Thursday, April 9, 2009

Saddle Showdown - Fizik vs. Specialized

You've probably heard it from everybody, more so than you know. Those wise words of advice around saddles where some wise experienced rider waxes about how it took them years to find the right saddle. And now that they have the right saddle, they continue to preach the mantra that "...everybody's different...".

I'll agree w/ the "different" argument. My first saddle was a Fizik Arione. It looked fast, cool and aggressive. Yeah, it was aggressive. Aggressive in how fast it caused me to go numb! Not to walk completely away from the Fizik's, I tried the Aliante next. Boy was that a comfortable saddle. But I could never get that dialed in; I still went numb.

I finally found bliss with the Specialized Toupe. Initial scorn of the big box "S" from Morgan Hill was soon turned to passionate zeal for their butt-friendly product. Once I got it dialed in, I knew I had found "my" saddle. Over the years I've tried a few different variations on the Toupe. The gel version was ok, but not as good as the original. Plus it weighs a bit more and that's a no-no. I've got enough padding on my rear end (but reasonable when you look at some of those larger behinds at our local know who you are).

The past two years I've been using the same black Toupe. It was with me pre-back injury and was a friend during my recovery and subsequent category upgrades. But I got a seven year itch this past week and wanted to try something different. I took the saddle off and realized that the rails were pretty beat up. The picture below might not do justice to just how bad they had bent. So much that the saddle could no longer rest flat on its' rails. Some of our local roads and races left a permanent mark on the ole' Toupe.

The silver paint on the plastic front had worn off. If you look close enough you can see just a bit of daylight underneath the bent rails. I hated to have this thought go through my mind, but this old horse needed to be put down. So what was I going to try instead? Another Toupe? Nah, let's see what new saddles might work...

A quick call to Bicycle Outfitters and I found out they had just received the latest Fizik saddle. The Antares hit the market a few months ago after being introduced at Interbike. The bright orange saddle stuck out like a sore thumb. Hopefully it would feel better than sitting on your own thumb.

The nose of the saddle is a tiny bit wider than the Toupe, but not too noticeable. I did notice, however, that when I would climb out of the saddle and then sit back down, the width of the saddle was a tad startling at first. Apparently my taint wasn't prepared to meet so much saddle when sitting down, but I soon got over this and it didn't bother me. And speaking of climbing, this saddle was very nice on the climbs. Very firm, with no noticeable flex. The flare of the saddle toward the rear makes it very comfortable to sit and spin up our longer climbs. No issues with going up.

However, things just didn't feel right when on the flats and in the drops. Maybe it was me being so used to the cutout of the Toupe that having a normal saddle just felt wrong. I could never really get comfortable, and knowing how much I like to just bite the bit and hammer in the drops, this was a non-negotiable for me. No way did I want a squased underside to hinder the hammering.

I ended up riding about 150 miles on the Antares. I probably could have ridden the saddle more and seen more positive changes to both my adaptation and that of the saddle from breaking in a bit more. But my old love the Toupe was calling. Not the busted friend that had been with me all these years, but a new Toupe to match the colors of the bike. Might I right the Antares? Sure, but it's in second place. My "boys" are sticking with the product made by the boys down at the big "S" shop.

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