end of Day 2 of bikepacking. While there’s absolutely no reason not to use this saddle for shorter mountain bike rides, it’s women who plan to ride long hours that I think will really appreciate it.

Pros and Cons

Ergon SMC Sport Gel Men

SMC Sport Gel Men
SMC Sport Gel Men

The Ergon SMC Sport Gel Men is the male version obviously. Ergon has taken its research into male and female anatomy and applied it to this saddle as well.

This result in a more pronounced depression in the center of the saddle. Both saddles are on the less aggressive side of the riding spectrum.

Expert Experience

Miles Arbour | Outdoor adventure guide – May 4, 2020

So far, I’ve taken the SMC Sport Gel on several 40-mile rides and was quite comfortable. Although I haven’t taken it out on a big multi-day ride, I’m expecting good things based on my initial experiences. My position on the saddle is vastly different than that of the Cambium C17, yet equally comfortable. The total length of the medium/large version is 276mm (10.9”), which feels appropriate for any kind of trail riding I’ll get into. I recently tried a saddle with a much shorter nose, and missed the control that a longer saddle can offer while navigating tight corners and narrow features. The padding is plush, yet still firm enough for serious riding and won’t be too soft for riders who are used to sportier saddles. I distinctly noticed the exaggerated pressure relief channel, which helps avoid unnecessary pressure points.

Pros and Cons

Prologo Dimension NDR

Dimension NDR
Dimension NDR

The Prologo Dimension NDR is a sporty saddle with an offroad nature.

To establish this nature, Prologo simply added more padding to the shell, which is offered in a single size of 245 x 143 mm.

The 245 millimeters can be considered a short-nosed saddle. For those of you who don’t know what that is, short-nosed saddles favor riders who show a more forward seated position.

Since there’s less nose, the overall saddle can be moved forward a bit on the seatpost, while the rider still remains in the area where he or she feels most comfortable.

It’s probably one of the most aggressive saddles on this list for offroad touring or mountain biking.

Expert Experience

Paul Norman | Product Tester – May 7, 2020

The Dimension NDR is a comfortable saddle for longer rides. Fitted to an endurance road bike, it provided good support and enough padding to smooth out the road a bit, without my sitbones getting lost in the foam. The width also means that there’s enough surface area to spread the load, despite the central cut-out.

What didn’t work so well off road was the short format, which limits your ability to shift your weight as you ride. That’s fine for road riding, where the range of forward and aft motion you’re likely to want is limited, but makes steeper off-road descents more awkward than a longer design and leaves you hanging off the back of the saddle.

Pros and Cons

Specifications road bike saddles for touring

Name
Rail
Price
Dimensions
Weight
Shell
Padding
Fabric Line Elite Shallow
titanium Ø7×7 mm
105 USD
270 x 134 mm
237 g
nylon
Fabric Scoop Elite Flat
cro-mo Ø7 mm
80 USD
282 x 142 mm
244 g
flexible nylon
Brooks B17
steel
140 euros
275 x 175 mm
520 g
none
none
Brooks B17 Carved
steel
140 euros
275 x 175 mm
520 g
none
none
Brooks C17
steel
120 euros
283 x 164 mm
464 g
vulcanised rubber
none
Brooks C17 Carved
steel
120 euros
283 x 164 mm
446 g
vulcanised rubber
none
Fizik Aliante R3
kium Ø7×7 mm
174.99 USD
S 279 x 138 mm – L 279 x 154 mm
S 215 g – L 220 g
carbon reinforced nylon
Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow
manganese tube Ø7 mm
140 euros
S 135 x 262 mm – L 160 x 262 mm
S 300 g – L 310 g
extra padding / gel shock absorber
Selle Italia Man Gel Flow
manganese tube Ø7 mm
140 euros
151 x 275 mm
315 g
extra padding / gel shock absorber
Ergon SM E-Mountain Core Prime Women
CroMo
160 USD
S 278 x 147 mm – L 278 – 160 mm
nylon composite
Orthopedic Comfort Foam
Ergon SM E-Mountain Core Prime Men
CroMo
160 USD
S 278 x 147 mm – L 278 – 160 mm
nylon composite
Orthopedic Comfort Foam
Ergon SMC Sport Gel Women
CroMo
100 USD
295 g
nylon composite
Orthopedic Comfort Foam w. gel padding
Ergon SMC Sport Gel Men
CroMo
100 USD
300 g
nylon composite
Orthopedic Comfort Foam w. gel padding
Prologo Dimension NDR
nack carbon / tirox / T4.0
109/138/213 euros
245 x 143 mm
nack 170 g – Tirox 215 g – T4.0 229 g
extra padding

Sources

Hollis Jones, Fabric Line Race Shallow saddle, Road.cc, May 27, 2020
Jim Clarkson, Fabric Scoop Elite Shallow saddle, Off.road.cc, August 19, 2020
Nick BruckBauer, Brooks England B-17 Review, Outdoorgearlab, October 24, 2019
Paul Robson, Brooks Cambium All Weather C17 saddle review, Bikeradar, June 11, 2020
Stu Kerton, Fizik Aliante R3 Open R saddle, Road.cc, April 21, 2022
Paul Burwell, Ergon SM E-Mountain Core Prime saddle review, MBR, October 19, 2020
Kristen Bonkoski, Ergon SMC Sport Gel Women’s Saddle Review, Femme Cyclist, June 13, 2023
Miles Arbour, Ergon SMC Sport Gel Saddle: First Ride Review, Bikepacking, May 4, 2020
Paul Norman, Prologo Dimension NDR saddle review, Cyclist, May 7, 2020
bio vanseijen

Johan van Seijen

Founder Restoration.bike

Johan van Seijen is the founder of restoration.bike. His cycling career has seen him at the starting line of classics such as the Amstel Gold Race and Liege Bastogne Liege. Realizing his racing capacity would fall short of what was needed he obtained a MS from the University of Amsterdam in engineering. His love for cycling changed into riding in an amateur capacity with his local cycling club TFC Weesp as a roadie and supporting MTB Noordwest as a mountain biker. He repairs, restores, and builds bicycles and shares his knowledge on YouTube, Facebook and this website. 

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