Which Berthoud Saddle is Best for Me?

Which Berthoud Saddle is Best for Me?

Rene Herse Cycles is the exclusive North American distributor for Berthoud Cycles. We are especially excited about their saddles, which combine amazing comfort with modern design and superior durability.

Berthoud saddles start with the best vegetable-tanned cow hides, which are dyed in-house. All Berthoud saddle tops are cut in the grain direction of the leather. This ensures that the saddle is symmetric and breaks in evenly. It also orients the strongest direction of the leather so that it supports the rider’s weight optimally.

Most other saddle makers try to get as may saddles out of each cowhide as possible, but that can turn into a false economy when the saddles become lopsided or sag.

Berthoud forms their saddle tops in CNC-machined molds to create a very consistent shape. In the past, it’s often been a matter of luck whether you get a good saddle or a bad one. With Berthoud, they all are excellent.

The undercarriages are made from composite, which is more durable than steel and better at absorbing shocks. It’s one of the key reasons why these saddles are so comfortable.

The saddles are assembled with custom bolts rather than rivets, so they are easy to rebuild. Each saddle’s serial number is engraved on the nose bolt. On the rear, the bolts are outside the sitting area, sparing your riding clothes from abrasion.

Berthoud saddles come in four shapes for different riding styles:

The Galibier is Berthoud’s lightest saddle, weighing just 346 g thanks to its minimalist shape and titanium rails. It’s a great saddle for riders with a low, performance-oriented position, who prefer a relatively narrow saddle. Even so, the Galibier is still a little wider than modern ‘racing’ saddles, and it offers great long-distance comfort. The same shape is available with more economical steel rails as the Soulor model.

The Aspin and Aravis have slightly wider rears, making them perfect for a more relaxed riding position. The Aspin has steel rails, while the titanium rails of the Aravis save 50 grams. The ti rails also add comfort, because titanium is more flexible than steel.

The Aubisque is a wide saddle that is ideal for an upright position. It’s only available with stainless steel rails – the wide rear undercarriage flexes more than the narrow saddles, so this saddle doesn’t need the extra flex of the titanium rails.

The Marie-Blanque (steel) and Agnel (ti) are women’s saddles with shorter noses than the other models. The names of Berthoud saddles are taken from mountain passes: Saddles with steel rails are named after cols in the Pyrenees, while titanium-railed saddles carry the names of passes in the Alps.

Medium-width Berthoud saddles –  both men’s and women’s – are also available in ‘Open’ versions with a cutout to relieve pressure. I usually don’t like saddles with cutouts, because the edges tend to chafe. I was surprised when I tried the Berthoud Open saddle: The shape of this cutout just disappeared, and the saddle was comfortable from the first ride. If you are concerned about pressure, this is probably the most comfortable saddle you’ll ever find.

Why isn’t the Galibier available with a cutout? Its minimalist shape simply doesn’t have enough leather to remove material from the center without losing its strength. And the wide Aubisque is for an upright riding position, which has you sit mostly on your sitbones, with little pressure on your soft tissues.

All Berthoud saddles – except, once again, the Galibier and the Aubisque – can be equipped with a KlickFix attachment to mount saddlebags, whether Berthoud’s or those from other manufacturers. Two screws attach the KlickFix attaches to the saddle frame, and the bag just klicks into it. This provides a stable connection – the bag won’t sway or come off, even on the roughest terrain. Alternatively, for riders who prefer to carry a traditional British saddlebag, two saddlebag loops are integrated into the frame of the medium-width saddles.

Berthoud saddles are totally serviceable. This means that you can change a worn-out top, or even change your saddle top from a ‘Standard’ to an ‘Open’ (or vice versa). We keep all spare parts in stock – you can build an entire saddle (minus the serial number on the nose rivet) from spare parts.

With all these choices, plus three different colors (tan, brown and black), most riders will find their perfect saddle in the Berthoud program. And once you’ve ridden one, it’ll be hard to go back to other saddles.

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Comments (16)

  • Steve Palincsar

    You can watch Berthoud saddles being made on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0OeHK6sVEw&t=153s

    April 10, 2018 at 5:14 am
  • Marcelo Iannini

    I have tried the lightest Galibier saddle and found that it´s as narrow as saddles like Selle Italia Flite,
    While the Berthoud is top notch, fantastic quality, the Galibier was too narrow for me. Too bad, as a friend bought the Aravis, which was just perfect for me, similar in shape to Turbo and Regals.
    The “camouflage” finish is very beautiful, and gets better when used.

    April 10, 2018 at 6:15 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I am glad you found a saddle that works. Having ridden the Flite (uncomfortable at all but the hardest efforts) and the Galibier (comfortable even at moderate speeds), I am surprised by your experience… but saddles are hard to measure, as the overall width is less important than where and how the top curves.

      April 10, 2018 at 9:14 am
  • Michael Jenkins

    Which model would you recommend to replace a worn B17?

    April 10, 2018 at 8:11 am
  • Heather

    Marie-blanque est supérieur de mes Brooks ‘finesses’. It has broken in really nicely over time, not overnight. Even people whom are horrified by how hard brooks are(subjective?) says it is comfortable. I have 3 brooks saddles on other bikes, but the marie-blanque is on the bike I ride daily year round. I have had it maybe 2 years, other cyclists who know their stuff drool over it.

    April 10, 2018 at 8:27 am
  • Paul

    I’ve been riding a Berthoud Aspin for about 4 months. My previous saddle, which was a Brooks B17 Imperial (cutout), became uncomfortable due to not keeping its original shape over about two years of use. I had to keep adjusting the position and tension of both the leather and lacing. It seemed the saddle would change after every ride!
    I have found the shape of the Aspin to be just about perfect and don’t have soft tissue pressure issues despite the lack of a cutout. My riding position is relaxed. However, it does seem to be taking its sweet time to break in. I don’t use a pad so my sit bones feel tender after only 1-2 hours of riding. Do most of you who use these saddle use a pad of some kind? I abandoned pads about 4 years ago after switching to B17s. I simply didn’t need it anymore with those saddles.

    April 10, 2018 at 8:44 am
  • Rick Thompson

    My Aspin with cutout is actually my first leather saddle, replacing a noseless type which I’ve used due to certain issues. It’s great, very comfortable for my mixed riding (sometimes with upright urban bars and sometimes lower drop bars). I have the brown color, my only issue is that the color comes off on light colored street pants and leaves a stain. Anything I can do to prevent this?

    April 10, 2018 at 10:11 am
  • Preston R Grant

    Rick Thompson, Stain on the pants has always been a feature of leather saddles with color. I think the light tan color is the best way to go to minimize this, but I know of no way to fully prevent it except a saddle cover, which is not a good solution for long rides, but may be acceptable for short rides in street clothes. Anyone else have suggestions? BTW Rick, due to your link on a previous post, I now have on order a Fitz custom rando frame. Was very impressed with your bike.

    April 11, 2018 at 2:48 pm
    • Rick Thompson

      Thanks, Preston. I will just wear more brown pants, no worries.
      I hope you like your Fitz – now I feel responsible! As long as you’ve explained to John what you want I’m sure you will be happy, he does great work.

      April 12, 2018 at 6:49 pm
  • Bill Laine

    Jan – Congratulations on becoming the U.S. distributor for Gilles Berthoud. With your knowledge of, and love for, traditional European cycling equipment you must be the perfect man for the job. I wish you much success!

    April 12, 2018 at 10:22 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Thank you, Bill. You were one of the first to import Gilles Berthoud way back – we are building on the work of pioneers like you!

      April 13, 2018 at 12:03 am
      • thebvo

        Is this the same Bill with the Bike shop in New Orleans? That shop changed my (cycling) life and sold me my first issue, and many more back issues, of BQ. That shop was amazing!

        April 13, 2018 at 3:02 pm
  • dgray

    I have had an Aspin for a few years and it is indeed a beautiful and comfortable saddle for me on long rides. But in all the years I’ve owned and been reading about this brand of saddles, I’ve never heard anyone pronounce the name “Gilles Berthoud” in the US. I speak some French, so I know how to pronounce it in the original language, but I was wondering if it is anglicized into a different way to say it over here or if we just keep the same pronunciation as French. Just west of Denver is a famous mountain road that tops off at “Berthoud Pass,” and it is decidedly NOT pronounced by the locals the same as in French, so I am wondering what to call my saddle to all my friends so I don’t sound either pretentious or uncool!

    April 12, 2018 at 3:36 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I don’t know of an Anglicized spelling that is universally accepted. The French pronunciation is something along the lines of “Jill Beart-hood” – no ‘th’ sound.

      April 13, 2018 at 12:01 am

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