Sunday, February 13, 2011

Meet the New Saddle, Just Like the old Saddle (Hopefully)

I recently asked the question What is your go to saddle? on the MTBR Singlespeed board and showed my Sella Italia saddle below. A problem arouse, when I started to do longer rides and really put the black Flite saddle to the test, it turns out I am they are not as good a fit as I thought. The black Flite I below has I believe aluminum rails and probably a leather cover. My first Sella Italia Flite saddle came on my green fixed gear. It was the most comfortable saddle I had ever ridden, so I figured I was set; the Sella Italia Flite is probably the most popular race saddle on the planet so there would be an endless supply if I ever needed another. A short time later I found a web store selling NOS yellow/black Flite Ti Alpes, so I bought two and mounted one on my Rocklobster and it worked as a very comfortable MTB saddle. Interestingly the "Alpes Ti saddles" are not your run of the mill Flite saddles (more on this later). I later found a similar yellow/black Flite Ti on ebay, but is was not an Alpes.

The hot spots with the black Flite convinced me that all Flite's are not the same. I checked the padding and discovered that the padding on all three yellow/black Flite Ti's is noticeably softer. I thought perhaps the issue might be the combination of a leather cover with a Titanium rail, but I found I had a well worn Flite Ti on my Specialized Allez. When I checked the padding it was the firm padding like the black Flite. Hmmm. I sent an email Sella Italia with photos of the saddles I had was wondering what the differences was between the saddles. Sella Italia got back to me and basically siad there was no difference between any of the saddles; that the padding and shell are identical on all the saddles; he theorized that the padding of some of the saddles may have broken down over time, leaving some of the padding softer. There might be something to this, the black Flite is dated 2001, the white Flite Ti is dated 2000, all three of the yellow/black saddles are dated 1996; maybe in 4-5 years these saddles will be rideable but that doesn't help me now.

What's really got me going with this is I thought I had the whole saddle thing figured out; if I needed another saddle I'd just get another Flite. Well now I know I need to find another saddle that works.

The black Flite

The yellow/black Flite Ti

A yellow/black Flite Alpes Ti

The Alpes Ti was a saddle primarily sold in Europe as a mountain bike saddle (the edges were trimmed ala the early Bontragers (below).

So I guess it was no surprise that I went from a Bonty to the Alpes. This would also explain why I didn't think a regular Flite was as comfortable as the Alpes. However I also found that the yellow/black Flite Ti was as comfortable as the Alpes; the padding is thinner and less dense. Of course there are no more of the yellow and black Flites regular or Alpes being made so I'm looking for something new. I trimmed the list down to a Selle Italia SLR XC.

I'm leaning toward the Selle Italia (okay I bought one) as it has a similar trimming as the Alpes.

I also find it interesting that after over a 100 years of Italian road saddle styling, Selle Italia used the old Bontrager trick to design a mountain bike saddle. Also, it turned out there was a lot more difference between the standard old style Flite Ti, the black/yellow Flite and the Alpes Ti, and I find this kind of trivia fascinating.

Update 02.26.2011

Well the Selle Italia SLR XC hasn't quite worked out. It stayed comfortable for about 25 miles then developed some hot spots outside and adjacent to my sit bones; it may need some breaking in or it may just make for a good mountain bike saddle. But that has left me on a renewed search for a new replacement road saddle. My next saddle was a Ritchey Streem (Comp).

This is a photo of the WCS but it looks identical to the Comp; it even has the identical shell(which of course you can't see). The primary difference is the Comp has steel rails and a vinyl cover; the WCS has Titanium rails and a leather cover. I picked up the Comp as a test saddle. Being a bit of a bike snob, if the Comp works out I will go for the WCS. I went for a short 25 mile ride and no hot spots. On Monday (2/28) I'll do a longer ride and see if it is truly going to pan out.