Condensed answer: A road bike saddle can be installed and used effectively on an MTB. To minimize the chances of failure, it’s recommended to stay away from the lightest and often the weakest saddles as they can fail faster than expected when used on uneven terrain.
The Differences Between Road and MTB Saddles
The table below compares the weight of road and MTB saddles:
|Specialized Power Pro Mirror
|Ergon SM Pro
|Selle Italia SLR Boost TM Superflow
|Procraft Sport Hollow
|Specialized Phenom Expert
|Specialized Power Comp
|Terry Fly Arteria
|fabric Scoop Elite Radius Gel
|Selle Italia SLR Boost Kit Carbonio
|fabric Scoop Flat Race
|Fizik Terra Argo X3
|PRO Volture E-MTB Saddle
|Ritchey Classic Saddle
|Chromag Mood DT
|Fizik Arione R3 K:ium
|Selle Italia SP-01
|PRO Turnix Performance
|Fizik Luna X5
Conclusion: On average, MTB saddles are ever so slightly heavier than road models. The difference isn’t substantial unless one is trying to build the lightest possible bicycle.
Sometimes road and MTB saddles have a specific design complimenting each discipline.
For example, some road saddles have a shape meant to reduce irritation when assuming the most aerodynamic position (riding in the drops).
Meanwhile, some MTB saddles have Kevlar (strong synthetic fibers) added to the sides to prevent tearing of the saddle in case of an accident. There are also MTB saddles with very smooth tops meant to facilitate body shifting when riding on aggressive terrain.
Some saddle models also take into consideration the clothing of the rider. An MTB saddle, for example, could have rounded edges to avoid grabbing the rider’s shorts.
Despite the aforementioned qualities, there isn’t a design difference between MTB and road saddles that prohibits interchanging the two.
There are many bike components (e.g., handlebars) that are fully road or MTB specific for performance reasons, but saddles aren’t one of them.
Hence why many saddles are labeled as both MTB and road. Also, some people purposefully buy the same saddle for all their bicycles because it feels comfortable.
The Advantages of Installing a Road Bike Saddle On an MTB
- Comfort (potentially)
Saddles, unlike other components, are body-specific rather than bike-specific. Thus, if a rider finds a road saddle comfortable, there’s nothing wrong with using the same saddle on other types of bicycles including MTB.
Unsurprisingly, road saddles are the lightest. If the goal is to build a very light MTB, a road saddle fits the criteria.
Looks are a subjective factor, but they matter in the world of cycling. If a road saddle visually compliments an MTB, that’s another incentive to pair the two.
The Downsides Of Installing a Road Bike Saddle On an MTB
Truth be told, some ultra-light road saddles with carbon all over them could be too weak for off-road riding.
In some cases, the saddle rails can simply snap and leave the rider saddle-less. The chances of that outcome are lower when using a quality MTB saddle with Chromoly rails.
If the rider chooses to rely on a saddle that’s specifically designed for road use, he won’t be able to benefit from the specific design characteristics of an MTB saddle (e.g., sides reinforced with Kevlar).
FAQ: Are road saddles more comfortable than MTB saddles?
The comfort of a saddle is decided by its design and how well it fits. Ideally, the saddle is wide enough to accommodate the sit bones of the rider. If the saddle is too narrow, then the pressure will be on the soft tissues and will quickly result in discomfort and numbness (read more).
The Marketing Side of The Story
Business is business. A company makes the most amount of money when selling the highest amount of products.
One of the ways to increase the number of sales is to sell bike-specific parts. That way the owners of multiple bikes have to purchase different components for their machines instead of relying on the already available inventory.
This is also one of the reasons why many road and MTB drivetrain parts are not interchangeable. Cross-compatibility equals lower sales.
Or in other words, part of the reason for the segregation of bike saddles is motivated by business goals.
Summary: What You Need To Know
- A road bike saddle can be installed and used on an MTB (as long as it’s compatible with the seat post).
- The main advantages of road saddles are their lower weight and simplicity.
- Road and MTB saddles could have design differences. MTB saddles are more rounded to prevent a conflict with the rider’s shorts, for example. Ultimately, however, the differences aren’t massive.
- Ultra-light road saddles are inherently weaker than MTB saddles and their rails could snap when used off-road. If ultimate strength is the goal, it will be wiser to use stronger and consequently heavier models.
- Many riders do not care about the differentiation between road and MTB saddles and use whatever model feels fine. Some run the same saddle on all their bikes.
- The type of saddle doesn’t matter if the fit is poor. The width of the saddle is dependent on the rider’s sit bones.