Ergon SMC Sport Gel Saddle: First Ride Review
Ergon’s newly announced SMC MTB Comfort Series saddles are specifically designed to solve long-ride comfort problems for mountain bikers and bikepackers alike. Here are Miles’ first impressions after a handful of rides on the Men’s SMC Sport Gel Saddle. Find all the details and photos here…
I’ve always been reluctant to share my thoughts on bike saddles, since it’s an incredibly personal choice and no two bottoms are exactly alike. Just because something works for me doesn’t mean it will work for anyone else. However, when Jeff Kerkove from Ergon—an experienced bikepacker himself—mentioned a new comfort-focused mountain bike saddle and its bikepacking potential, I figured it was worth giving it a shot. To set the stage, I find medium to large width saddles fit me best, which are usually around 160mm wide. For the last year, the Brooks Cambium C17 has been my go-to saddle, accompanying me on nearly all my riding outside of some bike reviews. I just wish it wasn’t so heavy. I don’t own any padded shorts and instead rely on merino wool boxer briefs and simple fitted riding shorts, a combination I’m really enjoying.
The new Ergon SMC saddle series is based on their popular, one-off SMC4 saddle and takes design elements from the SM MTB series, which is a slightly more performance / sporty mountain bike saddle. Although nearly identical in shape to the SM MTB saddles, the SMC saddles use softer foam, gel inlays, and increase comfort for long days in the saddle. They are available in both men’s- and women’s-specific designs, in standard or Sport Gel versions.
I’ve always been curious about Ergon saddles, especially since I’ve pretty much relied on Ergon grips while bikepacking for the last five years. Where some touring saddles provide a cradle-like support, the Ergon SMC saddle creates a padded shelf for your sit bones to help reduce pressure in the sensitive soft tissue areas. The SMC Sport Gel saddle uses extra-thick orthopedic foam and anatomic gel pads to help reduce pressure points. It’s designed around a nylon composite shell, chromoly steel rails, and a microfiber exterior. The small/medium size 149mm (5.9”) wide and the medium/large is 164mm (6.5”).
So far, I’ve taken the SMC Sport Gel on several 40-mile rides and was quite comfortable. Although I haven’t taken it out on a big multi-day ride, I’m expecting good things based on my initial experiences. My position on the saddle is vastly different than that of the Cambium C17, yet equally comfortable. The total length of the medium/large version is 276mm (10.9”), which feels appropriate for any kind of trail riding I’ll get into. I recently tried a saddle with a much shorter nose, and missed the control that a longer saddle can offer while navigating tight corners and narrow features. The padding is plush, yet still firm enough for serious riding and won’t be too soft for riders who are used to sportier saddles. I distinctly noticed the exaggerated pressure relief channel, which helps avoid unnecessary pressure points. I’m not sure what the hole provides beyond some extra air circulation down under, but hopefully it’s not as comical as I imagine. I’ve also noticed that there’s more space between the rails and the underside of the saddle compared to other saddles I’ve used, which might make setting up some seat bags like Rockgeist’s Gondola Dropper Bag or the new Revelate Spinelock Seat Bag a little smoother.
Ergon recommends starting the saddle in a level position first, and making adjustments from there. Recently, I’ve played with a slightly more nose down position (see photos below), and it’s not quite as comfortable as it was when it was nearly level. I’ll be returning the saddle’s inclination to 0°, and experimenting with a slightly nose up position next.
I also got my hands on the Ergon SM Pro saddle which, as mentioned above, shares the exact same size and shape as the new SMC series. Although I haven’t had a chance to test it out, the padding is noticeably less soft, the contact area looks a little smaller, and the pressure relief channel isn’t as pronounced. I did notice the edges of the saddle, by the contact area, don’t flare out as much—which may be nice for those who are worried about chaffing on the ‘wings’ of the saddle. The SM Pro uses TiNox rails, weighs 245g, and retails for $109.95 USD.
- Reasonably lightweight.
- Large contact areas and nice padding.
- Slightly more pronounced wings may rub some riders’ legs.
- Sport Gel version may be too soft for some riders. If so, try the SM MTB Series.
- Model Tested: Ergon SMC Sport Gel Saddle, Men’s M/L
- Weight: 335g (11.8oz)
- Max Rider Weight: 220lbs
- Place of Manufacture: Taiwan
- Price: $89.95 USD
- Manufacturer’s Details: ErgonBike.com
Testing out different saddles is the only way to find one that works. It’s often as simple as trying a wider (or narrower) version of what you’re currently using to find more comfort, or maybe a complete bike fit is in order to help hone in on the problem. In any case, I believe the new Ergon SMC Saddle Series offers a lot for mountain bikers and bikepackers who spend long days in the saddle. I’ve found the SMC Sport Gel saddle quite comfortable on long rides, without sacrificing the performance I’ve come to expect while navigating technical trails. The true test will be some longer bikepacking trips this summer, but I have high expectations.
Stay tuned for more coverage on Ergon’s updated 2020 product lineup, which includes more options and sizes of several grips as well.