Selle Anatomica Saddle Review + X2 vs H2 Comparison
After a long and bumpy ride with earlier versions of the Selle Anatomica saddle, we were happy to see the release a stronger and lighter Series 2 saddle frame. For this long-term review, we put a few thousand miles on the X2 leather skin and then swapped it out for the new heavier duty H2.
Photos of fully outfitted rigs featuring well-worn, riveted leather saddles were one of the first things that caught my attention when I discovered bike touring. Most long-distance cycle tourers swear by the classic Brooks B17, specifically. One would expect this trend to be more about comfort than aesthetics, but I tried one back in 2011 and can say with certitude that the B17 is not for me. After working it with Proofide, allowing a more than adequate break in period, and simply trying to convince myself that it worked, it eventually became acceptable, but never really comfortable.
That’s right around the time when I discovered Selle Anatomica. Selle Anatomica has been manufacturing their uniquely slotted leather saddles since 2007. Its flagship Titanico had that classic Brooks look, but with several benefits over other popular touring models, most notably the anatomical slot cut out. The long, patented “Flex-Fly Slot” allows each side of the saddle to move independently and relieve pressure on the “soft tissue.” This design seemed odd to me at first, but it made perfect sense as soon as I tried it. Not only is it comfortable, it requires no break in period, unlike the B17. My main concern at the time was that it might not be durable enough for the long haul. Fast forward over 6,000 kilometers of rugged riding and I was sold. But it wasn’t all roses…
I’ve since tried other saddles by Ergon, WTB, Chromag, Terry, Brooks (the Cambium series), among others, only to return to Selle Anatomica for long trips. Unfortunately, earlier models of their saddles had issues. Namely, the original leather skin stretched more than expected. To make matters worse, the long chromoly steel rails found on the Titanico and X1 were prone to bending under a heavy load or when put under sudden stress, such as unintended jarring from a big bump. A couple of years ago, as I was being carted out of a small mountain village on a stretcher, a rather large Georgian man rode my bike down a hill to meet the emergency medical jeep. As he descended a particularly bumpy track in a fully seated position, the X1’s steel rails bent like a banana and pretty much decommissioned the saddle. Gin had the same issue after an extended rough ride in South Africa, and I’ve since heard similar stories from other riders. In all fairness, my first Selle Anatomica saw no such demise, and with proper care this fate can be avoided. Even so, it’s far from ideal to have this risk with a long-distance touring saddle.
Fortunately, the family-owned and operated San Diego company continues to improve its saddles. Since the original Titanico, Selle Anatomica has released several updated iterations of its leather skins to improve durability. This includes three variations for individual rider weights. The T series fits riders up to 120 pounds (54.4 kg), the X series is made for cyclists up to 190 pounds (86.2 kg), and the new H series is a beefier skin for those up to 250 pounds (113.4 kg). In addition, Selle Anatomica just announced the R series, an EPDM Vulcanized Rubber Top for those who prefer an animal-free saddle. And, according to Selle Anatomica, the bending rails issue was remedied in December 2017 when they started heat-treating the chromoly rails.
Selle Anatomica Series 2 Frame
The biggest improvement—the subject of this article as well as our Gear of the Year award—was announced mid-2017. The all-new Series 2 frame is a completely overhauled modular design based around a cast alloy C-form at the rear of the saddle. This form allowed Selle Anatomica to use shorter upgraded stainless steel rails (instead of chromoly on the series 1 frame) that plug into two cylindrical holes within the form. Not only does this construction strengthen the overall structure of the saddle, it also weighs 95 grams less than the Series 1 frame. In addition, the new design is fully user serviceable, meaning it’s possible for anyone with a 2.5mm Allen wrench to swap out their old skin for a new one.
Selle Anatomica’s “WaterShed” leather used on the T, X, and H skins has two layers of laminated full grain leather with a weather sealed top so it doesn’t require a rain cover to preserve the leather, unlike the Brooks. That said, Selle Anatomica doesn’t recommend leaving it out in the rain. You can use “Saddle Sauce,” the company’s proprietary saddle treatment, to help protect the leather from unavoidable rain showers, dew, and other such weather events to be expected on any given bike outing. I put a couple coats of Saddle Sauce on the underside, edges, and top to help preserve my X1, and I’ve left it out in torrential rain plenty of times with no issues to speak of.
Leather Saddle Care and Stretching
As mentioned, Selle Anatomica’s slotted saddles are incredibly comfortable. I bought my original Titanico in 2012 and it was quite agreeable from the get-go. On our first big tour through Mexico and Central America, I packed one pair of padded chamois underwear and two pairs of light wool boxer briefs. The Titanico was comfy enough that I ditched the chamois during the first week of the trip. I am happy to report that the updated X2 skin is equally as comfortable, and held up even better than the original.
My one complaint about the original Titanico saddle was the amount and rate at which the leather stretched. On the original Titanico, I had used about ⅔ of the adjustment bolt at about 6,000 kilometers—the saddle’s skin is tightened via a single 6mm hex key tension bolt tucked under the nose of the saddle. This seems to be less of an issue with the X2, and the company now claims that the leather will stop stretching after 500 miles. This is likely due to upgrades Selle Anatomica made to its “NewSkin.” After about 3,000 miles (4,500 km), I’ve tightened the tension bolt approximately ⅓ of the way through its 55mm threading and the rate at which I have tightened it has greatly decreased. With that said, a lot of folks seem to like letting the Selle Anatomica saddle settle into a ‘hammock-like’ profile, while I tend to prefer it rather taught. The stretching could in fact level out, but I am guessing that at the current rate, the X2 would need a new skin at around 10,000-12,000 miles. For the record, I weigh about 170 pounds and often carry a hip pack with my camera (2-3 pounds). It’s also worth noting that much of the mileage put on the X2 was trail riding, so there was a significant amount of extra bumpy riding, as well as some of out of the saddle descending included in the mileage estimation.
Changing the Skin
For the sake of this review, I decided to swap the X skin to the burlier H version. Not only would this allow me to report on the serviceability of the new Series 2 frame, but I’d also be able to gauge whether the heavier H skin stretched less, as well as find out how comfortable it is when compared to the lighter and more supple X skin. Installation was fairly straightforward, although it required a little wrestling to get the Chicago screws to line up at the back of the saddle. Here’s a video by Selle Anatomica that describes the process.
I’m pleased to report that the H skin didn’t seem to feel noticeably less comfortable than the X skin. It is a little firmer, but the saddle still has the same flex quality and movement which is what gives it the comfy ride quality. As far as stretching, after 400 miles with it, I’ve only tensioned it once, and that was a minor adjustment, so I have a feeling that the H skin will stretch far less than the X skin. I’ll make sure to update this post once I put a couple thousand miles on it.
- Flex-Fly slot system is super comfortable out of the box.
- New Series 2 frame design is strong and seems more durable, so far.
- Attractive, classic look and available in multiple colors.
- Self-serviceable for changing skin (plus a rubber version is on the way).
- Made in the USA by a small family-run company.
- Squeaky at times, especially in dusty environments.
- Changing skin required a little elbow grease to get the screws to line up.
- Heavier than mountain bike saddles at a similar price point.
The original Selle Anatomica saddle is a long-time favorite among bike tourists and bikepackers for its unmatched comfort. However, they had an issue with durability, specifically the leather stretching too fast and the rails bending from heavier riders. The company has continually made upgrades, and the new Series 2 frame is a vast improvement. Even with a modular design, cast aluminum support, upgraded stainless steel rails, and the added ability for riders to change the skin, the new frame is still 95 grams lighter than its predecessor. All-in-all, I would highly recommend the X2 or H2 saddle to those who are not quite comfortable on your current saddle or are planning on spending long days on the bike on a big trip or just big weekend rides. Selle Anatomica saddles aren’t the cheapest, or the lightest, but for me, they are unmatched in comfort and well worth the investment. As an added bonus, they’re made right here in the USA.