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There are thousands of saddles out there. Some are designated as road saddles while others are mountain saddles. However, the marketing copy does not seem to describe the difference between the two types, even between two similar models (for example, Selle Italia seems to have an SLR for road bikes and an SLR XC for mountain bikes).

In general, what are the main differences between road saddles and mountain saddles? What, if any, are the potential downsides of using a road saddle off-road or a mountain saddle on pavement?

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Your companions will laugh at you. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 8 '12 at 23:03
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@DanielRHicks: I'm used to that. :) –  amcnabb Sep 9 '12 at 2:32
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Maybe it's just different endorsements. –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 10 '12 at 11:46
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4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

There is a lot of variation across models of saddles even if you stay within one genre (eg only consider road or only consider MTB).

However, you'll find if you look at popular racing saddles that MTB saddles tend to be shorter. This is because in singletrack you're very frequently moving onto and off-of the saddle. A longer saddle might interfere with the "body-english" that some MTB riders use.

That said, if a saddle fits, it fits. That is the most important criteria. Everything else is a distant secondary consideration.

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I'm no expert on the subject but a few months ago I put a road saddle I had on my hardtail mountain bike and within about 5 rides one of the rails busted. So, it seems that a maker of road saddles may use lighter / less solid material for the rails to keep weight down - but obviously that's just something to investigate when considering a saddle for MTB use.

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Just from looking at the Selle Italia SLR Product Page it seems that there is little difference between "road" and "offroad" saddles, as all the saddles listed seem to be recommended for both "road" and "offroad". The same goes for Brooks who group road and MTB in one category. There are various models and I can't see any labelled simple SLR. But if we compare, for instance, the SLR Tekno and the SLR XC, you'll notice that the SLR XC is double the weight (170g vs 85g). I can only guess that the increased weight would give it more strength, and it would probably be able to able to withstand a few more bumps. It would probably also have thicker padding to be a little easier when going over bumps.

Personally I think it all comes down to what actually feels comfortable for you. As well as what fits your riding style. If you have a full suspension mountain bike, you may not need the saddle to absorb a lot of impact. If you have a road bike, and the roads aren't that nice where you live, then you may need something a little sturdier, or with a little extra padding.

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Yeah, likely manufacturers substitute heavier materials in the "offroad" models, saving them money but still allowing them to sell them for the same (high) price (because they're labeled "offroad"). –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 10 '12 at 15:29
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I don't know how saddles differ for any particular manufacturer (if at all), but I used to think that MB saddles should be bigger and softer than its road analogs with only one purpose: to save your family jewels and make your trip a bit easier.

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Not so sure about that one, the saddle on the mountain bike I bought recently was one of those skinny things and I had to replace it with something wider because I like my butthurt to be the kind caused by getting into arguments on the internet rather than having an actually hurting butt :) –  GordonM Sep 10 '12 at 11:36
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This exception supports my opinion: the manufacturer failed to comply with the requirements I stated in my answer. –  akond Sep 10 '12 at 11:50
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