Ergon SM3 Saddle: On Test- Out Of The Box- by Guitar Ted
Ergon, best known for their paddle shaped grips and back packs, has now entered the saddle market with their first offering called, (in typical Ergon alpha-numeric fashion), the SM3. Ergon has longed teased the cycling industry with the possibility of a saddle, having shown some wild, sc-fi looking hinged prototypes several years ago at Interbike. The SM3 isn’t a shocking looking offering, but it is no less stunning from a technical standpoint. Underneath that seemingly benign exterior, as Ergon CEO Franc Arnold puts it, is a saddle with “…no B.S. Everything has a purpose.”
Tech Intro: Twenty Nine Inches received the SM3 L Pro version of this saddle. “L” stands for “large” and covers sit bone widths from 12cm – 15cm. There also is a “S”, or small size fitting sit bone widths from 10cm – 13cm. Ergon believes that depending on how a rider is sitting on a saddle, the sit bone width can vary slightly, since the pelvis is “V” formed toward the front, and the saddles are designed to accommodate this.
The SM3 Pro sits second up in the Ergon saddle range and features “Ti-Nox” rails with a carbon fiber shell. The covering is a combination of Futura®-Microfibre and a Diamantino rear section. The weight of this saddle ranges from 250gm (Small) to 260gm for our sample (Large). MSRP on the SM3 L Pro is $159.95 and is available now.
The SM3 range also includes one model a step down from our test sample, the “SM3″, which goes to a glass fiber shell and doesn’t have the Diamatino rear cover. (MSRP $129.95USD) The next up in the range from our tester, the SM3 Pro Carbon gets carbon fiber rails and a Lorica®-Microfibre, Alcantara rear section cover. (MSRP @ $229.95 USD) There are two Mono-link style saddles in the SM3 range which are the SM3 Monolink and the SM3 Pro Carbon Monolink which both feature a carbon-composite monolink style rail, (which only works with monolink compatible seat posts), and these two models vary in construction similar to the standard rail saddles. MSRP on the SM3 Monolink is $169.95USD and the SM3 Pro Carbon Monolink goes for a MSRP of $199.95USD.
There are choices with some of these models for colors including white, black, and Team Topeak-Ergon livery.
I had the unique opportunity to have Ergon CEO, Franc Arnold walk me through the reasons for each aspect of the Ergon SM3 saddle. The saddle was designed from the ground up for mountain biking. The various attributes of the saddle design are therefore all focused on use off road. First, the saddle shape, while at first glance appearing flatt-ish, is anything but that. Every square centimeter of the surface of this saddle is contoured and for a reason. I’ll start with the back of the saddle and move forward…
-Saddle Rear Design: The rear of the SM3 is shaped specifically for weight shifts to the rear on descents. Ergon noted that many riders will often retain slight contact with the saddle on descents and designed the edges of the saddle and its tapered tail to accommodate this with a nod to keeping the saddle from causing unwanted pain from sharp bumps in the trail surface by adding extra padding here. Ease of “getting off the back” was also considered here.
-Seated area: Ergon noted that beyond proper support for the sit bones, mountain bike riders tend to make many shifts in seated position and accommodated this with a wider area for sit bone support. Also, they noted that in most applications, riders were at about a 45° angle to the ground while seated, and this was taken into account into the design for the saddle’s base and cover in the seated area.
-Padding: In conjunction with the seated area demands, Ergon also noted that mountain biking, even with full suspension designs, still causes more shock to the rider through the rear end and back than road cycling, and therefore special attention was paid to saddle pad density and shell shock absorption to help minimize the energy impact to a seated mountain bike rider.
-Relief Contour: Ergon did extensive lab research into how they could minimize pressure in the groin area. They decided that the cut out, a popular solution to this problem with many saddle designs, was not suitable for mountain biking due to the increase in pressure around a cut out’s perimeter. This, Ergon discovered, causes an actual increase in the possibilities for numbness and pain to a rider, which Ergon wanted to avoid. Instead they chose a pressure relief area with a concave shape in the saddle using soft curve radius shapes to avoid peak pressure spots around the relief area. The relief area is more pronounced the further forward a rider shifts their weight forward on a saddle which Ergon found was when the relief area was the most effective. As a rider slides back or sits more upright, the relief area becomes more shallow and spreads pressure over a wider area for more rider comfort and support.
-Saddle Nose: Ergon realized many riders will shift their weight far forward on steep climbs to the nose of the saddle. To accommodate this, Ergon designed a wide, padded nose, but with slightly curved shapes downward and away from the center line of the saddle to prevent chafing and discomfort when a rider is positioned so far forward.
Underneath the technology continues. Here Ergon realized that by allowing the rail attachment points to be isolated, the saddle shell could be allowed to flex more freely and provide more comfort to the ride. Also note the 3D shaping to the carbon composite shell which allows the area under the sit bones to flex more easily and provide more comfortable support.
The rail attachment point at the nose is also unique and utilizes a “micro-damper” to absorb vibrations and allow more flex at this point. The micro-damper and rails are covered in a white cover designed to help with shouldering a bike by the saddle on portages.
Out Of The Box Impressions: All Ergon saddles are manufactured by Selle Italia, and the construction is tidy and looks and feels top notch. The saddle fit onto my OS Bikes Blackbuck’s carbon post with no issues. Fitting the saddle and positioning it showed me that having a very level saddle was, (for me), paramount to getting comfy to start out with. Many saddles I use tend to be “nose up” slightly to make me feel secure and comfortable, but not so with the Ergon saddle which demanded that I tilt the nose back down to level and this then made me feel much better when I was seated on it.
Initial impressions of the feel are a mix of a saddle that supports mostly by the sit bones and a fully supportive saddle, like a WTB Pure V, or a Brooks. You get the sit bone support feel immediately, and then realize that the SM3 is doing more down there.
Well, as saddles are as individual to a rider as shoes and helmets, all this must be taken with a grain of salt, I realize, but initial impressions are that this is a unique feeling saddle and I have good expectations for how it will perform. I will be back with a full report detailing my experiences after I put in some long hours and rides on this saddle. Stay tuned……
For more on Ergon and the SM3 saddle line see their site here: Ergon USA
Note: Ergon sent the SM3 Pro saddle over to twenty Nine Inches at no charge. We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.