Reviewed: Our Favourite Affordable Leather Bicycle Saddles
Nothing beats a good leather bicycle saddle. The eye is naturally drawn to leather components and it elevates the look of your entire ride.
A leather seat looks amazing on any bike, but they look particularly sharp on road bicycles, vintage bikes and single speeds.
There’s a lot of misinformation about leather saddles, however. They have a reputation for being uncomfortable and impractical. Neither is true, and I try to dispel that rumour whenever I hear it. Leather bike saddles are your best choice for longevity and comfort.
One thing is certain, though: they aren’t cheap. If you’re hoping to find an inexpensive leather bike saddle on a tight budget, you’ll have to dig a little.
I have experience with many different brands and there are several that have a fantastic price-to-quality ratio. That said, a leather bike seat will almost always be more expensive than a synthetic one. Let’s take a look at some of my favourites.
Pros and Cons of Leather:
Before we get to our picks, let’s talk about the hype. Are they really that great? Short answer is yes. A good leather bicycle saddle is superior in almost every way.
Leather is durable, so the bike saddle will last long time. It can take a beating, unlike many synthetics.
Leather will weather over time, and (if you take care of it) looks better the longer you own it. The seat tells a story of the journeys you’ve taken.
Then there’s comfort. Yeah, it’s going to be really uncomfortable at first, like new shoes. Once worn in, however, you’ll have the most comfortable seat of your life because it fits you like a glove.
*Pro tip: It’s a misconception that thick layers of foam or gel make a seat comfortable. With a bike seat, less is more.
Good quality leather bike saddles are pricey compared to synthetics. That represents both materials and craftsmanship.
Even an expensive, high-end leather bike seat is susceptible to harsh weather. Water will damage the finish if not properly protected, and sun exposure causes fading and cracking.
Another minor issue: leather bike saddles are frequently stolen, since they’re valuable and easily removed.
So, Does Anyone Make Good, Cheap Leather Bike Saddles?
Yes! Although “cheap” is a relative term. Here are a few brands that we believe offer excellent value in this category. Let’s start with the industry leader. It’s the most expensive, but I believe it still offers the best overall value.
1) Brooks B-17: A Popular, Classic Leather Bike Seat
The gorgeous Brooks B-17 is a total classic, in shape, look and heritage. The famous B17 model was designed in 1910, and has remained almost identical since. It’s a narrower fit, so it’s well-suited to road or endurance cycling. Brooks is one of the top bike brands for seats.
I understand this may seem expensive, but remember: the seat won’t really depreciate (if you take care of it.) It’s by far the most affordable choice in the Brooks lineup. They makes some of the best leather bicycle saddles for the money. They review well, last forever, and add value to your bicycle. And importantly, they stand behind their product.
Price: The B17 starts at around $85 USD, depending on your region.
What Are Some Brooks Saddle Alternatives?
You can find some pretty excellent alternatives to Brooks if you search around.
Here’s my big caution: don’t cheap out. A leather bike seat must be of high quality and rigid enough to keep its form over the long term, otherwise you’re just wasting your money.
Many cheap Brooks lookalikes can look quite similar. However, they often suffer from a) poor rigidity, b) cheap finish, and c) sub-par structural integrity (primarily in the rails and springs.)
Unfortunately, several awesome saddle manufacturers have ceased production recently, such as Cardiff.
That said, here are some worthwhile alternate brands to consider.
2) Gyes GS-17: A Beautiful, Budget-Friendly Brooks Clone
As you can probably guess from the name, the more affordable Gyes GS-17 is firmly aimed at the Brooks market. With similar good looks and a lower price tag, it’s a contender.
Gyes saddles are roughly 25% cheaper than their Brooks counterparts
Most models include chrome plated steel rails and quality rivets mean they will last for years without breaking or splaying, and the hardened leather cowhide will form to your body over time. They are also fairly lightweight as leather saddles go.
Price: About $73 USD. If you’re after a beautiful, vintage style leather bicycle saddle, definitely look for Gyes as an affordable alternative.
3) Persons #77 Deluxe: Not Well Known, Inexpensive
You may not have heard of Persons, but they’re a respected older bike saddle company. Their #77 Deluxe, Apollo, and Majestic saddles are all viable alternatives to Brooks.
Having said that, I’m not sure how active they are as a company. Their site is very dated and they don’t sell through any of the larger retailers. User reviews indicate that these saddles come with brass rails and hex key adjustment, and they wear reasonably well. (Though not quite as well as a Brooks, which makes sense.) They’re currently being made in India.
4) For Cheap, Vintage-Style Leather Saddles, Consider Buying Used
There are plenty of affordable leather seats available secondhand. Ebay is a great resource. Of course, I wouldn’t invest in a well-worn saddle, only because it’s been form-fitted to someone else’s behind, not yours.
Additionally, a truly antique saddle will look cool, but it may wear out awfully fast, particularly if the leather hasn’t been maintained with leather conditioner.
Nonetheless, you’ll often find barely used saddles for less than half their original price. (Sellers are typically people who bail early on the break-in process.)
What Have You Found?
What do you currently ride? What do you have your eye on currently? Have you discovered any cool, cheap, all-leather bike saddles that I should add to this list?