Bike touring involves long hours in the saddle, so you've got to be kind to your butt! This guide to the best saddles for touring will help you on your quest to find a comfortable bike seat for cycling long distances.
Best Saddle For Bike Touring
There is no one size fits all solution to any aspect of bicycle touring, particularly when it comes to choosing a saddle. We're all built differently, have different riding styles, and want different things.
What's comfortable in a bike saddle for me could be a nightmare for you, and vice-versa.
Throw into the mix considerations about weight, the ethical uses of leather, and a hundred other factors, and you can see why it's a tough job finding the best touring saddle!
Men's Cycling Saddles
A quick note – Men and women will have different needs when it comes to bicycle seats. At least, I am led to believe so.
I can't pretend to say what type of saddle would be best for women. As I'm a guy, this guide to touring saddles is written from my perspective and experience.
What I would say, is that each of these saddle manufacturers is likely to have women's ranges of saddles as well, so take a look at them if you wish.
What I would really love though, is feedback from any female cyclists about their opinions on the best saddles for women. Leave a comment at the end of the article on what you think is the most comfortable saddle!
Finding the best touring saddle
I've tried a few myself over the years when cycling from England to Cape Town, and Alaska to Argentina.
And to be honest, every single one I tried during those trips was literally a pain in the butt!
It was only a few years later that I tried a Brooks saddle when cycling from Greece to England. At that point, I realised I had found the Holy Grail and could stop searching – it was the perfect saddle for me!
As such, my personal recommendation of a good saddle for touring on a bicycle is the Brooks B17 Saddle.
Brooks B17 Saddle For Touring
The classic Brooks saddle is by far the most popular saddle for bicycle touring. This doesn't mean that everyone rides one though, and one of the reasons for that can be price.
They aren't cheap. Especially when compared to other bike saddles that seem to offer just as many benefits at a fraction of the price.
In fact, it was this price issue that put me off of buying a Brooks saddle for so many years. Whey would I spend 50 pounds more on a saddle? That might be an extra 5 days budget on a long distance cycling tour!
Take it from me, that was possibly the dumbest rationalization I've ever made for not buying one earlier. And I've made plenty of dumb rationalizations in my life.
After having bought one and then used it for a few weeks, and then months, the comfort was worth every single penny. Probably ten times that every single penny!
My recommendation – If you are starting out on your journey to find the best bicycle touring saddle, try a Brooks B17 and see how you get on. I for one wished I had done this earlier.
Available on Amazon here: Brooks Saddle for Bicycle Touring
Check out my full review here: Brooks B17 Saddle
Brooks Cambium Saddle
One thing that puts some people off the Brooks saddle is that it is made of leather. If you fall into this category of person, you might prefer to try their Cambium saddle instead.
This has been designed as a long distance touring saddle, but made from vulcanised rubber with a cotton top.
I tried this saddle out for a few months, but didn't really get along with it. I thought it was far inferior to the B17 saddle, and so swapped back.
Still, it's worth a try if you don't want a leather saddle for bike touring.
Available on Amazon: Cambium C17 Saddle
Check out my full review here: Cambium C17 Saddle Review
Of course, Brooks aren't the only company who make bike touring saddles. Their are dozens of manufacturers out there to choose from.
I can't honestly say I've tried them all, but I've been through quite a few, including two dollar saddles picked up at street markets in Africa!
As such, I decided to ask some cyclists in a Facebook group which non-Brooks touring saddles they were happy with. Their remarks brought back a mixed bag so to speak. Here's a few of their recommendations:
Charge Spoon Cycling Saddle
For anyone that doesn't like a wide saddle such as the Brooks B17, the Charge Spoon is a good choice. It's also pretty wallet friendly, and is made of synthetic leather.
This is a good saddle for anyone that doesn't want to maintain a leather saddle, and prefers not worrying about what happens when the saddle gets wet. One cyclist mentioned that they felt the synthetic leather top wore out too quickly though.
Available via Amazon: Charge Spoon Saddle
An Italian company with a similarly long heritage as Brooks, Selle Italia make a range of saddle, some of which may be more suited to long distance bike touring than others.
Personally, I find their sheer range a little overwhelming when it comes to choosing which Selle Italia saddle is the best for long distance cycling.
Check out their website: Selle Italia
This US saddle brand was also mentioned by a couple of cyclists. Like many manufacturers, they have a variety of bicycle saddles made of different materials, some of which may be more suited to bike touring than others.
I've personally never gone for the cut-out type saddle these guys seem to specialize in, but they might be a good choice for men with prostate issues.
Check out their website: Selle Anatomica
More saddles for bike touring
In addition to the bike seats mentioned above, you might want to spend some time researching these other saddles which may be suitable for touring:
- Fizik Saddles – The company ethos seems to be geared toward performance than bike touring, but you may find a bike seat for long distance cycle trips in their catalogue. The Aliante range seems most suited.
- Prologo Zero II – Perhaps more suited to road cycling, but certainly an option worth considering.
- SDG Belair – A bike saddle that is popular in MTB circles, it may also be comfortable seat for longer bicycle rides.
- Selle SMP Pro – World record setting cyclist Mark Beaumont uses these (or did at least once). He's not your average cyclist though! It doesn't look the most comfortable bike saddle to me, but if you want to set records, maybe it's a great choice!
- Tioga Spyder – A series of crazy looking designs that resemble spider's webs. Does this make them comfortable bike saddles though?
Riding Style and Body Position
Before signing off, here's some final thoughts on riding position and the effect of long rides.
Everyone has an individual riding style, although it must be said that most bike tourers set themselves up for comfort over speed. Or at least, it makes sense to do that!
Bicycle tourists should keep in mind that body position, width of the sit bones and flexibility of the lower back will all play a part in what the best saddle width and shape is for you.
Bicycle travellers with a more upright position when they are riding (that's me!) may need a wider saddle and perhaps wear good padded cycling shorts.
Aggressive riders who ride in a more sporty position might prefer a firmer saddle to a soft saddle.
In general, when touring and bikepacking, you’ll find yourself sitting on the bicycle saddle for some pretty long rides. 80kms a day doesn't sound a lot, but on day 20, 30,or 40 you'll probably wish for heavier but firmer touring bike saddles over the soft gel type that casual riders prefer.
Bike Saddle FAQ
When readers are looking for the best touring bike saddles for their next trip, they often have questions similar to:
What is the best touring saddle?
When it comes to bicycle touring saddles, the Brooks England B17 is perhaps the most popular due to its solid construction and comfort on long rides.
How do I choose a touring bike saddle?
We all have different riding positions and requirements when it comes to saddle comfort. One way to choose the right saddle size, is to go into a bike shop and see if they have a sit bones width tool.
What is sit bone width?
On average, male sit bone width ranges from 100mm to 140mm (give or take a few mm), while female sit bone width varies from 110mm to 150mm.
Are carved saddles more comfortable?
If you have a tendency to suffer from soft tissue pain more than sit bones pane, you might find that a carved saddle gives you a more comfortable ride.
Related: Bike touring shoes
– Dave Briggs
Dave wrote this travel guide about the best saddle for touring, sharing his experiences of cycling all over the world. You can find more gear reviews and tips for cycling touring here are Dave's Travel Pages.
Follow Dave on social media for travel, adventure and bike touring inspiration:
I have a few bikes, one had a Brooks B17, now a Flyer – both decent and worth the money. The MTB has a Charge Spoon. I like it except the leather saddles seem to breathe better if you get sweaty down below. If you like the idea of the Spoon but don’t quite gel, the WTB Sport is an alternative. Spa cycles do excellent copies of Brookes saddles at a really good price, but they do take longer to wear in. Modern Brookes saddles I find comfortable almost out of the box.
Conrad Freeman says
Do you have an opinion about the Brooks B17 versus the Flyer? I think they’re essentially the same except the addition of the springs on the Flyer. So, is there a reason to swap out the flyer?
Dave Briggs says
If you’re happy with the Flyer, stick with it! There might be a small weight advantage to having the B17, but comfort is the main thing in my eyes. Personally, I don’t get on with the Flyer, but it’s all a matter of individual choice.