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The SDG Bel Air V3 Max Lux-Alloy Saddle is not especially max, lux or bel, but neither is it anything negative – it breezes right through the middle ground instead to be really, solidly good. It's comfortable, tough and stylish, while the weight and price are appropriately fine-to-middling. It's no racy lightweight or bulging sofa cushion, but outside the extremes it's a great choice for all kinds of riding on all kinds of surfaces.
For more options for every budget, check out our guide to the best road bike saddles.
Saddles are hard to review because arguably their most important aspect – their comfort – is subjective. We can't really say if they're going to be comfortable for you, which is awkward, because what else do you really want to know?
Well, you might want to know the weight, which in this case is 234g. That's actually 11g lighter than claimed (gasp), and in line with similar saddles from rival companies at similar prices. It's not going to impress those running the fastest, lightest road bikes they can, but if you're speccing a more casual bike, a winter trainer, a gravel bike or a mountain bike, it's not going to trouble you at all.
You might want to know what it's made of, though you can probably guess given the price and weight that it's not carbon or titanium. It's not heavy steel either – the rails are 'lux-alloy' aluminium, while the base is 'nylon glass', which we assume means glass fibre-reinforced plastic.
There is a steel-railed version for £49.95, if you prefer, though its claimed weight is around 100g higher at 330g.
The slightly flexy alloy rails and plastic base, in combination with EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam padding that's 5mm thicker than the standard V3's, result in an instantly comfortable ride. You might not find it comfortable, but I found it excellent, with a great combination of pedalling-efficient firmness and shock-absorbing give.
Both the central pressure-relieving channel and the nose itself are on the wide side of things, but far from excessive and very supportive in all the right places. Or the wrong places, if your right places are elsewhere.
Like Mickey Rourke, the Bel Air has been around for roughly 1,000 years and has clearly had a bit of work done. The nipped and tucked V3 is shorter than before, with 'reduced hips' for sleeker lines and (on this Max version) a more pronounced rise at the rear. SDG says all this means it suits modern geometries better, and e-bikes in particular.
That may be the case, but it's done no harm when it comes to old-fashioned geometries like those found on gravel bikes – which aren't a million miles away from those of decades-old cross-country bikes – and I found this a particularly ideal fit on my steel Temple Adventure Disc. It's secure and not squishy under power, doesn't get in the way when you stand up, and stays grippy enough once it's filthy.
I also found it more comfortable than the old Bel Airs I ran on my mountain bikes about, oooh, 2,000 years ago, even though I was younger and bendier and stupider then. Well, younger and bendier, anyway. Despite the more angled tail, the V3 Max actually has less of a 'hammock' feel to it than I remember those having – perhaps because of the thicker padding, it runs quite flat before kicking up at the rear, instead of dipping in the middle and rising again. It's a supportive shape that works very well for me.
The V3 is well up to dealing with mud, flying stones and occasional crashes, despite having no extra bumpers around the tail, and it hasn't suffered at all from being ground upside down into car parks while I fit and remove wheels. Apparently the cover uses neither staples nor glue, and is effectively vacuum sealed on there like a lamb chop to a polystyrene tray.
At £89.95 this is reasonably priced for its weight and quality, especially given how comfortable it may or may not be in this unnavigable world beyond objective reality.
There are cheaper very good saddles, though: the Smanie GT 137 is only £59.99, though it's heavier still at 267g. Also at £59.99 – and frankly this one's a bit of an outlier – is the Prime Doyenne Shorty Saddle with titanium rails. If a shorty suits you, it's a real contender (check out our review) and only 215g.
This is a great 'do anything, go anywhere' sort of saddle that seems especially at home on rough roads and gravel tracks. The shaping tweaks have only improved the Bel Air over the previous versions, to my mind, and this relatively thickly padded 'Max' version is a welcome addition to the range. And it's comfy. No, really, it is.
Stylish yet no-nonsense, tough saddle with well-judged extra padding
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road.cc test report
Make and model: SDG Bel Air V3 Max Lux-Alloy Saddle
Size tested: Length: 260mm. Width: 140mm.
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
SDG says: "The new V3 Max is Pure Comfort. Utilizing the same performance driven base as the original Bel-Air V3, the Max was specifically enhanced for long, pain free days in the saddle. With enhanced padding, a deep Peri-Canal relief channel and a more aggressive rear rise to aid in climbs, the Max is the ideal upgrade for your e-MTB."
Personally I think the e-MTB reference is pure marketing opportunism - this is a great saddle for all kinds of bikes and riding.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
It goes without saying this is a very personal thing, but this is 2024 so we have to say it...
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well – it's comfortable and feels rugged.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Most things, really.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's on a par with others, and appropriate for its weight, construction and quality.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Sure it's a bit big for serious road speed and a bit skinny for full-on town or towpath wafting, but for everything in between – especially when the roads or tracks are a bit rough – this is great. It's comfortable but easy to pedal against, feels rugged and is a decent weight.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mtb,