Bike saddle demos

A test ride on a bike saddle is worth a thousand opinions. The only way to know if a saddle is right is to spend time on it. So when my Fizike Arione started bugging me I ordered a demo kit from Competitive Cyclist.

The idea is simple. They send you 11 saddles. You ride any or all of them for a week. You send them back, postage paid. If you like one enough to buy, part of the demo fee is credited to the purchase.

It’s a great idea. I wish local shops would do this.

The kit arrived in time for Memorial Day weekend.

It’s a hardshell case containing 11 saddles, a data sheet with the actual weight and price of each saddle, and a UPS return label. Pretty impressive.

Eleven saddles and one week. Where to begin?

Which raises an issue with this demo program. Unless you’re going to devote a full week (eight hour days, let’s say) to testing saddles, you’re going to have a tough time giving each and every saddle your full consideration.

Time was wasting, so here’s what I did:

  • Set aside the Selle San Marco Regal and Rolls. I own a Regal (like it, by the way), and loathe the looks of the Rolls. Call me shallow.
  • Set aside the Arione. Got one already.

Now we’re down to a slightly more manageable eight. I grabbed allen wrenches, tape measure, and level, lined up the eight candidates, and gave each an initial test.

First, the Selle San Marco Concor. I used to own a Concor. Hated it. Verdict after sitting on it for 30 seconds: Still hate it. It feels (and here’s where we get into the realm of the totally subjective, so your mileage may vary) too narrow, too short, and too dished. There seemed to be a sweet spot about a millimeter long.

Seven left.

The Selle Italia SLR was next, simply because I thought this exercise in ultra minimalism would quickly follow the Concor into the discard bin. But nope, I was wrong. I actually liked the shape and firm padding.

Seven and holding.

I continued working my way through the pile. Prolink Light? Wrong shape. Flite Gel Flow? Painful. Aliante? Everyone likes the Aliante, right? Uh, maybe.

In the midst of my deliberations it came time to actually get out and put some miles on one of the candidates. I decided to throw the SLR on the Landshark and see if it was a serious contender or a 149 gram (actually weight) ass hatchet. It was the former.

As I worked my way through the demo kit, I discovered some general likes and dislikes of mine, saddle-wise:

  • Comfort is the raison d’etre of cutouts, but cutouts are anything but comfortable. I do not like cutouts. At all.
  • A narrow nose is better than a wide nose.
  • Seems kinda counterintuitive, but shallow thigh glides are more comfortable than deep ones. This was the undoing of the Aliante.
  • Gel is almost as bad as a cutout. Almost.
  • The SLR T1 is, despite its odd appearance and gel-padded nose, a pretty neat saddle. If only the nose were narrower.

So, was there a winner? Yes indeed:

The Selle Italia SLR, and it wasn’t even close. I put in about 130 miles on it, and loved the combination of support and comfort. It felt, and this is a compliment for a saddle, like it wasn’t there. Which is to say the shape didn’t interfere with my pedaling or get in the way when I moved around, stood up or sat down.

The only thing I didn’t like about this particular SLR was the color. When I order one, it’ll be white.

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