Catahoula Ergonomics Saddle
Size Tested: 140 mm x 39 mm, firm
Blister’s Measured Weight: 220 g
MSRP: $260 on Kickstarter
Reviewer: 5’9” 155 lbs
Test Duration: one week
Test Location: Whitefish, Montana
It’s quite possible that you’ve never heard of Catahoula Ergonomics. They are a tiny operation in Missoula, Montana, that has been making small quantities of really nice, semi-custom saddles since 2012. Every part of every saddle is made in their shop, and you can choose between two nose and body widths to dial in the fit.
Catahoula is now conducting a Kickstarter campaign to fund a full production run, and I’ve been spending time on one of the prototypes. Here are some initial impressions.
The biggest difference between the Catahoula saddle and any number of other options on the market is the construction. Catahoula builds their saddles by hand, and it sure seems like they’re built to last. While the prototype saddle I’ve been spending time on doesn’t incorporate all of the features that the production version will have, it’s close enough to provide a very good idea of what the final product will look like.
The saddle I’m riding sits on 8 mm, hollow, heat-treated chromoly rails, which are ovalized to 7 mm x 9 mm. The production model will run on hollow heat-treated stainless steel rails (also ovalized to 7 mm x 9 mm). While Catahoula acknowledges that there’s a bit of a weight penalty over the carbon rails found on other high-end saddles, their take is that the metal rails are more durable and will last longer.
It’s also worth noting that the heat-treated stainless rails are an entirely different beast from the traditional chromoly or stainless rails you’ll see on less expensive saddles. For starters, the Catahoula rails are hollow, while cheaper steel rails are usually solid. But more importantly, the heat treating on the rails makes them quite strong and less likely to snap or bend (an issue I’ve had with steel rails in the past).
The shell of the saddle is made of layered fiberglass and pre-preg carbon (the same stuff carbon frames are made of). By adjusting the orientation of the glass and carbon fibers, the stiffness of the shell can be tuned in a way that’s much harder to achieve with the injection-molded shells found on many other saddles.
The saddle I’ve been riding is padded with foam, but Catahoula also offers a version with viscoelastic gel in addition to the foam. To be clear though, even with the added gel, the saddles are still relatively thin and supportive – this isn’t a mushy couch.
The top of my saddle is leather, and there will also be a nylon microfiber version available. The leather is glued on the underside, and is also attached around the perimeter of the center cutout.
Catahoula isn’t shy about the fact that their saddles aren’t the lightest out there. My test saddle weighed in at 220 g, which is around 60-70 g heavier than the super light options on the market. So, while 220 g isn’t a heavy saddle by any means, if weight savings is your primary goal, this might be a deal breaker.
Catahoula has two different width noses available, and they’ll offer two body widths in the future. My test saddle is the narrower body width (140 mm), mated to the narrower nose (39 mm).
With my calipers, I measure the saddle to be a true 140 mm wide at the widest point, and 275 mm long. The nose is listed as 39 mm wide, which is the width about 25 mm back from the tip. Measuring the exact nose width is tricky since the nose tapers, but I’d say that it is roughly in line with other narrow-ish saddles on the market.
It’s tough to quantify the curve of a saddle, but generally speaking, some saddles are quite flat, while others have quite a bit of shape to them. An example of a heavily-curved saddle would be something like a Fizik Aliante, while a WTB Silverado is a good example of a fairly flat saddle. Without wading into a lengthy discussion of saddle fit, generally speaking, a flatter saddle allows the rider to move around a bit more and is comfortable in a wider range of positions, but might be less comfortable for a rider who prefers to sit in a single position. The Catahoula saddle skews toward the flat side of the spectrum, but it has a bit more curve to it than the Silverado.
The most prominent feature of the saddle is the center cutout. While it is bridged with leather, it’s cut all the way through the foam and shell. The cutout measures about 40 mm wide, and it runs for the majority of the saddle’s length.
Initial Riding Impressions + Saddle Comparisons
I don’t have a ton of days in the saddle yet, but I do have a couple of longer rides that gave me a good sense of it. But at the risk of stating the obvious, saddles fall squarely into the realm of personal preference. It doesn’t really matter whether I like the saddle or not, so the point of this review is to help give you the sense of whether you’ll like the saddle.
With that in mind, here’s where I’m coming from: just by measuring my sit bones, I should be on a 135-140 mm wide saddle, and I tend to prefer flatter saddles with minimal padding.
For reference points, I’ve spent the most time on WTB saddles recently, and I’m pretty content on the Silverado. The WTB Volt also works for me, and I prefer the 135 mm width. I’ve ridden the 142 mm Volt a fair amount, and while it’s not uncomfortable, it feels a touch too wide for me. I’ve spent a lot of time on the WTB High Tail as well, and while I can deal with it for long rides, it’s not the most comfortable saddle I’ve been on (although I do prefer it to various wider, cushier saddles I’ve tried). I’ve also spent some time on a Selle Italia Flite, and while it worked alright for me, it felt like the range of positions where I could sit comfortably was limited. Across all of those saddles, my primary complaint is that things get uncomfortable on longer, seated climbs; there’s a bit too much pressure on my dainty bits.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve spent serious time on a saddle with an “ergonomic cutout,” but I’ve never been a fan — various Specialized saddles with cutouts that I’ve tried in the past I found to be pinchy and uncomfortable. I felt like the cutout was very noticeable, and unless I sat on it just right, it was unpleasant.
So, back to the Catahoula: the first thing I noticed is that there’s a pretty wide range of positions where it’s comfortable. I can scoot back on it a bit and get a nice comfy platform for hammering out miles, or I can scoot up toward the nose on steeper climbs. In both situations, the saddle was supportive and comfortable.
I’ve also yet to have issues with my nether-regions getting tingly or numb, and while this has never been a huge problem for me, it is something that happens occasionally with most saddles I’ve ridden. So in that regard, the Catahoula’s cutout seems to work well. Perhaps just as importantly, I don’t really notice the cutout — it doesn’t pinch or feel weird. I can tell it’s there, but only in a good way.
For most of the saddles I’ve riden, I usually run them slightly nose down. The Catahoula’s natural stance with the rails level results in a slightly nose down position. After a little experimenting, I dropped the nose a tiny bit further, which results in the saddle being just shy of flat once the suspension is sagged.
The foam in the saddle feels a touch thicker than the WTB Silverado, and quite a bit thicker than the WTB High Tail. It’s a bit firmer than the Volt. At least for me, that level of padding strikes a good balance: it’s comfortable while still offering a good, stable platform for seated pedaling.
All in all, I can say that my initial time on the Catahoula has been extremely positive — it’s the most comfortable seat I’ve been on in recent memory, and it’s definitely near the top percent of the most comfortable saddles I’ve ever ridden. I did a 6 ½ hour ride on it yesterday, and as I sit here typing this, my ass still feels great.
Obviously, saddles are a very fit-dependent piece of equipment. Still, I think the Catahoula should work for a pretty wide variety of people.
But of course there’s the price — this is pretty spendy for a saddle that’s not crazy light, but the saddle is handmade in the U.S.A., and there’s no question that the construction (and hopefully the durability) is far superior to the vast majority of the saddles on the market. Provided you don’t destroy it in a crash, I’d expect the Catahoula to last many, many years.
All of that aside, this is a damn comfortable saddle. I’ll be spending more time on it and will check back in with some longer-term impressions. But so far, I have nothing but good things to say about it.