Empowering The Bicycle Traveler

Gilles Berthoud Saddles

I now have over 3000 miles on my Gilles Berthoud Aspin touring saddle, so I guess I feel OK about sharing my impressions. (the pun will become apparent later) The Gilles Berthoud Company is located in Pont de Vaux, France. The products they produce are well thought out and elegant and, as far as I can tell, any compromise in materials or methods used in construction is never considered. The leather saddles are unique in several ways. The cantle plate and nose piece are made of a special, composite material. The rails, either steel or titanium, depending on the model, slide into holes molded into the composite pieces. The leather tops are bolted on with stainless steel bolts and specially designed brass washers which have the Gilles Berthoud name engraved on them except the nose rivet which has the individual saddle’s number on it. The idea being that individual pieces of the saddle can be easily replaced. The tension on the leather top can be adjusted with a 5 mm allen wrench so no special tool is required as on Brooks saddles. The leather is supposed to be waterproof and Gilles Berthoud does sell a proprietary leather treatment.

Being able to take the saddle apart may be a good idea, but I have noticed a couple of things one needs to pay attention to. If you pick up a 60 pound touring bike by grabbing the rear of the saddle, the rails may pop out of the cantle plate. It is possible to loosen the tensioning bolt enough to pop them back in place and the saddle is good as new, but US 77 outside of La Grange TX is not the best place to go through this exercise. The bolts holding the leather top on can come loose and need to be checked and tightened periodically. We also discovered that the dye used in the black saddles leaves an unsatisfactory stain on lighter colored pants. The natural saddles don’t appear to have that feature.

The bottom line is that this is the most supremely comfortable saddle I have ever used. The leather appears to be thicker than that on some other brands but it has been pre-softened, and rather than simply sagging or splaying out with use has conformed to my anatomy leaving the impressions of my sit bones. Yet it gives enough support that there is no pressure on the soft tissue parts of the perineum or the arteries and blood vessels. In short, no pain and no genital numbness! As with any saddle, especially leather ones, adjustment of the fore/aft tilt is critical to comfort.
The section of rail that can be clamped to the seatpost is short, like on Brooks saddles so the fore and aft positioning of the saddle is limited, but a set back seat post can help if a farther aft position is desired.

Experiment with the best tilt or angle for your Berthoud saddle.

My sit bones leave a deeper impression on the right side

These saddles are not inexpensive, over two times the price of a Brooks B17, but to my mind (not to mention other parts) they are well worth it. After 4 or 5 or 6 hours in the saddle when touring, it’s nice to not have a literal pain in the butt to worry about. The durability of my saddle so far has been terrific allowing for the mentioned caveats. Those are two things that figure into my calculations of value.

17 comments… add one
  • stefan June 25, 2012, 3:22 pm

    thank you for this good review.
    Can you tell me which color the reviewed/ pictured saddle is? To me it looks like brown, but as far as I know they only come in black, cork and natural, which is more beige/yellowish. Thanks.

    • Aaron July 27, 2012, 7:00 pm

      I’m sure it’s the natural. After 3000 miles they darken up from sweat, rain, and the leather treatment. Like an old baseball mit.
      Note: Now (2016) there is a brown Aspin available

  • Holly Partridge January 22, 2013, 10:09 am

    Thanks for this review, very helpful!

    • Bike Hermit January 25, 2013, 6:10 pm

      Glad it helped. The choice of a leather saddle is very personal but I love my Gille Berthoud Aspin.

  • Simon May 28, 2015, 10:11 pm

    Hi Bike Hermit,

    What saddle bag is that?


    • Bike Hermit™ June 17, 2015, 3:02 pm

      Simon, that is a Zimbale bag which we can no longer get. Rivet Cycle Works makes one which we carry and it is similar in size but uses buckles instead of magnetic buttons like the one pictured, which were prone to come open at awkward times.

  • arend blazer October 11, 2015, 8:00 am

    Bike Hermit, very good review!
    can you tell me anything about the noise of the saddle, at this moment i am getting crazy from the noise my b17 makes, din’t buy a Rohloff belt driven bike to be anoid by the noise of my saddle.
    i am even thinking of buying a Sqlab, but when you look at those, for my taste to much plastick!
    sorry for my bad written englisch but i’m trying.

    • Bike Hermit™ October 11, 2015, 8:04 am

      My saddle has been silent for as long as I’ve had it on the bike. Highly recommended.

  • Shady May 4, 2016, 12:51 pm

    Bike hermit, how does the height of this saddle compare to a brooks b17 or team professional? Can you get an approximate height from rails to top? Seriously considering this option, but would prefer the black, so bummed to hear about the color issues.

    • Bike Hermit® May 6, 2016, 12:58 pm

      All three saddles have roughly the same height. I measure 55mm or so from the center of the rails to the underside of the leather top.

  • Shady August 27, 2016, 2:59 pm

    I bought an Aravis in black and having serious issues with dye bleeding even after ~500 miles on the saddle. I love the saddle but it is on my commuter and I’m really getting tired of having to change or put an old t-shirt/cover on the saddle. My Brooks Professional in black never had such a serious dye issue. Anyone else have a similar experience and know how long I can expect this to last or anything I can do to expedite the process or get it to quit?

    • Sky King August 27, 2016, 3:25 pm

      I had that same challenge with a Gilles Berthoud. I ended up swapping out the saddle as it wasn’t a good fit for me. Good question, anybody else have some insight? Haven’t heard of any issues with the brown.

  • Souleiman September 5, 2016, 12:20 am

    Bike Hermit,
    After looking at several leather saddle brands, I’ve decided to go with an Aspin Berthoud saddle. I’m now torn between the regular Aspin and the one with the cutout. What’s your take on the Aspin With the cutout? You mentioned that you felt no numbness with the regular Aspin, how about pressure on the tail bone, did you experience any?


    • Bike Hermit® September 6, 2016, 10:59 am

      I have no experience with the cutout version of the Aspin saddle. There is enough give in the regular version, once it is broken in, and enough support for the sit bones that I feel no need to try the cutout version, though I should just so I would be able to answer your question. I have now linked our product page in the post so you can purchase the regular version. If you decide you want to try the cutout version, let me know and I can order it.

    • Klaus September 9, 2016, 12:37 pm

      I would prefer the Gilles Berthoud Asping over the one with a cutout, because I don’t really like the looks of the cutout. I have ridden an Aspin for about 5000 km now and it felt comfortable on tours of up to 140 km per day. No perineal isues so far. The surface where you really sit on is really flat, unlike other leather saddles, which kind of bulge in the middle.

      Ok, choice of saddle is something personal, but I see no reason for an Aspin with a cutout.

  • Mat January 6, 2017, 3:03 pm

    I am curious, what are your sit bone widths? Thanks.


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