Berthoud Saddles and Spare Parts

Berthoud saddles are among the most comfortable in the world. What’s even better, they are fully and easily rebuildable. Every part for the saddles is available from Compass Cycles, and you can replace all parts using standard tools. Berthoud saddles are designed to be easy to work on, even though it is rarely necessary:  The 10-year-old prototype saddle I am using on my Urban Bike shows no sign of wearing out.

The most important spare parts are probably the leather tops (above). After a few decades of hard riding, you may need a new one. Or if you want to change the color of your saddle, it’s easy enough to do. Simply unbolt the top and install a new one.

All the other parts are available as well. If you want a lighter saddle, you can replace your stainless steel rails for titanium ones. A friend once lost one of the bolts on his Berthoud saddle – easy to fix. The front and rear frames have never broken before, but just in case your saddle is involved in an accident, we have the parts in stock. It’s all part of Compass’ commitment to customer service. And if you prefer to have your bike shop service your Berthoud saddle, we wholesale all these parts, too.

In addition to the spare parts, we now have Berthoud’s women’s models, the Marie-Blanque (stainless rails) and Agnel (titanium) in stock. The names are inspired by the high mountain passes where these saddles were developed: The stainless steel models take their names from the Pyrenees, while the titanium-railed saddles are named after passes in the Alps. The women’s models have shorter noses than the men’s saddles. On all Berthoud saddles, the extra “give” of the flexible underframes makes them more comfortable than leather saddles with metal frames.

Berthoud also makes leather handlebar tape, in colors matching those of the saddles (except the “cork” finish). It’s one of the best handlebar tapes you’ll find anywhere.

We enjoy working with Berthoud, because everybody there has many years of experience. Above you see company owner Philippe Marguet (left) and Vincent Crétin (right) examine the hides that will be turned into saddles. Before starting production a decade ago, Gilles Berthoud tracked down employees from the long-defunct French saddle maker Idéale to learn about the craft of making leather saddles.

The same applies to the bags and panniers. For the last 20 years, they all have been made by one woman: Véronique Durand. And she in turn was trained for three years by a seamstress from Sologne, the bag maker that pioneered these bags in the 1950s. All this experience shows in products that are among the best in the world.

Last summer, we cycled across beautiful backroads to Pont-de-Vaux in France, where Berthoud’s workshop is located. We spent a day learning how saddles, bags and other parts are made. We met the dedicated employees, and even had Véronique sign the panniers she made for me 17 years ago (below). We ate a great lunch at a traditional French brasserie and enjoyed a day filled with fun and laughter.

We reminisced about the story behind the bags on my bike: I had to wait six months for these panniers while Véronique was on maternity leave. Gilles Berthoud apologized at the time, but I was glad that she could spend time with her daughter. I think of that every time I use the panniers – and now they even have Véronique’s signature on them. I plan to use them at least for another 17 years!

It’s one of the many fascinating parts of the Gilles Berthoud story. For a detailed feature on the company, with many photos, check out the Summer 2017 Bicycle Quarterly.

To find out more about Gilles Berthoud products, click on the links below:

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Compass Cycles, that turns our research into high-performance components for real-world riders.
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13 Responses to Berthoud Saddles and Spare Parts

  1. Nua Bikes says:

    I am totally agree, the Gilles Berthoud are the best saddles in the world! I am in love with the Galibier model, so light with its titanium rails, comfortable and very, very beautiful. I hope to visit these people soon 🙂

  2. Michael Kennedy says:

    Jan, have you ever asked Berthoud if they’d be willing to make a 30cm+ version of their handlebar bag? I can’t speak for the French market, but I know there are many riders here on taller frames who would appreciate having Veronique’s refined bagwork as an option.

  3. Mark Petry says:

    I have a Berthoud saddle on my Singer, and I love it! Far better than a Brooks and state of the art, pragmatic design. I had an earlier one, it was one of the first ones made, and it had a problem in that the rails would twist, tilting the saddle top. My current Berthoud has a stabilizer clamp. Is there any way to get that part to backfit my “gen 1” Berthoud saddle.

  4. peter says:

    Do you have a guide on how to choose a Berthoud saddle? Is it based on riding style / body type?

    • It’s mostly about riding style, with body type a secondary consideration. With a more upright position on the bike, you sit more on your sitbones, and a slightly wider saddle will be comfortable. For this position, we recommend the Aspin or Aravis. Their medium width is designed for an intermediate riding position that most cyclists prefer for long hours in the saddle. If you prefer a more stretched-out position, you’ll probably find the Galibier supremely comfortable, with a narrower shape perfected for spirited riding. I’ve ridden both models, and I found them both supremely comfortable. The Agnel and Marie-Blanque have a shorter nose designed for women cyclists.

      The exact measurements are on the product pages (“Tech Specs”) on http://www.compasscycle.com.

  5. Rick Thompson says:

    Does Compass carry the open versions? I do not see them on the website.

    • We will have the open versions soon. We wanted to test them thoroughly before carrying them… I am glad to report that they are supremely comfortable, unlike many saddle with cutouts where the sharp edges tend to chafe. The Open saddles are on their way from France and should arrive within a few weeks.

  6. James Cloud says:

    I don’t have a Berthoud saddle, but I do have several of his fine bags (GB2286 handlebar bag, GB799 panniers, GB786 saddlebag). These bags, as you’ve often stated, are simply the best in the world! I appreciate that M. Gilles Berthoud has maintained all of his production in-house, and isn’t sourcing them from China (unlike some other traditional manufacturers like Brooks).

    The quality definitely shows in every one of his products, and I’m simply amazed that Mme Durand makes all of his bags!

  7. Waldo says:

    Jan, will Compass sell the Berthoud saddles with a cutout? Thank you.

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