In this article I’m going to give you an overview of the best saddles for vintage road bikes.
My definition of vintage might differ from yours, but any steel bike from the early nineties, eighties or older probably qualifies.
Naturally what’s best for a vintage road bike differs as well, but usually the design aspect plays a more important part than other aspects. This is because road bikes from those periods where markedly less gaudy than their newer counterparts.
So you’ll find a lot of classically shaped options from Brooks and Selle San Marco in this list. Brooks because they’re the brand that basically still makes saddles from before WWII, and their Cambium offerings are simply fantastic. And Selle San Marco because they’ve decided to reissue an entire classic lineup of vintage pro peleton saddles.
So be ready for lots of leather, chrome, and rivets, on fantastic looking offerings to quench your thirst for the best saddles for vintage road bikes.
Contenders best saddles for vintage road bikes
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.
The Brooks C13 is a relatively small road racing saddle in Brooks Cambium lineup.
The Cambium line was a brilliant move from Brooks, to significantly increase their product offering with something that was at the same time unique but adhering to more modern saddle standards.
The traditional Brooks break-in period doesn’t apply to Cambium saddles and the C13 offers an even more modern take, with carbon rails.
Brooks did an enormous amount of R&D that goes into their proprietary shell and it shows. This saddle is still pretty heavy with the smaller version just under 300 grams, but you get a high-quality saddle in return that promises to be one of the most comfortable in the market.
At 145 millimeter it has about an average width for a road bike saddle, and the aluminium rivets still give it that authentic-looking feel.
The only downside is the price, because with the carbon rails, it does mean this saddle is very pricey indeed.
Brooks C13 Carved
The Brooks C13 Carved is exactly the same as the standard C13, except it has a small cutout in the center of the saddle.
Unlike Selle Italia’s Superflow offerings this cutout is pretty small. But whereas leather Brooks saddles need additional rivets or laces to keep the shape of carved saddles, that isn’t the case with Cambium saddles, and might be the reason Brooks decided to not flay the saddle entirely.
This version with cutout means there’s less material to support the rider, which results in a saddle being more compliant. Whether or not you like that added plushness and the cutout is rider specific and hard to test without actually sitting on both. But if you’re familiar with saddles with cutouts, I’d definitely recommend this one.
The Brooks C15 is a tad bit longer than its C13 cousin measuring 283 x 140 mm.
It looks a lot like that saddle in that it uses the same material for the shell, rivets, and cover, but as for ride feel it’s quite different.
For starters the C15 sits on steel rails, which drastically reduces the price. Carbon rails are known for taking out a bit more road buzz and being more flexible, which makes the C15 feel a bit stiffer.
Obviously it’s beautifully finished but that longer shape and steel rails does mean you’re looking at a saddle weighing 450 grams. A weight I do not necessarily consider to be in line with a true racing machine. For the same amount of money you can have a saddle that weighs less than half.
With its race shape, with great clearance, high level of comfort, and weight, the C15 is kind of an odd saddle in the performance category. But the far majority of people prefer comfort any day over the extra 150 grams.
So that means you choose the C15 for its looks, and the overall ride quality of the vulcanized upper, which is fantastic.
Brooks C15 Carved
The Brooks C15 Carved is the same version as the regular C15, except it has a cutout.
As with the Brooks C13, whether or not you opt for the cutout version is up to. Just remember you get a bit more compliance out of the saddle because of the missing material.
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 Le Rino
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 Le Rino
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 saddles for vintage road bikes
|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|
|Brooks C13||carbon braided 7×9 mm||200 euros||S 275 x 145 mm L 275 x 158 mm||S 295 g – L 310 g||vulcanized rubber||none||link||link|
|Brooks C13 Carved||carbon braided 7×9 mm||200 euros||S 275 x 145 mm L 275 x 158 mm||S 280 g – L 295 g||vulcanized rubber||none||link|
|Brooks C15||steel||120 euros||283 x 140 mm||450 g||vulcanized rubber||none||link||link|
|Brooks C15 Carved||steel||120 euros||283 x 140 mm||432 g||vulcanized rubber||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|