By Stan Purdum
- Comfortable leather saddle with no break-in period needed
- Made in USA
- Attractive saddle, available in different colors
- Slot down length of saddles creates separate “hammocks” for your sit bones
- Easy-to-access tensioning system
- Slightly heavier than most hardshell saddles
- Some riders have found the saddle to be squeaky during first rides
How obtained: purchased from Selle Anatomica website
RBR Advertiser: No
After I submitted my review of my new Specialized Turbo Creo SL Comp E5 Road Ebike for publication in RBR last week, the publisher, Lars Hundley, noticed in one of the photos that I’d swapped out the stock saddle that came with the bike for another, and he asked me what it was. I explained that it was a Selle Anatomica leather saddle that I’d transferred from another of my bikes, and he suggested I review it.
I hadn’t thought to do that, primarily because I purchased that saddle in 2017, meaning it is not a new product. But it is in remarkably good shape considering how many miles I’ve put on it since then, and it’s the most comfortable saddle I’ve ever used. Also, it solved a problem caused by my anatomy that makes riding on standard hardshell bike seats — including the Body Geometry Power Sport saddle that came on the Creo — a painful experience. (And yes, I tried the Power Sport before making the switch, but after a dozen miles, I couldn’t wait to get home to get off it.)
My anatomy problem is probably not that uncommon. But bluntly put, my butt is a bit asymmetrical, and the best way to show what that means for bike riding is to look at the photo of my old Brooks B17 leather saddle, which was my preferred bike seat before trying the Selle Anatomica (SA).
If you look closely, you can see that the part of the Brooks that supports my left sit bone is permanently depressed more than the part that supports my right sit bone. Of course, the Brooks didn’t come that way. It took a few hundred miles of riding for the stiff leather to conform to the contours of my bottom, but once it did, the saddle became reasonably comfortable.
But as the Brooks aged, after carrying me for thousands of miles, I was looking for a replacement, and an acquaintance who had used the SA recommended it. I then read the online text about that saddle. That made it clear that the makers of the SA consider themselves competitors to the Brooks, about which they spoke respectfully, but they went into detail about what makes their saddle superior to it. And I bought one.
Comfortable from the Beginning
Visually, the main difference that’s immediately obvious between the Brooks and SA is that the SA has long cutout running down the length of the saddle, from near the nose to near the back, which takes pressure off the perineal zone. Most bike saddles these days have a cutout or a depression in this area, but the SA’s extends back farther, making individual “hammocks” for each sit bone, which makes it a solution for my lack of symmetry in that region. (The traditional Brooks saddles have no slot. They now make one version that does, though it doesn’t extend as far back as the SA slot. The slot in my Brooks saddle is one I cut myself using a utility knife.)
A second difference quickly showed up the first time I rode my bike with the SA saddle installed: It truly was comfortable right from the start. I didn’t feel the need to start rubbing the leather with the Proofide dressing that’s needed to soften the Brooks. SA does recommend treating the underside and raw edges of their saddles periodically with their proprietary “Saddle Sauce,” but that’s not to soften the leather but to waterproof it. But they say to use nothing on the polished topside of the saddle, which they call “Watershed” and say is already waterproof. In the years I’ve ridden the SA, I’ve never been caught in a full downpour, so I can’t swear that’s correct, but the lighter showers I’ve ridden in never seemed to bother it.
While SA says there is no break-in period needed for their saddles, there is a “stretch-out” period for the leather, which, says SA, can take up to about 500 miles (which so it seemed for me as well), but this is not a time of continuous discomfort. Rather, periodically over those 500 miles, you notice that the saddle has become slightly less comfortable. When you dismount and look at the saddle, you notice that the narrowest part of the slot has drawn closer together; But if you use an Allen key to turn the bolt tucked under the nose a couple of rounds, you will see the slot widen to its original position and will find the full comfort has returned. After the 500 miles, you shouldn’t need to do this again.
One unexpected hitch I encountered occurred when I tried to mount my Topeak under-the-seat wedge bag. It’s the sort that uses a separate plastic clamp, which is to be installed between the seat rails at the back. A plastic attachment piece on the bag itself then slides into the clamp, allowing quick removal of the bag when needed. But the rails on the SA saddle are wider apart at the rear than most other saddles and the clamp was too narrow to bridge them. A regular seat bag with straps that attach over the rails would work fine, but since I already had the Topeak bag, I added two small metal brackets to the clamp, which allowed me to bridge the rails. But that, of course, probably added another ounce of weight to my setup.
A Few More Things to Know
I bought my SA saddle in 2017, and as best I can recall, I paid about $140 for it. It has a chromoly frame and rails and weighs 515 grams — just over 18 ounces — and is still available. Shortly after my purchase, SA came out with a “Series 2” version of the saddle, which has a cast aluminum frame and tubular stainless-steel rails, bringing the weight down to 420 grams — just under 15 ounces — and is modular. As SA explains it, “It comes apart. You can swap components yourself without sending them to us. … rails, different leather tops, etc. can all be installed at home without any down time.” Both series currently sell for $190. They also sell some used saddles for about $100.
SA says their saddles all work for both men and women. There is no separate version for women. Saddles are available in different colors and for different rider-weight categories.
While I did not experience this myself, some SA saddle buyers have said they had problems with the seat squeaking, at least initially. But scouring the web, I didn’t find many claims like this, and some of those I did find said that SA helped them fix the problem.
SA also sells traditional leather saddles without the slot, should you want one (but really, why would you want one?).
There’s a video and full directions for installing your saddle on the SA website, but you have to hunt for it. Rather than including it in the menu at the top, it’s listed at the bottom of each page under “Saddle Setup & Adjustment” in the “Resources” column. That column has some other useful information as well for you to explore.
Every SA saddle purchase comes with a 30-day “Comfort & Fit” guarantee. If you don’t like the saddle, return it, and receive your money back.
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.