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Specialized Power Expert saddle review – short-nosed MTB and gravel comfort

Its short nose and deep cutaway have proven themselves for aero-positioned comfort, but Specialized also rates the Power Expert for gravel. How does it perform?

Specialized Power Expert saddle
(Image: © Sean Fishpool)

Our Verdict

The Power Expert might be a godsend to gravel riders who suffer pain and numbness. It’s super-comfortable – but its shape won’t suit all off-road riding styles.

For

  • - Cushioning is bang-on for uneven ground
  • - Proven cutaway design for pressure relief
  • - Plenty of size variants
  • - Women-specific MIMIC cutaway option
  • - Titanium rails

Against

  • - Planted seating position won’t suit everyone
  • - Short tip reduces off-road maneuverability

Specialized's mission to relieve saddle discomfort reaches a peak in the Power range. A cavernous central cutaway combines with a stubby, truncated nose, with the intention of easing pressure on your tender parts and allowing for an all-day aggressive riding position. Specialized pitches it as a road- and off-road suitable model, so let’s take a look at how that translates to off-road riding and how it measures up to the best mountain bike saddles.

Specialized Power Expert saddle sitting on a piece of wood

Specialized's applied its Body Geometry design to the Power Expert (Image credit: Sean Fishpool)

Design and aesthetics

The $160/£115 Power Expert sits third in the Power range, above the $140/£95 Power Comp, (lighter but made with less durable materials), and below the $275/£210 Power Pro Elaston, (similar weight but with a stiffer all-carbon shell and more sophisticated cushioning), and the $325/£240 S-Works Power, (71g lighter, with carbon rails and shell and less padding).

One of its key ingredients is lightweight hollow titanium rails, which are relatively rare at this price point. Even though at 230g the overall saddle weight isn’t particularly low you could argue that the lighter rails allow the Power Expert to offset a decent level of cushioning without affecting the overall weight. (Specialized describe it as ‘level 2’ medium density cushioning). The titanium also helps reduce vibrations through the saddle too.

Specialized Power Expert saddle sitting upsoide down to show the saddle rails

The rails are titanium to keep the weight down (Image credit: Sean Fishpool)

Performance

The Power Expert is definitely a comfortable saddle, no doubt about that. The cushioning is firm enough to feel purposeful, but thick and compliant enough to be a genuine all-day companion, even when you’re shuttling between tarmac and rough ground. The short nose and the relatively narrow tip give a gloriously free-spinning, unencumbered feeling for your legs.

Whether it would work for you as an off-road saddle depends partly on how much you like to shift position as you ride, and partly on how much you like to steer with your thighs when you’re out of the saddle on your gravel bike. It also depends on whether you like to get into a low riding position (and whether this causes you saddle discomfort).

Even though I’d cheerfully leave it on my bike if this was a stock saddle, the Power Expert’s strengths didn’t play to my own needs. 

I do like to shift around as I ride, especially on trails, and the flattish profile, probably combined with the upward tilt towards the rear of the saddle, means that the Power Expert wants to keep you in one ‘right’ position. Some riders love this, and on-road or off, the uptick at the rear means you have a really secure base to power against, especially on grinding hills or sprints.

Specialized Power Expert saddle center cut detail

When riding the shape locks the rider into position (Image credit: Sean Fishpool)

When riding gravel I don’t tend to get into the drops, apart from on the odd hairy descent, and I do like to steer with my thighs. If you’re like me, you might want to consider the Specialized Power Arc instead, which is a near cousin of the Power Expert. It shares a lot of the construction and the undercarriage-friendly cutout, but with more rounded sides for ease of movement, and a longer nose.

And speaking of variants, while Specialized describes the Power Expert as unisex, if you’re a female rider who is looking for the best women’s MTB saddle, you might consider the women-specific MIMIC version of the Power Expert  it’s very similar but with a more female-friendly cutaway.

Verdict

If you’d like a secure, comfortable all-day gravel saddle – especially if you like to get low on your bike – the Specialized Power Expert should be on your shortlist. If you don’t want quite such a planted feeling consider one of its near relations such as the Power Arc.

Tech Specs:  Specialized Power Expert saddle

  • Price: $160/£115
  • Colors: Black
  • Sizes: 130mm, 143mm (as tested), 155mm, 168mm, x 239mm
  • Lateral profile: Semi-flat
  • Weight: 230g (143mm size, as tested)
  • Key materials: Hollow titanium rails, carbon-reinforced shell, PU padding
Sean Fishpool
Sean Fishpool

Sean has old school cycle touring in his blood, with a coast to coast USA ride and a number of month-long European tours in his very relaxed palmares. Also an enthusiastic midpack club cyclocross and XC racer, he loves his role as a junior cycle coach on the Kent/Sussex borders, and likes to squeeze in a one-day unsupported 100-miler on the South Downs Way at least once a year. Triathlon and adventure racing fit into his meandering cycling past, as does clattering around the Peak District on a rigid Stumpjumper back in the day.


Height: 173cm

Weight: 65kg

Rides: Canyon Inflite CF SLX; Specialized Chisel Comp; Canyon Aeroad; Roberts custom road bike