This post compares the advantages and disadvantages of sprung saddles and suspension seat posts.
The Advantages of Sprung Saddles
- Consistent Seat Height
Unlike suspension seat posts, sprung saddles do not affect the seat post’s position. Subsequently, the seat height is consistent. The small travel of the springs contributes to that effect too.
As a result, the saddle and the seat post feel more solid and allow the rider to make powerful pedal strokes without experiencing uncomfortable “sinking”.
- Simple & Maintenance Free
The springs on a saddle are a fairly simple mechanism and do not require special servicing other than cleaning. Conversely, suspension seat posts are a lot more complex. This quality makes them vulnerable and necessitates more frequent and complex maintenance procedures.
- Vintage Look
A sprung leather saddle has a vintage retro appearance. Hence why you’re more likely to see one on classic steel frames.
Suspension seat posts have the opposite effect because they’re modern and their design reflects that.
Therefore, people who are after the retro bike look would find a sprung saddle more aesthetically pleasing.
The Disadvantages of Sprung Saddles
- Minimal suspension
The springs on a saddle have a shorter travel and cannot match the effect offered by suspension seat posts.
If you’re looking for a greater suspension effect, a suspension seat post wins.
- Partial Suspension
Sprung saddles have a spring mechanism only at the back. The nose of the saddle isn’t suspended. Thus, the effect of the suspension is partial and localized. In different, a suspension seat post affects the entire seat.
- Lack of Control
A quality suspension seat post will provide settings to adjust its behavior. Sprung saddles do not offer such a luxury.
- Non-race Appearance
Sprung saddles may have a nice vintage look but that quality isn’t always appreciated. Some riders prefer to keep their bike looking modern rather than like something extracted from a black & white photo.
The Advantages of Suspension Seat Posts
- Longer Travel and Better Absorption
Suspension seat posts have greater travel (amplitude of movement) making them capable of absorbing larger irregularities.
A sprung saddle with a stiff spring and body may feel almost rigid to the rider whereas the effect of a suspension seat post is perceivable right away.
A suspension seat post offers some adjustability to the rider whereas a sprung saddle does not.
- Full-suspension of the Seat
Suspension seat posts suspend the entire saddle rather than just the rear. Thus, the degree of comfort is often greater.
- Modern Look
Suspension seat posts look futuristic and compliment the appearance of modern bicycles.
The Disadvantages of Suspension Seatposts
- Floating Effective Seat Height
The major downside of suspension seat posts is that the seat is essentially floating. Therefore, the distance between the rider’s hips and the ground is consistently changing too.
On one hand, this is beneficial because the suspension is working and reducing the stress on the back, but on the other, the pedaling efficiency suffers. This is one of the reasons why you will never see a suspension seat post on a competitive road bike.
- Extra Sensitivity
Some suspended seat posts are extra sensitive and thus may flex needlessly when riding on a flat road. This is often the case for spring models.
To get a suspension seat post with just the right sensitivity, you may have to spend extra money.
Suspension seat posts consist of many moving parts and therefore need fairly frequent maintenance.
- Interference With Saddlebags
The movement and shape of a suspension seat post make it inconvenient or even impossible to install most saddlebags. For example, my Carradice SQR Slim is not compatible with a suspension seat post.
The list below contains downsides shared by both components:
- Extra Weight
Sprung saddles are heavier than regular saddles. Meanwhile, suspension seat posts are also notably heavier than standard seat posts.
Thus, both components add extra weight in comparison to their rigid rivals.
Decent sprung saddles and suspension seat posts are not cheap. Hence why you don’t see them on basic bicycles.
Who Are The Prime Candidates For a Sprung Saddle?
The profile of a cyclist who might want a sprung saddle has the following characteristics:
- A preference for vintage bicycles with upright geometry
- Aiming at softening the ride without affecting the effective geometry of the bicycle
- A need/desire to use saddlebags
- No need for a noticeable suspension effect
Who Are The Prime Candidates For a Suspension Seat Post?
The profile of a cyclist who might want a suspension seat post has the following characteristics:
- A need for a more pronounced suspension effect
- A preference for modern-looking bicycles
- No love for saddlebags
- Not aiming at having the lightest possible bicycle at the expense of comfort
- A need to add rear suspension to a bike without switching to an MTB
- Bigger Tires
One of the best ways to soften the rear side of a bicycle is to install larger balloon tires. Wider tires can operate at very low air pressure and thus provide a great suspension effect.
If your frame has clearance for a wider tire, you can try this solution.
- Switch to a Full-suspension Bike
At the end of the day, sprung saddles and suspension seat posts cannot match the effectiveness of a full-blown suspension bike.