Those who ride know this truism: three contact points guide your happiness whilst astride a bike. These points are, of course, the pedals, the handlebars, and the saddle. Today, I wish to present a personal documentary of my saddles, more of a pictomentary. Why is this so important? Because how and where you sit defines your existence!
The first saddle that I can remember was on my Ross kid’s 20″ bike. I was in the first grade, living in Wading River, New York (on “Lon Guy Land”). The bike was gold and I remember getting an after-market seat because I’ve always had a penchant for upgrading my gear. I do not have a pic of this seat, but I do remember the general design. Here it is:
Notice how this seat is not even as ergonomic as a banana-style seat. Why did I chose this? Because I was in the first grade. What was I, maybe 12 years old or something like that. I could not make an informed decision. Not great for long rides, but I didn’t go on long rides.
My next machine was a Schwinn Le Tour. I loved this bike. Used to do laps around the local trailer park in St. Charles, Missouri. This seat was just as painful as the previous “brick.” I don’t have a pic of this either, but here is a red one (mine was blue) that is about 5 years older than mine. Squint and use your imagination:
In high school, I started riding more seriously. I was introduced to racing by Chris from of Manchester, MA. I lived on the western edge of Gloucester, MA. He was my idol it is now safe to say. He was one of the best junior riders around. Rode for Richard Sachs! (which I too rode for eventually, but I was never really part of the clan, even though I wanted so much to be held tight in the arms of those “Connecticut Yankee”s–the best team around) He used to sneak into the pro fields at some races. I tried that once and lasted about 4 laps… Ah, those were the days when I was a teenager… ah those were the days when I can from my easy chair report back on all the fun I had and leave out all the terrible shit that occurred in between the blissful sporting moments. I started training seriously when I was about 15. I rode a heavy, flexy, sloppy Univega called, I think, Sport Tour. Its saving grace was a tan suede saddle (sorry no pic) and a sweet pearlescent creamy white paint job. It sucked. I worked some jobs, begged my rents for money and sold every baseball card and coin I had, and then I bought my dream bike: A 1984 Gios Super Record. Below is a pic, but not my pic. I did not rock the Selle San Marco Rolls. But beside my black Modolo Professional brakes, much of the rest is spot on-Campy throughout (except, also, for the Gipiemme cranks).
This picture is not how it looked though. Why not? Because I was always riding this chariot, this paean to grace and style. This bike classed up the entire town when I rode down Western Ave.
When I was on her, this is pretty much how I envisioned myself:
It took me about 6 months to finish piecing the bike together. Started with just the frame, fork, and headset. My saddle? Selle San Marco Concor. I think Chris had one. Alas, I don’t have the Gios with me any more (though it is still alive and well here in Iowa City since I sold it to a local guy looking to get into racing), but I do have the saddle.
In fact I still rock the Concor today. I stuck it in on my Panasonic MC-5500 (triple-butted steel from 1997-ish). I hope it pleases you all that I have converted the Panasonic into a fine fully geared, fully fendered, and fully basketed towny.
When I got my Lemond Victoire in 2003-ish (about a million years ago it seems. God, do I want a new bike!), It came equiped with a very tiny Selle San Marco Era seat that never really worked with my “undercarriage”.
I swapped the Era a few years ago for light-weight seat, a Selle San Marco SKN, that may not be very sturdy, nor very well-made, but it seems to work for me. The reason it works and the reason that it is so light (185 g.) is because it has minimal padding, no leather, and Ti rails. The titanium rails (titanox?) and saddle flex quite a lot, but this is not a drawback. So, if you are the right weight, the seat really gets comfy the warmer it is and the more you break it in. On cold days, though, the flex doesn’t come into play and I am not so happy. And when it is really hot, over 90 say, then the seat is downright squishy. Yes, it is a fickle seat, but for most of the time it is just right. And if you are around 145-160, then I would give it a try. One other thing that I really like about this minimal seat (and a detail that separates this saddle from many other minimal ones) is the width (280 mm x 150 mm). It is much wider than my Era, and that means that I know that I need a bit wider saddle for my 5.10 height and 155 weight. My lorica cover is wearing off, but it has paid for itself over the past 3 years. Here it is (I would say ignore the cheap carbon seat post, but I actually think that it is integral to the flexy/sexy feel that makes the rig so sweet to ride):
My cross bike is another story, but it is a story that intersects with my Gios. I ride a used Bianchi Axis Cross bike (thanks for the deal, Thad). It came with an old Fizik Nisene.
The Fizik that I rode was silver though. I remember that during one February ride with my friends Lee, Jonah, and Josh, I complained about how hard my seat was. It was one of those awfully long gravel rides that was great for my endurance, but hard on my family life and also hard on my seat area. We were almost home when Lee said, “I’ll trade saddles with you if you want.”
“Okay, sounds fine. What are you riding Lee?”
“I have a Selle Italia of some sort.”
“Deal.” So we actually stopped on Melrose Avenue in Iowa City, and changed seats. This is a charming story except for the fact that Lee’s saddle was terrible. Needless to say I don’t have a picture of it, but I imagine that it looks something like this:
I bought a used Selle Italia Octavia to replace the Fizik. The Octavia was in a banged-up cardboard box filled with traded-out seats in Geoff’s Bike and Ski–got a great deal, like 29 bucks (when I want to emphasize a bargain, I always use the word “bucks” instead of “dollars”. As in: “Honey the carbon fiber wheels were only, like, 89 hundred bucks.” Try it… trust me.). But, is the Octavia a women’s seat or a man’s? I think they made a version for each. Anyway I liked it. For a while, anyway.
Then, suddenly, it started to hurt. Why? Too squishy in the wrong sector? So, for the past year I have been swapping the SKN between the Lemond and the Bianchi. Winter it goes to the Bianchi for gravel grinding. Summer to the Lemond.
Finally, I got a new seat for the Bianchi. The design of the SKN was not good for any cyclocross hop-on-and-off maneuvers (pointy points in the rear). Why? Cuz you can really hurt yourself in the worst of places. So, I shopped around for an inexpensive San Marco Rolls. Couldn’t afford. But I did find a very quirky deal on on a quirky Regal Ti.
Only about 70 bucks for this white model that I have now rocked for a total of 92 miles (short gravel rides). Here are some kind details of the Regal:
The San Marco Regal is easy to distinguish from all other saddles at sight. It is a professional racing style saddle that begins with a molded nylon base. There are no depressions for extra padding at pelvic contact points. Over the shell is a molded, thin layer of high density expanded foam padding. Surrounding the foam pad and shell, a leather covering is glued. The Regal is available in a smooth Black, or White leather, and also perforated Black, or White leather, which gives a bit more air flow as the padding expands and contracts. The perforation process puts small, fine holes in a grid throughout the surface of the smooth leather before it is cut and cemented down to the padding and the shell. The leather around the nose is trimmed remarkably well using multiple cuts to give it a superior fit. On the tail of the saddle are six 5/8″ in diameter copper rivets. The rivets pass through the leather down through a second molded nylon piece on the underside. This second piece acts like a batten to hold the leather glued on the bottom of the tail even more firmly. This second nylon piece also has the rear rail receivers molded into it. The back of the rear rail receivers is molded for the copper “Regal Girardi” logos that are glued into it. Product Specifications Weight: 280g, Width: 150 mm, Length: 280 mm.
Like the reviews state, this saddle should not really work in terms of science or physiognomy.
Yet many pro riders still swear by it. So, I think I like, even though it is not (yet) as sweet as my San Marco SKN.
ps. for a while I borrowed my wife’s Serfas Curva. It was too soft. But I keep it around in case I need more cushion.
Since this contact area is clearly the most important, I wonder why there is not more discussion, or more documentaries on this subject? Is the subject too tender? Off limits? Perhaps.