Regular readers may recall that back in March of 2015 Debbie and I threw caution to the wind and made the 400 mile drive up to Louisville, Kentucky, for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) less than 24 hours after a blizzard had shut down the very same I-65 interstate that we’d need to take to get there: the full account of the trip is here.
During our visit we stopped by the Sella Anatomica booth to check out their saddles, noting that Debbie had been using them with pretty good success for the past few years. On display along side their current production model saddles as a prototype of a nearly all-composite saddle. To say it was intriguing was an understatement. At the time they had two variations on display and looking at the photo below you can see (a) the composite saddle cover with a composite leaf spring foundation and aluminum rails and (b) the same composite saddle cover attached to their standard metal frame.
Six days after NAHBS Selle Anatomica launched a crowd-funding project for their composite saddle development program. For $199 a supporter could secure one of the saddles which they expected to retail in the $300 – $400 range. As an added inducement it also enabled supporters to purchase any of their current saddles for $100, about a 30% discount off of retail. The development program would be complete and the backer saddles would purportedly be shipped by September 2015.
We signed-on and patiently awaited news on when we’d actually receive our saddle. In the back of my mind and having worked in aerospace for 30+ years I was pretty sure they’d miss their targeted release date by several months: it’s just the way it seems to work: double it and add two. So, if it was six months let’s just say 14 months would probably be closer to the mark… so perhaps May 2016?
Well, the saddle finally arrived on 1 September; it was s thing of beauty to look at:
The edges were all nicely rounded, the aluminum rails were replaced by a composite rail assembly that was bonded and screwed to the leaf spring and as originally predicted the saddle weighed in around 195 grams.
The only significant issue that I see with the Selle Anatomica saddle design — noting the C-Series composite saddle cover has the same shape and dimensions as their leather saddle — is the overall width of the cover. I’ve always used a more narrow saddle since becoming a semi-serious cyclist 42 years ago and the C-Series cover is much wider through the thighs than what I’m used to.
I installed it on our Calfee tandem for the initial test ride on 10 September. Installation proved to be a bit of a technical challenge in that the Thomson seat posts we have on the Calfee had the right style and size clamp, but the spacing across the rail clamps was a bit more narrow than the carbon rail placement. I seem to recall this condition existed on our steel rails as well, but steel rails easily conform to subtle differences. Not so with the composite, so I pulled a Easton EC90 seat post from the parts bin and the clamp was a much better fit.
The saddle felt much more compliant than I expected, but still much less cushioned than a traditional leather over foam or all-leather saddle cover. I was very aware that I was sitting on my sit bones from start to finish. The wider cross-section through the things was also very obvious, more so when I would slide back on the saddle while climbing.
About 1/2 way through the ride I started to hear a “clicking sound” coming from the saddle. Debbie finally solved the mystery when she said it was the saddle’s back edge coming in contact with her computer. Hmmm… funny that it wasn’t doing that when we started out. I tilted her computer back a bit to eliminate the contact between the saddle and the computer. Imagine my surprise when a few miles later it was doing it again. I ignored it and assumed I’d just need to sort it out when I got home but, at least for the time being, the new saddle was feeling pretty good.
Once we returned home I discovered that the saddle rails had moved reward a good inch on the seat post during the ride, so that would explain how the saddle and the computer were coming in contact. It also explained why I was more comfortable on the saddle towards the middle and end of the ride, in that I’d solved the wide saddle problem by effectively moving that wide section further back.
I expected my sit bones to be more sensitive than they were after the ride and can say, 24 hours later, that they’re really not all that tender today. I’ve repositioned the saddle and tightened the seat rail clamp so that the tandem is ready to go again for the second ride, unfortunately Miss Debbie says she’s not going to be able to ride today so it will be next weekend before I know how it feels on the second encounter.
I guess I’d sum up my first impressions as mostly positive. I’d prefer a more narrow mid-section and that dimension will probably the one that determines if I’ll be able to use the Selle Anatomica saddles long-term. Definitely willing to give it a second chance and I’m also anxious to let Debbie give it a try. She’s already familiar with the shape of the Selle Anatomica saddles and the composite saddle’s rounded edges may solve an issue that she’s been having ever since moving to the Selle Anatomica saddles with chaffing. So, we’ll see how things progress from here.