Cyclists are always looking for a way to improve our bikes. Sooner or later, we stumble upon carbon saddles that promise many improvements. But are they really worth their price?
The most apparent advantage of the carbon saddle is its low weight. Cyclists also buy it because it’s more comfortable than a “normal” saddle, but the comfort is very much up to each individual. Safety is the main concern people have, but carbon has become so safe lately that any worries are redundant.
Below I will talk in more detail about the safety and comfort of a carbon saddle. I will also give you information on how much weight you can lose by upgrading to carbon and how much each gram of weight loss costs.
Carbon saddles are the most comfortable saddles on the market
Carbon saddles might look uncomfortable, but they are not. In fact, they have a reputation for being one of the most comfortable saddles available.
Carbon has excellent vibration damping capabilities. That makes it the preferred material for many bike parts, including the saddle. Vibration damping results in a much smoother and more comfortable ride.
In this respect, the seat is perhaps even the smallest factor in vibration damping, with the carbon forks and carbon seatpost having a much greater effect. However, the impact of the saddle cannot be ignored either, as each vibration-damaging element brings something to the overall quota.
There are several ways carbon saddles provide comfort.
The material itself is designed to dampen vibrations, making the ride more comfortable, but the real “secret weapon” of carbon saddles is flexing.
The saddle flexes slightly during the ride to further dampen vibrations. During your first ride, you might have a weird feeling like the saddle will break, but once you get used to it, there’s no way back. Riding on a normal saddle will feel like riding on a brick.
However, you must be careful when buying a carbon saddle. As with every saddle, one model will work for someone but be the worst saddle for another. Take your time to pick the right one, even if that means paying a bit more.
A comfortable saddle is priceless.
I even advise you to do a bike fitting. They will measure the distance between your sitting bones and give you all the information you need before buying a saddle.
It’s worth investing the money, otherwise, you’ll have to buy many different saddles to find the right one, which will end up costing you even more than a bike fitting
Whatever you do, don’t rush when choosing a saddle. Take your time, try a few models (if the store lets you) and make sure you buy the one that suits you the most. Only then can the carbon saddle justify the title of being the most comfortable saddle in the world.
What’s the difference between padded and bare saddle?
There are three different types of carbon saddles:
- Plastic saddle with carbon rail (many don’t treat them as carbon saddle)
- Padded carbon saddle
- Bare carbon saddle
The plastic saddle with carbon rails is really on the border between the “ordinary” and the carbon world, so I won’t pay any attention to it.
PRO TIP: When buying a carbon saddle, always check if the seatpost is compatible with carbon rails. They are a bit bigger and oval, so they must be clamped differently. The seatpost should clamp the rails from top and bottom, as clamping from side to side will not work in most cases
Much more popular among cyclists are padded and bare carbon saddles.
What’s the difference, you ask?
Padded saddle (link to Amazon)
The padded saddle has a carbon shell covered with a thin foam layer. The foam compression makes the ride even more comfortable.
However, in the past, many cyclists have complained that a too soft pad can cause more problems than a harder pad. As a result, the other extreme has come to the market – the bare carbon seat.
Bare saddle (link to Amazon)
The bare saddle doesn’t have any padding whatsoever, it’s just a carbon shell. Consequently, it’s much harder than other saddles on the market.
However, that’s not a problem.
The cycling shorts padding is much more important for your comfort during a ride than padding of the saddle. The latter adds only a small amount to the overall comfort.
This can be confirmed by the fact that with padded shorts, you can ride on a bare seat without any problems, but without padded shorts, you won’t last more than a few minutes on a padded seat.
So, why would you choose bare saddle?
First and foremost, it’s much lighter than any other saddle. In fact, it’s two times lighter than the padded version.
Secondly, many cyclists have problems with padded saddles, as they compress their bottom too much, which leads to poor blood flow and numb legs. However, saddle manufacturers have lately started using much thicker and stiffer foam, which doesn’t compress the cyclists’ butt as much.
Bare saddles are a great choice, often selected even by professional cyclists. However, when you’re buying your first carbon saddle, I recommend getting a padded one. The transition from plastic or aluminum saddle will be easier and once you figure out if you like the carbon, you can always upgrade to bare saddle.
Are carbon saddles safe?
One of the cyclists’ main concerns before buying their first carbon seat is safety. That’s no surprise, as any failure exposes us to have a bunch of carbon fiber in our backside.
Your worries are unnecessary.
Carbon saddles are very safe and durable. Even low-priced carbon saddles that you can find on Amazon, which are usually more prone to failure, are getting unexpectedly high praises for their durability.
Carbon won’t break out of the blue. It’s a very firm material that can withhold years of usage without any damage.
But even carbon has its kryptonite – a strong blow to a small area. When the force is applied to a tiny area, the material compress. If the compression is too big, it can break.
Critics of carbon products often cite this potential danger as an argument for not using them. But the truth is that these forces and stresses only occur in accidents.
A carbon saddle is susceptible to problems when you crash, especially if the seat is the first point of contact between the bike and the ground. But the cyclist leaves the saddle before reaching the ground, so even if that carbon breaks, you’re not sitting on it at that moment.
You need to worry more about the wounds caused by asphalt.
To sum up, carbon saddles are safe when used normally. They can break in the crash, but so can all other plastic and aluminum seats. They are not immune to damage either.
How much weight can I reduce by switching to a carbon saddle?
One of the reasons, if not the main reason cyclists switch to carbon saddles is to reduce weight. The more serious you are about cycling, the more you want to have a lighter bike.
The saddle is already one of the lightest parts of a bike, but the carbon version takes the lightness to a new level. The total weight saving is not as significant as for the other bike parts, but it offers one of the biggest weight savings percentage-wise.
In an article where I ranked 20 bike parts based on their weight, I learned that the average saddle weighs 247 grams (0.54 lbs). But an average padded carbon saddle weighs only 132 grams (0.29 lbs) – that’s a weight reduction of 115 grams (0.25 lbs) or 46 percent.
The weight difference is even more significant when we look at a bare carbon saddle. You can find models that weigh only 38 grams (0.08 lbs) on the market, but on average, they weigh 60 grams (0.12 lbs).
Bare carbon saddles are 187 grams (0.41 lbs) lighter than normal saddles. Weight is therefore reduced by a staggering 75 percent.
The saddle is also one of the cheapest ways to reduce overall weight. Every gram of weight loss will cost you $4.09 in the case of a padded saddle. In the case of a bare saddle, the price per gram of weight loss is even lower – just $2.17 per gram.
|Cost per gram of weight loss|
Are cheap carbon saddles any good?
The market is full of carbon saddles, so it can be hard to know which are good and which to avoid.
The high price of carbon seats (well-known brands charge from $150 up to $550) has led to many cheaper versions from unknown brands appearing on the market in recent years. It’s always necessary to be careful when buying them, but on average, they offer a pretty good product for a reasonable price.
You can find quality carbon seats on Amazon for just a few tens of dollars. One of the most popular saddles, which I would also recommend myself, is Toseek carbon saddle. It can easily match the comfort level of higher-tier saddles.
If you buy a cheaper saddle, there are a few downsides. They are heavier than more expensive models but still lighter than “normal” saddles. If a few extra grams don’t bother you, then it’s sensible to think about buying a saddle on Amazon.
Carbon saddles are usually a choice of cyclists that want to drop off a few extra grams from their bike.
The industry made giant steps forward in recent years, making carbon saddles safer, lighter and more durable. They can still be damaged in a crash, but that’s also true for normal saddles.
Comfort is also not an issue. Carbon allows more flexing of material, which can give cyclists a strange feeling at first, but once you get used to it, there’s no way back. If you also use a carbon seatpost, the ride becomes even smoother, as the carbon dampens most vibration.
One thing to keep in mind is that saddle choice is a very intimate matter. What suits one person will not suit another. Our bodies are built differently, hence the need for different seats. In the end, it doesn’t matter if the saddle costs $50 or $250 – a comfortable saddle is priceless.
And let me finish with answering the question in the title – YES, carbon saddle is absolutely worth it!