Bontrager Verse Saddle NSMB AndrewM.JPG
REVIEW | RELEASE

Bontrager Verse, A Saddle For All Riders

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Aug 20, 2020
Reading time

The End Of Sex-Specific Saddles

Women love the Chromag Mood. Men love the WTB Koda. Trek joins the growing list of companies who recognize that selling products as 'man-specific' or 'woman-specific' is just a bunch of made-up bullshit. Because anatomically speaking, if we don't need sex-specific saddles, then what's left?

Now, before I get another whack of e-mails telling me I'm the "Trump" of mountain bike media, there are companies absolutely killing it when it comes to encouraging women to take up mountain biking. This is awesome. Want an example? Bell Joyride. And not only do you not have to wear a 'women's specific helmet' to attend a Joyride event, but you also don't even have to wear a Bell! And yet, I'll tell you, I know more women that will only ride Bell helmets - whatever colour they prefer - and plenty of them reference Joyride, and that's how marketing can do good instead of evil. Check it:

"The BELL JOY program is designed to inspire and enable female cyclists with regular, structured, fun, and social rides that appeal to all levels of riders. The program allows female riders to enjoy challenge and camaraderie in a nonintimidating environment."

On the other hand, there are also a few companies still trying to profit off of, to quote a reformed Specialized, "stereotypes of body shape [that] are largely inaccurate." When in fact "body proportions vary as much within gender as between them." And hey, kudos to Trek for, almost*, not being one of them.

*We see you 2021 Marlin 6 Women's

Bontrager Verse Saddle NSMB AndrewM (5).JPG

Check out the length of those saddle rails! Many riders these days are hyper-focused on Seat Tube Angle (STA).

Bontrager Verse Saddle NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

You can see, through the cutout, how much range of effective saddle position adjustment Bontrager provides with the Verse.

The Bontrager Verse

The big news with Bontrager's newest saddle is that your 2021 Trek mountain or gravel bike is going to come with a perch that most riders won't immediately want to toss. I found the Verse to be an immensely comfortable saddle. My number one all-time favourite? I'm on the fencepost. But I've been running the Verse on both of my mountain bikes and I'm in zero hurry to swap it out.

The Verse comes in three trims and four sizes. I've been riding the mid-level Verse Elite saddle in both 145mm and 155mm widths. For narrower sit bones there is also a 135mm width and for a wider sit-bone-stance, there is also a 165mm option. The Elite version of the saddle features an austenite rail that is "lighter than titanium" and much, much, cooler in that it is also known as 'gamma-phase iron,' which sounds rad. The less expensive Comp level saddle has boring stainless steel rails, painted black, and the top end Pro model has carbon rails and a carbon shell for folks that wear really high-end chamois.

The big story with the Verse is the amount of flex that Bontrager has engineered into it thanks to the shape of the saddle wings and the massive cutout in the middle. It's not an SQLab Active saddle, but it's the closest thing I've tried in a traditional rail format and 90 USD for the Comp saddle is a heck of a smaller investment than almost 200 USD in terms of trying something out.

The Bathtub, Or The Shower?

Many ergonomic saddles have a form that can collect a small amount of water if my bike sits for a while. I jokingly refer to this as 'the birdbath' or 'the bathtub.' The Verse has neither. Instead, it has what I like to call 'the shower.' The gap in the middle of the Verse is so large that on a particularly wet day my tire sends a steady and fairly powerful stream of cold water seemingly straight into my groin region. To say it was shocking the first time does not capture my pained giggle. It was just that kind of Juneary and Julyuary around here.

It had been my intention to craft a little fender to keep spray from coming through the saddle cutout but then the sun came out and I figured I would put project saddle-fender off until September. Then 'the incident' happened. I contemplated not sharing this particular event because in my disgusted haste to clean my bike, and myself, I didn't take a picture. And, without a photo, did it really occur?*

*Yes, yes it did.

Bontrager Verse Saddle NSMB AndrewM (4).JPG

I've been swapping a 145mm and 155m Verse saddle back and fourth between my bikes.

Bontrager Verse Saddle NSMB AndrewM.JPG

In both cases the cutout is as impressively profound as the saddles' mix of flex and support.

I'm just riding along when suddenly I can smell the ripest of dog shit. The kind that's fresh enough to still be wet but has been baked in the sun just long enough to be extra-sticky. I pull over, dismount, and thank my lucky stars that I'm running a semi-slick tire out back in the form of Tervail's 2.6" Cumberland. I proceed to find just the right stick and set about clearing a 5" circumference of healthy shoulder knobs from truly putrid doggy doo. Sniff. Sniff. Oh crap, the tire has actually shot dogshit up into my saddle. Lovely. Wait. Ugh. The crotch of my shorts is also endowed with a reasonably large glob of Rover's ordure.

Needless to say, I'm on saddle fender 2.0 and the whole little project is starting to come along really nicely. I think it speaks volumes to how good the saddle is that even afterward I'm more inclined to fashion a fender than to remove the Verse.

Four Sizes & Three Prices

As I said, there is a good chance your new 2021 Trek mountain or gravel bike will come with a Verse saddle. My understanding is that dealers will be equipped to make sure that of the four widths - 135mm, 145mm, 155mm, and 165mm - you'll end up on the right one for you. In my case, it's the first time I wouldn't be binning the Bontrager platform to buy something else. Well, not only that, I would be between a Verse and Koda if I was buying a seat tomorrow and it's strange for me to see Bontrager excelling in this category.

I've been riding both the 145mm and 155mm width of the Elite version of the saddle, moving them back and forth between two bikes. I'm normally right in that 145mm range, for example loving a 145mm WTB Koda, but sometimes with more flexible saddles, I find a bit more width works better for me.

The 155mm saddle arrived first and I certainly would have guessed this to be the case until I tried the 145mm. Both are very comfortable for a medium length ride but for sustained sitting, particularly sitting-and-spinning on a multi-speed bike the 145mm works much better for me over long distances.

Bontrager Verse Saddle NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

The Verse fits me fantastically climbing up hills and also has a great shape when I'm interfacing with a dropped saddle.

Bontrager Verse Saddle NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

Couldn't resist adding a shot of the ProTaper 76mm riser bar I've been riding. More on that soon.

There has perhaps never been a bicycle saddle with more potential that is easier to try out. Whether it's the 90 USD Comp or 150 USD Elite these saddles will be showing up any day now on a 2021 bike at a Trek dealer near you. That in itself is a great feature as so many well thought out saddles require an expensive leap of faith. I'm not saying that the Verse platform is going to work for everyone as saddles are hugely personal but it is really nice that they will be very accessible to try. I'm enthralled enough with the Verse that my plan is to clean them up and pass them around to a collection of male and female riders to get some more varied real-world feedback.

If you already have a favourite saddle that really works for you then please just stick with it. If you've been seeking something else anyways, then I think the Bontrager Verse is one of the first stops on the sometimes never-ending journey of saddle searching.

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Comments

Bad-Sean
+1 Andrew Major
Sean Chee  - Aug. 20, 2020, 8:29 a.m.

These days I don't commute on the bike, but for a long time I did. Getting a wet perineum on my way to the pub is far less appealing to me than wiping a bit of water out of a 'bathtub.' 

Also by austenite, do they mean case hardened steel? Or perhaps some other form of heat treated steel? This has me a little bit confused as I've been under the impression that austenite is brittle.

I'm looking forward to that protaper coming back into stock soon. 6'5" me is starting to think about a new trail bike and has been eyeing that bar off for it.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Sean Chee
Andrew Major  - Aug. 20, 2020, 8:41 a.m.

Bontrager doesn’t go into any elaboration but I believe austenite is just another stainless steel alloy, which is why I was being a bit cheeky.

In this case it’s an alloy of lighter-for-the-same-strength-and-50%-more-money.

Actually prefer my saddle fender to the bathtub or the shower but otherwise agree.

Reply

Kelownakona
+3 Andrew Major Sean Chee Andy Eunson
Kelownakona  - Aug. 20, 2020, 12:03 p.m.

Austenite is a mix of carbon in a non-magnetic iron. It’s nothing special in fact is regularly used as in cutlery.

Austenetic stainless steel. 

(That’s why some stainless steel is magnetic and some isn’t)

Reply

Bad-Sean
+1 Andrew Major
Sean Chee  - Aug. 21, 2020, 8:43 p.m.

This all makes great sense. I'm only just starting to play with fabrication so haven't ventured into the realm of stainless steels, both due to cost and need. Most of the stuff I'm fabricating for is boring old agricultural machinery that lives in a home of grease or gets hard chromed/nitrided.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 21, 2020, 11:43 p.m.

COOL! Anywhere on the interweb we can check out your projects?

Reply

AndrewMajor
+3 Vik Banerjee Geof Harries Sean Chee
Andrew Major  - Aug. 20, 2020, 8:47 a.m.

I’m excited to get my ProTaper piece finished. I think it’s a product more riders need to be aware of.

When I saw companies like Chromag and Spank selling 50mm rise bars - and start to them showing up on average height riders bikes - it made me wonder what actually tall people are doing to get around Stack heights that haven’t been upscaled to match current long-Reach trends. The answer is often a lot of headset spacers which sucks when you’re already on the biggest size of bike available. Slamming my stem, lowering (and softening) my fork, and putting on the 3” riser has been an experience!

I also enjoy how twisted some folks get over it.

Reply

sanesh-iyer
+1 Andrew Major
Sanesh Iyer  - Aug. 20, 2020, 1:23 p.m.

Wait, is carbon steel lighter because it has carbon in it?

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 20, 2020, 2:20 p.m.

Wait, isn’t carbon steel when you wrap a chromoly frame in carbon fibre to get the best of both materials?!?!

Reply

sanesh-iyer
+1 Andrew Major
Sanesh Iyer  - Aug. 20, 2020, 5:51 p.m.

I'm pretty sure it's steel tubing that's cast with carbon fibre in it. 

Trust me, I'm an * * * * !

Reply

gdharries
+1 Andrew Major
Geof Harries  - Aug. 21, 2020, 12:46 p.m.

Really looking forward to this upcoming article of yours. I'm running maxed out headset spacers and a 35mm rise bar, but my front-end is still too low.

My saddle to bar drop is about 4.5". It's a big gap.

It's interesting that a progressive hardtail like the Chromag Arcturian in size XL has a stack height of 661 mm.

But, more mainstream manufacturers keep lowering their stack heights and head tubes far below this, so people end up seeking out these 50-60 mm riser bars.

Why? Why?!

Huh, maybe I'm one of the people you mention who get twisted up about this.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 21, 2020, 11:48 p.m.

Yeah, when median-sized folks are buying 40-50mm rise bars what are tall people doing?!

I don't know anyone this extreme but it's the example I keep going back to in my mind (from Pistons & Pivots):

Think of how much Reach is coming back with that stem slammed and a 76mm rise bar - it's like going up at least 1/2, if not a whole, frame size.

Reply

wishiwereriding
+1 Andrew Major
John Keiffer  - Aug. 20, 2020, 9:07 a.m.

Hey Andrew. Like you I really enjoy the WTB saddles like the Deva and Silverado. I bought a Koda, and didn't like it at first, but think I might have to try it again soon. My main complaint about the WTB saddles of late is the very short rails. The rails on this Versa look great!

I finally (after many many years and many many saddles) have figured out that my saddle setback should be very different on my road and mountain bikes. Steeper STA's have now made the WTB saddle fit much better, since I no longer feel the need to slam the saddles all the way back. However, on my road bike since I have a longer torso, I need more setback. I think this Versa is going to be bought for my road bike because of the rails. I'm also happier on narrower saddle on the road, and like wider saddles on the dirt.

Thanks for all your saddle reviews. I feel like they are often just for me. ;-)

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 20, 2020, 9:51 a.m.

Cheers John!

Koda certainly works best for me with a steeper STA. I tried it on my commuter and couldn’t get it in position with the Deva and 611 Active work great. I ride to work (and ride my daughter around town in our cargo bike) and it’s SQLab every day.

I’m assuming Trek bicycle designers dropped a few cases of beer off for the Bontrager Versa design team because the rails are long enough that whether you prefer a relatively steep or slack effective saddle position - relative the BB - you can get that here without requiring the bike engineers to bet heavily on frame geometry that may work once place but not everywhere.

Reply

wishiwereriding
+1 JVP
John Keiffer  - Aug. 20, 2020, 10:15 a.m.

You like the SQLab that much huh?

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AndrewMajor
+1 Vik Banerjee
Andrew Major  - Aug. 20, 2020, 2:28 p.m.

It’s not as big a deal in the summer when I have some room to move around, but when the tent is on my cargo bike in the winter I end up sitting fairly static for decently long distances, on a very rigid frame, and the 611 is an absolute back & ass saver. I also shimmed in a 27.2 setback Thomson Masterpiece which improved the ride.

I’m climbing North Van hills and our system weight (me, bike, passenger, gear) is over 300lbs and cargo bike ergonomics SUCK for pedaling up real climbs so I’m focussed on what I can improve about the experience.

Reply

craw
+1 Andrew Major
Cr4w  - Aug. 21, 2020, 8:41 a.m.

Were you on the Bontrager long enough to make some mistakes on it? I like the SQLab too but the rails a bit delicate for my 240lbs and I bent the rails on one with much less force than I would have expected.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 21, 2020, 8:47 a.m.

Saddles are so funny. 

I’ve fully had my bike land on its saddle, bounce up a few feet in the air, come to a rest and be fine... 

I’ve just tagged a tree and had a saddle implode...

I’ve put my bikes both down since I started riding the Verse but haven’t had that kind of direct saddle v immovable object contact where I have a good survival story.

andrewbikeguide
+1 Andrew Major
AndrewR  - Aug. 21, 2020, 2:46 p.m.

I now run SQ-Lab 611 Active S-Tube 13cm saddles on all my bikes including the 'budget - don't really care' fat bike. And that is coming from being exceedingly happy with a WTB Silverado on every bike I have owned since the year they were released.

The best saddle ever for comfort and support and no 'arse wash' cut out to receive additional trail spray through.

Reply

velocipedestrian
+2 Andrew Major Sean Chee
Velocipedestrian  - Aug. 20, 2020, 2:46 p.m.

This saddle looks good to me. I was happy with the Montrose and a chamois, but trying to join the iron taint club has me back on a Specialised Phenom.

I particularly like better shaped saddles coming stock, shop take offs make for much more available test riding.

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wishiwereriding
+1 Andrew Major
John Keiffer  - Aug. 20, 2020, 3:06 p.m.

I too caught Andrew's comment in another recent article and I had meant to ask him about ditching the diaper as he called it. Curious minds would like to know more, as this sounds good to me as well... Well Andrew???

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 AJ Barlas
Andrew Major  - Aug. 20, 2020, 7:09 p.m.

If I’m reviewing a saddle assume there’s no chamois involved. Haven’t pulled one out of my drawer in a couple-or-few years. Do still have a pair of PI bib shorts because they’re too fresh to throw away and what would I do with them?! Also have some sh*t kicked Ibex wool bib-knickers that I both can’t part with and haven’t used in forever.

Actually have been thinking of going Tinker Juarez style and cutting the chamois out of my merino bibs so I can use them this winter.

Anyways, it’s pretty simple - get a good saddle, buy some supportive underwear (I like Saxx Kinetik, I think Pete was recommending MyPackage, there are a bunch of options) and ride your bike.

I’m full-in. Commuting, mountain biking, any time I’m on the bike.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 21, 2020, 7:47 a.m.

There's skip-the-diapers content in the comments of a bunch of pieces but I think the thread on my DBX 4.0 Shorts review is the best summation.

On that note. I've been mainly wearing the DBX 4.0, Kitsbow Haskell, and my old Swrve knickers for bottoms. They're hotter than really light summer weight shorts (obviously) but I find them more comfortable sliding around with my sweat on.

Reply

kekoa
+1 Andrew Major
kekoa  - Aug. 20, 2020, 4:15 p.m.

Dog poop vs cat poop? Which one is worse? I’ve had cat poop in the grill of my TLD D3 and let me tell you...that was nasty! I think you need to test it out! Hahaha.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 20, 2020, 7:01 p.m.

Dog Poop Shoot Out!!! The worst breed / diet / tire / weather combinations!!!

Reply

sanesh-iyer
0
Sanesh Iyer  - Aug. 20, 2020, 7:06 p.m.

Nevegal.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 20, 2020, 7:16 p.m.

I don’t know Sanesh, a 2.8” WTB Vigilante in their High Grip compound with 13psi (thanks CushCore) packs the sh*t in such that a heavy hosing and scrub will still leave me cleaning the crap off twice.

Reply

sanesh-iyer
0
Sanesh Iyer  - Aug. 20, 2020, 7:06 p.m.

Nevegal.

Reply

kekoa
+1 Andrew Major
kekoa  - Aug. 20, 2020, 11:29 p.m.

I think I barfed a little bit reading your comment. Good job!

Reply

andrewbikeguide
+1 Andrew Major
AndrewR  - Aug. 21, 2020, 2:47 p.m.

Having had my dog roll in heron poop I am nominating that (or seal poop) for the win!!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 21, 2020, 11:41 p.m.

Heron poop eh? 

Seal poop I can only imagine... but while we're fictionalizing riding-through-poop scenarios have you smelled a Sea Lion in the wild? I'm guessing hippopotamus turds are freakin' impressive too!

Reply

Vikb
+2 Andrew Major Sean Chee
Vik Banerjee  - Aug. 21, 2020, 6:38 a.m.

Cat poop is [generally] dry and small so if those were my two choices I'd go cat poop every time! I run Mudhugger fenders on most of my bikes. That doesn't prevent 100% of flung poop from getting anywhere unfortunate, but it is MUCH MUCH better than the same situation without full MTB fenders.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 21, 2020, 7:19 a.m.

I missed a really obvious opportunity for an attention grabbing headline here...

‘Bontrager Verse Good! Dog Poop Bad!’ would have a scored I think.

Reply

Xorrox
+1 Andrew Major
Brad_xyz  - Aug. 21, 2020, 7:29 a.m.

This might be my next saddle!  I'm currently running a very similar Specialized Phenom Expert saddle which is my favorite MTB saddle so far.  All other saddles I've had to run with the nose angled way down otherwise I feel like I've been kicked in the b*!!s after riding but the large cutout on the Phenom lets me ride with a more normal saddle orientation. 

It looks as if this saddle has even more of a cutout than the Phenon which I've always wanted to try because it still does not feel perfect.  I've never had a crappy (!) experience like yours with the cutout and have gotten use to getting a little more wet in winter but now you've got me thinking about a fender.  I actually appreciate the extra ventilation the cutout provides while grinding up climbs in the summer though.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 21, 2020, 7:40 a.m.

Yeah, I regularly suggest to folks that if they can't run their saddle flattish then either it's the wrong perch (no matter how cool the brand is) or their handlebar is too low. Have a piece coming up about that pretty soon!

You should be able to sit on one of these at your preferred local Trek dealer ASAP!

Reply

craw
+2 Andrew Major Sean Chee
Cr4w  - Aug. 21, 2020, 8:41 a.m.

Technically it would be more like a bidet than a shower?

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 21, 2020, 8:48 a.m.

Hahahahaha. I mean, yes... yes it would. But it doesn’t fit my bathtub analogy as well!

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