Why downhill mountain bikes have saddles – but riders don't sit on them

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Ergon’s SM Downhill saddle, isn’t made for sitting. But it is made, for riding. (Photo: Ergon)
Ergon’s SM Downhill saddle, isn’t made for sitting. But it is made, for riding. (Photo: Ergon)
  • Downhill mountain bikers are never seated when riding, so why are saddles important to them?
  • The saddle serves a very different function, for a downhill mountain biker, compared to its purpose in any other style of bicycle riding.
  • Ergon has shaped a new saddle with some clever features, specifically for downhill riding.

Saddle choice has evolved from subjective bias, to an exact science. Gone are the days when riders sat on a bike in the shop for a minute or two – and decided a saddle felt 'right'.

Advanced shaping techniques and materials have greatly enhanced saddle comfort.

Any road, gravel or mountain biker knows that a five-hour weekend ride can test seating endurance. It is often during that last hour of a big ride, when pressure sores and discomfort happen.

But what about the saddle on downhill mountain bikes? Those bikes made never to be pedalled uphill, but only used to launch big jumps and roll down steep terrain?

Downhill mountain bikers never sit on their saddles when descending. But that doesn’t mean that saddle design is irrelevant for downhillers.

mountain bike saddle
Ergon’s SM Downhill saddle is much smaller in size, than what you’d ride on a normal mountain bike. (Photo: Ergon)

Small saddles for 'big' bikes

German cycling brand, Ergon, is renowned for its ergonomic grips and saddles. The latest innovation from Ergon’s design and development team, is the SM Downhill saddle.

Featuring much smaller dimensions than a conventional mountain bike saddle, the Ergon SM is only available in a single size. It measures 236mm long and 120mm across.

It might not be designed to support a seated rider, when pedalling, but the Ergon SM is generously padded. Why? To help downhill mountain bikers steer their bikes through high-speed berms and switchbacks.

mountain bike race
Downhill mountain bikers use the saddle, with their inner-thighs, to navigate technical trails. (Photo: Ergon/Red Bull Content Pool)

Steering with the saddle

The best downhill mountain bikers actively use their thighs against the saddle sides, to help balance and steer. Additional padding on the Ergon SM saddle prevents bruising on a demanding technical track, when riders use a lot of 'leg guidance'.

Downhill bikes often have nearly double the suspension travel, of a conventional mountain bike. And with most riders now rolling the larger 29er wheel size, than means a lot of saddle scrubbing risk.

To prevent contact between the saddle and rear tyre, at peak suspension compression when landing jumps, Ergon’s designers have shaped the SM saddle with a rear wheel recess.

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