Which Gilles Berthoud Saddle is Best for Me?

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

All Berthoud saddle tops are cut in the grain direction of the leather, which means that they won’t sag or become lopsided. Unfortunately, most other saddle makers try instead to get as may saddles as possible out of each cowhide. That often turns into a false economy when the saddles wear out prematurely.

Berthoud forms their saddle tops in CNC-machined molds to create a very consistent quality. With consistent leather grain and shape, it’s not the luck of the draw whether you get a good one or a bad one – 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. Berthoud saddles come in three 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. That said, the Galibier is still a bit wider than modern ‘racing’ saddles for long-distance comfort.

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

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.

All Berthoud saddles – except the superlight Galibier – 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 disappeared completely, 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.

All Berthoud saddles – except, once again, the Galibier – can be equipped with a KlickFix attachment to easily 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.

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). If you want to save weight, you can replace steel rails with titanium. We keep all spare parts in stock.

With all these choices, plus four different colors (tan, brown, black and the cool ‘cork’), most riders will find their perfect saddle in the Berthoud program. Having ridden them all, it’s hard to pick a favorite, because they all work so well. Berthoud saddles really are a cut above the rest.

Click here for more information about Berthoud saddles.


About Jan Heine

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Rene Herse Cycles, that turns our research into the high-performance components we need for our adventures.
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16 Responses to Which Gilles Berthoud Saddle is Best for Me?

  1. Steve Palincsar says:

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

  2. Marcelo Iannini says:

    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.

    • 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.

  3. Michael Jenkins says:

    Which model would you recommend to replace a worn B17?

  4. Heather says:

    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.

  5. Paul says:

    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.

  6. Rick Thompson says:

    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?

  7. Preston R Grant says:

    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.

    • Rick Thompson says:

      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.

  8. Bill Laine says:

    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!

  9. dgray says:

    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!

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