Retail Product Reviews: WTB Saddles
By David Kurushima, Retail Manager
At the Community Cycling Center, we are all about removing barriers to bicycling—whether it be providing access to affordable bikes and cycling education, or working to remove any of the innumerable cultural, economic or physical barriers that impede one’s ability to enjoy this active and healthful mode of transportation. Here at the Cycling Center’s shop, we find that one of the most common barriers to riding a bike comfortably is simply finding a comfortable saddle, something many have concluded to be a bit of an oxymoron. So if you may, let us give you some advice on shopping for a new bike seat and provide you with a couple staff recommendations straight from our own saddle selection.
Finding the right saddle is a lot like finding the right bike and you always want to start by asking yourself, “What kind of riding do I want/plan to do?” Then, with your answer in hand, ask your local bike shop mechanic what she or he would recommend and simply test as many saddles as you can, preferably installed on your own bicycle. For most commuting and recreational riding, a saddle should always be installed level with the ground. If you find a level saddle to be uncomfortable, it is not the position of the saddle that needs to change but the saddle itself.
Now, unless you are looking for an enormously cushy cruiser saddle or an absurdly minimalist “butt-hatchet,” a great place to start your saddle search is with a saddle from Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB). WTB puts a good deal of thought into designing their saddles and they offer a pretty good selection of affordable models. While everyone’s posterior is certainly unique, one of the most widely recommended saddles is WTB’s Speed-V. Here at our shop we often suggest it as good starting point when searching for a new saddle.
With that, consider the following reviews of two of WTB’s newer saddle offerings written by Community Cycling Center staff who commute and ride on these saddles nearly every day. As always, if the Speed-V or either of these two reviewed saddles piques your interest, come by the Community Cycling Center shop any day of the week to try them out. Our professional mechanics will be more than happy to install them on your bike for a quick test ride.
I asked Gwen, a mechanic in our shop, for saddle advice. She immediately recommended WTB’s Pure-V Race for the kind of riding I do: commuting plus the occasional distance ride. I’ve tried many different saddles on test rides around town. It’s true what they say: you really don’t know if a saddle is meant for you until after a month or two of riding on it.
I found the Pure-V to be comfortable during the 5 miles of commuting I do to and from work. It has just enough padding and a contoured design to absorb the shock one feels in the sensitive soft-tissue area. It’s a delicate balance; I need a little bit of padding but too much creates a lot of problems on longer rides. The Pure-V seems to strike the right balance of firmness to padding ratio. After six months of riding on the Pure-V, I’m really happy with my purchase. It’s at a nice price-point, too. $60 for a high quality, comfortable saddle.
I installed the WTB Volt on my hard-tail Specialized Stump Jumper (a mountain bike) and it has been a darn good saddle. I was primarily drawn to it by its shape—it has a relatively narrow nose and a wide flat rear which apparently WTB calls the “whale-tail.” For me I have found that flat saddles (as opposed to rounded saddles) work best for my rear end as they distribute weight better to my sit-bones rather than apply pressure to that sensitive middle area. The narrowness of the saddle’s nose is also much appreciated as I have noticed that it does not interfere with my leg movement nor does it chafe the inside of my thighs. The saddle is on the firmer side of many of WTB’s saddles which I appreciate, though others may not. From my rear perspective, WTB does a good job designing the anatomical form of their saddles and I find that saddles with excessive “squish” tend to lose their potentially well designed shape once pressure is applied to them.
Cosmetically, the Volt is a lovely, minimalist looking saddle and has an all-black synthetic cover, which allows it to fit right in on almost any road or mountain bike. The nonabsorbent cover is also easy to wipe off and clean in wet and/or muddy conditions. After just nine months in the saddle I don’t know if I can properly attest to the Volt’s durability but I would say that, aside for a couple scuffs on the saddle, it looks and feels like it did when it was first installed.
If you are looking for a sharp yet comfortable saddle that still allows you to ride aggressively when needed, I would highly recommend giving the WTB Volt a go.