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One of the three points of contact between rider and bike, the saddle is perhaps more of a personal choice than most hard goods. Depending on riding style, your seat may play a more or less important role. Recreational trail riders and dedicated cross-country racers may not have the same perception of comfort. Downhillers and freeriders, who are often out of the saddle, may not agree on a saddle style either. Whatever your style is, there is a saddle out there just waiting for you to take a seat.
Saddles are available in many styles and designs. The biggest difference between models is the clamping system on the seatpost they are made to work with. There are three clamping systems: the standard dual rail, pivotal, and a single rail.
Dual rail seats have two parallel metal rails running front to back on their underside, they are by far the most common style of saddle and come standard on most mountain bikes.
Pivotal seats are a crossover from the world of BMX and are beginning to appear more frequently on slopestyle, dirt jump and park bikes. Pivotal saddles have an integrated bolt that connects vertically through the saddle and into the top of the seatpost. This style of seat is extremely resistant to repeat impacts and they are usually made of plastic.
Single rail saddles use one rail running front to back in the middle of the seat, made of either plastic or carbon fiber, as a clamping surface for the seatpost. These saddles are very popular with downhillers as they are both light and resistant to impacts.
Saddles come in different sizes depending on their intended use and desired comfort level. So choosing one that is right for you is a personal choice. As long as the clamping mechanism of seat and seatpost is the same, any size of saddle is easily installed.
Dual rail saddles use chromoly, steel, or titanium rails. Single rail models use either plastic or carbon fiber bodies. Pivotal seats are made of plastic. The material that covers the saddle also plays a part in its feel and durability. Saddles can either have kevlar, plastic, synthetic leather, genuine leather or carbon fiber top layers.
When purchasing a saddle it is important to know what type of clamping mechanism your seatpost uses in order to ensure compatibility. Next, finding a seat with a design that corresponds with the amount of time you spend in the saddle can make a big difference when it comes to comfort. Recreational riders may want something with a little more padding compared to hardcore enthusiasts. If you ride dirt jumps or skateparks often, it may be wise to choose a more durable bmx inspired seat. Downhillers often choose the lightest option available, as their discipline is done almost entirely from a standing position. There are also downhill saddles built for wet weather, with rubber lugs to keep you from sliding off.
Saddles range in price from $10 to $500.
Entry-level saddles ranging from $10 to $50 are available in both dual rail and pivotal designs and in a broad range of comfort levels. Models in this price range have steel or chromoly rails and use a synthetic leather or plastic outer material.
Moving up to the $50-$150 range, saddles begin to incorporate loads of technology intended to improve comfort and promote blood-flow throughout the lower body. Saddles in this range are available in all three clamping styles and have either chromoly or titanium rails. There are also more traditional genuine leather saddles that use steel springs for comfort in this range.
Saddles costing over $175 use the best available materials and are the result of much research. These models begin to use large amounts of carbon fiber and titanium to provide the best possible product for competitive riders. Saddles in this range are designed for performance rather than comfort and are not a wise choice for recreational riders.
Before buying, be sure to do your research and read product reviews. Reviews are a great way to find out specifics about a particular model, user impressions, and things to watch out for. After you've purchased a product and had enough time to thoroughly test it, we encourage you to leave a review for other people to see when they are researching bikes and parts on the web.
We hope you've found this information to be helpful. If you have a question that isn't answered in this guide, our mountain bike forums are a great place to get advice from knowledgeable riders. Your local bike shop is also a great resource.