- Comfort and support from the first ride, across ride lengths and types of riding
- Great all-around looks (real copper rivets, matching copper and gunmetal nameplates)
- Dual laminate design with full grain leather top
- Made in America
- Patented slot works to create a dual hammock for your sit bones
- Allows for flexible, free pedaling motion
- Easy-to-use tensioning system
- Weight significantly more than most modern saddles
- Squeaky during the break-in period
- A bit persnickety (requires re-tensioning during break-in, extra care for leather, etc.)
How obtained: review sample from company
Available: company website (TruLeather or WaterShed premium leather top; various colors/rivet combinations)
RBR Sponsor: no
Tested: 2 months
Tech & Specs:
Weight: 494 grams
Width: 130mm wide
4130 chromoly rails
Hex Key Tension System
Designed for high mileage riders (more than 100 mi/week) or those between 160 and 250 pounds
The X Series Delivers Promised Comfort and Support
Seldom does a product review come about as a result of a handful of readers writing me, unsolicited, to ask if we were considering reviewing Product X – either raving it about themselves, or curious about it because they’ve heard great things about it from a fellow rider.
Such was the case, though, with the Selle Anatomica X saddle. It’s the new model from the American seat maker with the Italian-sounding name and the distinctive slot in its otherwise very traditional-looking full-leather road saddles.
So, while saddles are typically among the most subjective bike products to review, I bent to the will of readers and was able to bring one back from Interbike in mid-September to test. I’ve had it on my bike for every ride since.
The saddle I’ve been testing is an X Series WaterShed Black model with copper rivets. In short, it is a sharp, old-school looker of a saddle that evenfeatures a copper nameplate across the back.
Aside from the good looks, the most noticeable thing about the saddle – at least when compared to most modern seats – is its size. It is at least a little bigger (290mm long, 130mm wide), and a lot heavier (494g), than most any modern saddle. It’s much more reminiscent of a classic Brooks saddle than, say, a Fizik Arione.
Of course, that slot stands out, too (more on that later), and when you look at the underside of the X Series, you notice it is a different color than the top. That’s because the saddle is made out of two layers of leather, not just one, like the company’s T series saddle. (The saddle is available in two different types of leather, too; check the site for details.)
Selle Anatomica’s website explains the double-layering this way: “A second full laminate helps to increase the longevity of the saddle and still provides the right amount of elasticity under your sit bones. This is the saddle for high mileage riders (more than 100 mi/week) or those between 160 and 250 pounds.”
Installation and Set Up
In addition to those first impressions, I noticed something else soon after putting the saddle on my bike. When it came time to install the plastic clamp for my seat bag – which clamps onto the rails of a saddle, at the very back, and allows the seat bag to be easily slid on or off – I realized the rails on the X Series are much wider at the rear than most modern saddle rails.
It’s a function of the design, with the rails fastening to a C-shaped piece of metal at the rear undercarriage for support (and to receive the rear rivets). Not being able to use my regular seat bag was an inconvenience, but the wide rails make no difference if you use a seat bag with straps that loop over the rails (like my backup bag).
When I installed the seat, I tried to eyeball it to match the basic position of my current saddle. But because its shape is very different, I started by setting it to the same nose-to-stem measurement, and then tweaked the fore-aft a bit to approximate the same position where I thought my sit bones would hit the saddle. I also set it up initially, as I typically do with my saddles, in a neutral tilt – nose level with rear.
After my first ride, though, I needed to do some tweaking. I moved the seat forward a full cm and raised the nose a touch above neutral, maybe one or two degrees. It’s the position I’ve been at ever since. I should note that Selle Anatomica urges customers to follow the guidelines on its website (it has both a video and downloadable instructions) for starting from scratch to set up the saddle.
This saddle encourages a position for me that is, effectively, on-the-rivet – with only the front rivet showing between my legs in my normal position. But my sit bones strike the saddle where intended (in the two small divots in the wings at the back of the seat). And the feeling of support and comfort can’t be denied.
The Selle Anatomica X is quite comfortable, and has been from the get-go. I have had zero perineal issues while riding it these several weeks, and no blood flow issues. (I would occasionally have a bit of perineal chafing, but not very often, with my old saddle, when shorts would bunch up in a certain way – and would have some blood flow issues on longer rides if not standing often enough.) Those have been absent with the X.
The comfort and support were evident across ride lengths and types, too, from 35-mile easy days to 75-mile rides with numerous hard efforts, to a few Saturday group rides with the fast local group at near race pace.
On the performance side, the saddle doesn’t restrict movement in any way when it comes to fast riding and high-cadence pedaling. I’ve done much of both, and the saddle allows free movement, to be sure. In fact, on one particular ride, I realized that my rear shift cable was frayed in the shifter. I didn’t want to risk shearing it off, so I shifted into the middle of my cassette and left it there, using only my front derailleur to switch from easier to harder. That meant a higher than normal cadence (up to 130 in a couple of instances) to keep up with my buddies. No problem.
The Secret’s in the Slot
This seat simply doesn’t function like other saddles. Effectively, the patented slot creates a 2-part saddle, with each side working like a hammock to support your sit bones individually and allow each side to flex independently, and provide the front-to-back support for the rest of your soft tissue while taking pressure off the perineal area. (The company says its saddles work equally well for men and women: “The forgiving nature of our leather makes our saddles equally comfortable and functional for men and women.”)
Also claimed, and verified: there’s no “break-in” period – at least in the typical sense. The seat is comfortable from the first ride. There is no need to suffer through a period in which you have to break it in to reach that desired level of comfort.
Over the first few hundred miles, though, the leather stretches somewhat. But you use a nifty tension bolt tucked under the nose to effectively lengthen the saddle and re-tension it. The company says that after no more than 500 miles the leather will stop stretching. For me, that happened at between 400 and 450 miles. So, while the saddle does need time to “break in,” it does so while continuing to offer the desired comfort and support.
In addition to the size and weight of this saddle (at 494g, it added 300g to my bike’s weight over my existing saddle), which may be a deterrent for some, and the issue of the rails being too wide in back to use some clamp-on seat bags, the biggest issue I had with the seat was the noise. I say “was” because it eventually worked itself out.
It was quite noisy and squeaky during the leather break-in period – to the point of distraction. I don’t like a noisy bike, and the squeaking really got on my nerves sometimes. Apparently, this is an ongoing issue with the company’s saddles, because the newer models come with an “anti-squeaking gasket” installed. And those gaskets are available for free for older models. The website also suggests a little graphite lube around the nose to take care of the noise. I decided, for the sake of this review, not to try to remediate the noise, and it eventually took care of itself as the saddle stretched and broke in.
The Last Word
It wouldn’t be an appropriate saddle review if I didn’t acknowledge the one true thing about saddles: One size, or brand, or model, or shape does NOT fit all. We all have different bodies, different shapes and sizes. The ideal seat for one rider may be a literal pain in the butt for another.
I can only pass along my observations and tell you that if you’re looking for comfort and support, the Selle Anatomica X is certainly worthy of consideration. For me, it delivered on its promises of comfort from the very first ride, flexible, independent support of the sit bones, and lasting, pressure-free riding comfort even on longer days in the saddle.
Yes, it’s heavy. And it has a few persnickety quirks that require some extra care and attention (re-tensioning during the break-in period, caring for the leather, etc.). But those seem like a small price to pay in exchange for what are the most beneficial characteristics a saddle can offer: real comfort and support over a range of ride lengths and types.
John Marsh is the former editor and publisher of RBR Newsletter and RoadBikeRider.com. A rider of “less than podium” talent, he sees himself as RBR’s Ringmaster, guiding the real talent (RBR’s great coaches, contributors and authors) in bringing our readers consistently useful, informative, entertaining info that helps make them better road cyclists. That’s what we’re all about here—always have been, always will be. Click to read John’s full bio.