Ok, lets shift gears here for a moment away from wheels to talk about something near and dear to our derrières: saddles and in particular the Selle An-Atomica Titanico.
So as not to keep readers in suspense, here’s the bottom line on Debbie’s first experience with the Titanico saddle: 65 pain-free miles… just as advertised.
I think what she actually said was something along the lines of, “This is the first time I’ve ever enjoyed a pain-free bicycle ride; don’t touch a thing!”
And now for the rest of the story…
Like a lot of cycling enthusiasts, I’ve always known in my heart that leather saddles like those from Brooks are most likely “better” than anything else that’s come along over the past 30 years. By better I mean more adaptable and comfortable than the modern saddles where it’s truly hit or miss on finding one that’s truly comfortable, not just tolerable. Moreover, saddle makers seem to have a penchant for discontinuing or “tweaking” their saddles such that when you do find one that’s tolerable or perhaps even comfortable, you’re hard pressed to find a replacement if you haven’t stocked-up and stashed a few. If you’re like us and have a fleet of bicycles, saddle roulette can get quite expensive what with all the trial and error that comes with the search for the holy grail of saddles.
So, why not just get a Brooks? Well, there have been a couple of reasons. The first is that I once tried a Brooks saddle and I was never in so much pain after a ride up and until that experience. Yes, yes… I’ve been told that you need to give the Brooks saddle time to conform to the shape of your posterior, but dang! That was painful. Then there is the cost, weight and aesthetics to consider. In retrospect, all three of the latter are non-issues since a comfortable saddle trumps aesthetics and weight and as far as cost goes, I could have purchased an entire steer for what we’ve spent over the years playing synthetic saddle roulette.
Fast forward to this past weekend’s Georgia Tandem Rally...
We had the good fortune of spending quite a bit of time at GTR with Denny & Stephanie Sutton, both on and off the bikes. It may have even been as early as Friday when Denny asked me if I knew much about the leather “Selle” saddles with the anatomic cut-outs. At first I drew a blank given how many companies use the Italian word for saddle (sella) in their name. However, after he pointed out a 2010 Cannondale RT that was sporting a pair of Red “Selle” saddles, I realized he was referring to the Selle An-Atomica saddles… a product that I’d come across several years back via Craig Calfee just after Tom Milton filing his patent on the saddle’s unique cut-out design and began to market them. Craig said they were the most comfortable saddle he’d ever ridden and that I should check one out.
The design seemed quite intriguing, but I was still struggling with my aversion to the Brooks saddles and just assumed the An-Atomica was a Brooks saddle with a cut-out. I’d actually thought Selle An-Atomica had folded after Tom Milton passed from a heart attack while riding the Devil Mountain Double century in April 2010. Tom was an accomplished, long-distance cyclist who was only 56 years old and his fledgling company was pretty much a one-man show based in California supported by a leather-maker in Wisconsin.
Anyway, the Selle Titanico’s still looked intriguing, albeit quite unconventional with their flattened, hammock-like mid-section, wide tail. Denny also shared that the folks who were riding the Titanico’s were all 100% converts, fully endorsing the “most comfortable saddle” claim by Selle An-Atomica. But, since I wasn’t in the market for a saddle — being thankful Debbie had “finally” found a saddle that worked pretty well — I didn’t give it much more thought. Little did I know that all would change on Saturday!
Coming into GTR, Debbie nor I had much in the way of base miles with our longest ride of the year being only 38 miles a week or two before over in Tucker, Georgia on a PEACHES ride led by Eric Osgood & Linda Wood. So, for Friday’s remote start ride we opted to ride the 41-mile option, knowing we had another ride to make on Saturday ahead of our 65-mile ride on Sunday at the Tour de Cure. No sense it trying to push our luck with too much mileage on the first day. 41-miles turned out to be just about right. I think we were both a little saddle sore, but nothing too bad and I just attributed it to being our longest ride of the year on tushy’s that weren’t quite toughened up.
However, Saturday turned out to be a suffer-fest for Debbie’s lovely derrière, suggesting that there was something else afoot. This was the first time in a long time that Debbie had truly been put into “a spot of bother” by saddle soreness. Even though we only did the 33 mile route on Saturday, she had to lift herself off her fi’zik Vitesse LP saddle every 2 miles for the last 10 leading up to the lunch stop and about 4 times on the way back from lunch to the hotel!
After our ride I was now seriously interested in learning more about the Selle An-Atomica Titanico and searched out Marsha in the House of Tandems room next to the Hospitality Suite at the Hampton Inn. Marsha was one of the converts to the Selle An-Atomica and shared her first ride account of an 85-mile ride right out of the box with complete comfort. FWIW, here’s a promo video about the Selle An-Atomica Titanico:
Faced with having Debbie’s saddle soreness continuing on our 65-mile Tour de Cure ride or taking a risk on the Selle An-Atomica, I figured I had nothing to lose by asking Debbie to give one a try to see if it might feel different enough to offer some hope of a pain-free ride, and she agreed to give one a test ride around the parking lot. With saddle in hand and Debbie at my side, I pulled our Calfee out of the truck and with Debbie’s help changed out her fi’zik saddle for the Titanico and we took a spin around the parking lot. She was impressed so we decided we’d roll the dice and give it a go for Sunday’s 65-mile Tour de Cure.
As for Sunday’s trial run, it was wet for the entire ride so the saddle was soaked within the first few miles and remained wet until the end. However, Debbie was so comfy that she didn’t get off the saddle until the 31-mile SAG stop; absolutely no need for a butt break! For context, it’s rare for Debbie to ride more than 17-miles without needing to get off the saddle, and 25 has always been about her limit.
However, when she got off the saddle at that 31-mile SAG stop I was shocked to see the leather had stretched enough to where the mid-section was almost touching the rails, hence my realization that I needed to retighten the cover just to correct her ride height. She said, “NO, don’t touch it! I’d rather feel like I’m riding a tricycle than risk giving up my comfortable seat!!!” She finally let me tighten the saddle a bit later on in the ride and was OK with that. The last 9 miles of our ride was a monsoon so I’m still not sure the saddle has dried-out two days later. I was careful to leave the adjusting screw alone after the ride so as not to prematurely stretch the leather while it was wet: I think it had actually screwed itself back in (loosened) by the end of Sunday’s ride.
I’m now looking forward to our next ride — likely Saturday AM — so I can readjust the ride height, tilt up the nose a bit (per info I learned on the website and after seeing the hammock effect) and put a little tension back into the saddle after it’s fully dried-out. That second ride should validate that we’ve found the holy grail of saddles.
I definitely want to give one a try myself at this point; just wish the lighter-weight titanium rail model was available now instead of in development. But, since it’s not… cest la vie. I’ve sat on Debbie’s saddle just to see how it feels and I must say, it is very comfortable. There are no pressure points and it truly does “suspend” your body like a horse saddle. In looking at Debbie’s fi’zik Vitesse LP saddles, I believe the gel may have actually softened and instead of giving her a firm but cushioned ride it’s now the always feared “soft saddle”. We’re both believers in firm saddles, so perhaps the Titanico will be the idea saddle for both of us.
Anyway, I’ll wait until after Saturday to firm up a decision on buying at least a second saddle that I can try out. Even if I don’t move to the Titanico, if Debbie’s still sold on it we’ll definitely need a second one for her single / the triplet. The Titanico’s sell for around $139-$159 depending on the color; yes, black is the more expensive. While I’m sure a few other dealers are selling these, by all means consider making your inquiries and buying from Marsha & Ric at House of Tandems; Lord knows they’ve been going well of their way to support the tandem community here in the Southeast, having volunteered to SAG both last fall’s Southern Tandem Rally in St. Augustine and GTR.
In closing, remember that these are just first impressions.
Post Script: After today’s short ride Debbie confirmed the saddle truly is quite comfortable. Like Sunday, at first she wasn’t quite sure about how the saddle felt during the first mile or so, but after that it was sublime. We had to tweak the saddle height, tilt, rotation and tension a bit during and after the ride to get it dialed-in, but that had more to do with addressing biomechanics vs. bottom-end comfort. Again, to quote my sweetie after today’s ride… “I have a very happy bottom!” I got a chuckle out of that as she wasn’t even aware Selle An-Atomica has incorporated “The Happy Bottom Riding Club” into its marketing. Although, I doubt Pancho Barnes would approve of a bicycle saddle maker co-opting the name of her famous club at Rancho Oro Verde in Lancaster, California.
I’m not sure I’m ready to jump ship on my current saddle — I’ve been pretty comfy on these for going-on 10 years — but I may buy a second Titanico just to experiment and so we’ll have it to put on the triple. Debbie says she’s happy with the fi’zik non-gel Vitesse saddle on her Calfee Luna so we’re leaving it alone for the time being.