Flow’s First Bite: fi’zi:k Gobi M5 VS Saddle

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Deep.

The Gobi is a classic rounded shaped saddle that has become super-popular in the mountain bike crowd due to its tough materials and slim shape. The roundness and slim-ness is a blessing when you’re moving around off the back of the bike on a steep descent, resisting getting snagged on your shorts or pointy bits jabbing you where you’d rather not be jabbed.

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The VS version of the Gobi takes the comfort even further, with a deep central relief channel to alleviate pressure where there’s important blood flow. Instead of using a hole, the 7mm-deep channel is said to remain stronger and retain the saddle’s shape over longer time.

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Groovy channel.

The Gobi uses a flexible shell around the tail for and mid-section to provide a bit of give, and the aluminium rails help keep the price and weight down.

Let’s ride!

Flow’s First Bite: Fabric Scoop Saddle

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The Scoop is their most popular saddle. You can get it in three different shape profiles (flat, shallow and the more upright riding ‘radius’ shape) and in four different construction configurations. At the cheaper and heavier end, there’s a nylon body with chromo rails, while at the other end of the price spectrum you’ll find a carbon railed / carbon bodied version.

For our test saddle, we’ve gone with the shallow profile (which is the best option for mountain bikes) in a carbon/nylon construction – carbon rails with a nylon body. On the scales, it clocks in at 196g, which is pretty light.

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What stands out most about the Scoop is the seamless underside. The upper isn’t just glued, stitched or stapled to the base, but is vacuum bonded in some funky fashion that means there are no loose edges, stitching, grooves or pockets where mud can collect. Unlike other saddles that become scungy on their underside after a few wet rides, the Scoop simply wipes or hoses clean. One less place for mud to gum up the bike is a big plus in our mind.

There’s plenty of flex in the nylon shell, and coupled with a decent layer of padding, the Scoop is one of the easier saddles to get along with straight away. There’s no period of mutually ‘breaking in’ your arse or the saddle. The Scoop doesn’t feature a groove down the centre, which will rule it out for some riders who swear by saddles with a channel. Fabric do offer the Line saddle which has a channel, so that’s an option too.

Fabric Scoop Saddle-1

 

The upper is covered with waterproof microfirbe which doesn’t feature any reinforcing or scuff protection, so try not to crash it down the rocks. Like most carbon railed saddles, the rails are oval shaped and therefore won’t fit every seat post, so make sure you keep that in mind. If your post only takes round rails, go for the titanium railed version.

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We rate this saddle highly. It looks sharp, there are plenty of colour options, it’s comfortable and the construction makes it easier to keep your bike clean too. What’s not to like?

Tested: Specialized Women’s Myth Saddle

In June this year we tested two popular women’s saddles from Specialized, the Jett and the Ariel Comp. In addition to reviewing the saddles themselves, we also looked at the comprehensive in store fitting processes and saddle test program that go hand in hand with the purchase of one of these products.

Our main criticism of the Jett was that we tended to get caught up on the wedge shaped cut out at the rear of the saddle when riding steep, technical terrain. We had to plug it with a saddle bag to stop baggy shorts and hydration pack straps getting wrapped around the back every now and then causing a few heart-in-mouth moments out on the trails.

One glance at the new Body Geometry Myth saddle and we were instantly excited. This saddle doesn’t look anything like other offerings from the big red S, indicating a fresh approach to design. And it’s filled in at the back.

The new design sheds mud easily.

The first thing most riders will notice about the new design is that the cut out in the middle of the saddle has been replaced with a long, wide groove instead. It looks a little odd at first with the widest part of the groove sitting much further forward than we’re used to seeing in women’s saddles.

Listening to the backstory behind the new Myth when we met with the doctors behind the Body Geometry revolution, we learned that previous saddle designs have been accommodating the vagina around a best guess scenario. Yep, you read that right. Despite all the other research that goes into saddle design, no one had actually measured where the vagina sits in relation to the pelvic bones. It turns out its much further forward than people (men?) thought. Shocked and surprised? We were too.

Once we got over the disbelief that women’s hoo-has have been an afterthought in saddle designs we started to look at this new one a little more closely. Placing the foo-foo cut out further forward means ladies are more comfortably cradled (as opposed to squished) when they lean forward into a more aggressive riding position.

Taking the opportunity to jump on a pressure testing mat at the afore mentioned Specialized Doctor Day, we were surprised to see that no pressure registered in this modified area. In fact, you can get the set up completely out of the ball park, and the saddle will still feel pretty good: We mapped the Myth with the seat post too high, the reach to the bars too long, and wearing jeans rather than a chamois, and still failed to produce unwanted pressure in the midsection of the saddle. Instead, pressure showed up on the nose and sides as we compensated for set up by reaching further for the pedals and bars.

The depression in the Myth (left) is much further forward than in the Jett (right).
The depression in the Myth (left) is much further forward than in the Jett (right).

This means that while the Myth excels with a perfect bike set up, it also relieves pressure from the va-jay-jay when your bike set up is way off the mark. We also watched a bunch of blokes test this saddle, also in jeans, and they also failed to register any pressure in the midsection of this saddle.

Jumping back on the Jett we realised that when making the transition from an upright to a more aggressive riding position, we tend to shift our position a little further backwards on the saddle. This places our soft tissue in the wider part of the cut out where it’s more comfortable. This keeps the Jett comfy on the trails, but means if you set up your bike while seated in a more relaxed position, the position of your knees in relation to the pedals and the bottom bracket will shift when using the bike in the wild.

The Myth saddle looks smooth and minimal from this angle.

The Myth is much better suited for other body movements off-road too. The lower friction finish makes it easier to slip off the back when descending. The new design allows the rider to move around on the saddle and remain comfortable: toward the nose on steep climbs, a little further forward for more power, a little further back during longer rides or if you tweak an injury. Three widths (143mm is now the narrowest size on offer with 155mm and 168mm catering for wider sit bones) accommodate different sized pelvic areas too.

Cr-Mo rails and a more recreational level of padding for 2015.

If we were to offer one gripe about the Myth it would be that we’re disappointed that it’s only available as an after market purchase at the comp level, with Cr-Mo rails. (A Ti railed version comes specced on the 2015 women’s S-Works level bikes . The soft padding was very comfortable on shorter rides but once we started using the Myth for rides of 3-5 hours, or multiple days in a row, we found our sit bones started to ache. While this reflects a personal preference for a denser level of padding, we’d expect the majority of its intended users to find the saddle more comfortable as is. In any case, the design principles underlying the development of the Myth will certainly influence a range of future women’s saddle designs from Specialized. We look forward to seeing some slightly firmer and racier options developed as a result.

The Myth represents a solid step forward for women’s saddle designs. It’s a welcome update to the Specialized range for technical trail riding and the versatile riding positions it supports makes it appropriate for a range of mountain biking disciplines. While detailed pressure tests and a medically informed design have led to its development, what we liked most is that, as a rider, you don’t need to know any of this stuff to experience its benefits.

Tested: Specialized Women’s Ariel and Jett Saddles

From in-store body measurements, to saddle selection, to the trails; testing two popular women’s saddles from Specialized extends far beyond picking a model off the shelf.

There’s no right answer when it comes to blindly recommending someone a saddle. A product one person swears by, may just make another person swear.

Specialized take the angst out of new saddle decisions with a comprehensive design and fit program. We put two of the company’s popular women’s saddles to the test: the Aerial Comp and the Jett Comp.

[divider]Finding your fit[/divider]

Specialized is a brand that sees the process of fitting a customer to a product as just as important as the product itself. In order to ensure a comprehensive review of their saddles, Specialized Australia arranged for us to meet with Lyndell van de Walle, a trained ‘Body Geometry Fit Technician’ who works at Cyclery Northside in Chatswood, Sydney.

Specialized’s comprehensive approach to design and fit takes the confusion out of choosing a new saddle. We put two women’s saddles to the test.
Specialized’s comprehensive approach to design and fit takes the confusion out of choosing a new saddle. We put two women’s saddles to the test.

After chatting with Lyndell about saddles, and women’s riding more generally, she invited us to have a sit on the ‘ass-o-meter’. This is the official name of Specialized’s sit bone measuring device.

Depressions in the foam section of the ass-o-meter allow a Body Geometry Fit Technician to measure the width of your sit bones (or, ischial tuberosity width). A good saddle supports your sit bones rather than the soft tissue, so this important measurement signals optimal saddle width.

One of the key differences between Specialized saddles and many other brands, is that they typically come in three different widths. The numbers produced by the ass-o-meter, alongside discussion about riding style and preferences, are critical in allowing retail staff to recommend saddles that will suit the goals and shape of the rider in question.

We prefer a flatter shaped saddle, rather than one that forces us into a more aggressive, racy riding position, so this was taken into account as well.

Before committing to purchasing said seat, a test program allows customers to take different saddles for a few rides in order to finalise their choice.

Get fitted, get riding.
Get fitted, get riding.

Our test arse was borderline between a medium, or 143mm width, saddle and the wider 155mm. We took home the popular Jett Comp saddle and the more recreational looking Aerial Comp in both sizes. The opportunity to try two widths had us sold on the test saddle program before we even left the shop.

[divider]Specialized Ariel Comp Saddle [/divider]

The Ariel Comp is the more recreational looking of our two test saddles. It felt soft to push on and sat higher off the rails than our current saddle; so much so we had to lower our seat height by about an inch.

A lot of women new to cycling are turned off by the idea of a rock hard bike seat and lean toward something with softer support, such as the Ariel. What we liked most about the Ariel Comp is that it matches dense padding to a design well suited to the movement demands of mountain biking.

Despite it’s chunky size, compared to racier looking alternatives, the padding inside the Aerial is quite light. Carbon reinforcing in the shell keeps its overall shape appropriately stiff and comfortable while riding.
Despite it’s chunky size, compared to racier looking alternatives, the padding inside the Aerial is quite light. Carbon reinforcing in the shell keeps its overall shape appropriately stiff and comfortable while riding.

While the Ariel Comp offers a good amount of cushioning, the silhouette of the saddle reflects the design principles of some higher end options. As a result, it’s easy to get behind the rear of the Ariel in technical sections of trail and it’s comfortable for steep climbs. In comparison to a much wider recreational looking saddle, the shape of the Aerial allows good, confident riding habits to develop from day one.

The denseness of the design means it absorbs some feedback from the trail. It also offers additional support for the thighs during standing descents.

We are used to much harder saddles, so were surprised by how much we appreciated the comfort and fit of the Ariel Comp. So much so, that we also used it on our commuter bike during the test period. The design and padding made it ideal for 20-30 minute rides to work in jeans or dress pants. Water sheds quickly from the ‘Micromatrix’ cover too, meaning dry rides home despite locking our bike up in the rain (sorry bike!). At $80, it’s a solid option for your latest commuter bike project too.

On rides of over two hours, we found our sit bones started to ache due to the extra cushioning. This is our standard response to a softer saddle, and one that keenly points to a personal preference for the Jett. Having said that, there are women who claim the Aerial remains comfortable for all day rides, showing that personal preference, and the ability to try before you buy, are important considerations as well.

[divider]Specialized Jett Comp Saddle[/divider]

We know the Jett well. We’ve used an older model on one of our regular bikes for the last six years. This was also the saddle that was specced on the Specialized S-Works Fate Carbon 29 and Rumor Comp bikes we tested last year.

The Jett is similar in shape to the Ariel but sits closer to the Cr-Mo rails. It is still quite soft to push on but its lower profile gives it a racier appearance. A larger ‘V’ cutout at the rear allows flex, which adds to the comfortable riding experience it provides.

One downside of the Jett was that the ‘V’ shaped rear of the saddle tended to catch on baggy shorts or hydration pack straps on very steep technical descents. This is not so much of a problem for XC racers or riders with dropper posts. We bought a Specialized saddle bag by coincidence during the test period, and were surprised to find it plugged this gap.
One downside of the Jett was that the ‘V’ shaped rear of the saddle tended to catch on baggy shorts or hydration pack straps on very steep technical descents. This is not so much of a problem for XC racers or riders with dropper posts. We bought a Specialized saddle bag by coincidence during the test period, and were surprised to find it plugged this gap.

Like the Ariel, the Jett uses a Micromatrix outer, which never appears to age. The texture of the outer stopped us slipping on steep uphill terrain. The cutout in the middle relieves pressure on sensitive areas and avoids pinching. The weight difference between these two ‘Comp’ level models is about 20 grams.

We tried both the 155mm and 143mm options in the Jett given our borderline ass-o-meter measurement. While the 155mm became more comfortable with time, the 143mm simply felt ‘more right’.

Be careful not to wear white knicks when using the red test saddles.
Be careful not to wear white knicks when using the red test saddles.

For us, this saddle had properties of forgetableness, which for a saddle is a sign of a good fit indeed. The base felt neither too soft nor too hard, and we liked that the fairly flat top side of the saddle allowed us to move our position on the bike in response to the terrain, different bikes (we’ve used this one on the road a lot too), and different riding styles (short and punchy, long and enduring).

While these are our preferences, other women may prefer something else entirely. The Oura, for instance, supports a pelvis that is rotated forward in a more aggressive looking riding position. The Ruby has a harder shell with less obvious padding. These ‘Pro’ options are significantly lighter too.

[divider]Overall [/divider]

There is no easy answer to which saddle will work best for any one person. In testing the Specialized Jett Comp and Aerial Comp saddles we were impressed with Specialized’s ability to narrow down our options from a wall full of choice.

As a result, both options suited us well anatomically taking the trial and error out of this important first step in saddle selection. The Aerial offers increased padding without inhibiting good technique on rough terrain. The Jett proved more versatile for riders seeking a saddle that can support a broader range of recreational and competitive aims.

 

Innovation: Saddle Selection App Unveiled

Two of the cycling industry’s leading innovators and experts in bike fit technologies are pleased to announce their collaboration on an exciting new consumer product: The Anatomical Universal Saddle Selector app, available for Apple and Android platforms.

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Dubbed the Anatomical Universal Saddle Selector, the App is the brainchild of former Specialized and Bontrager brand directors, Jackson Taint and Mark Gütsch. As heads of Body Geometry and BioDynamics at Specialized and Bontrager respectively, Taint and Gütsch are jointly credited with bringing bike fit technologies ‘to the masses’ during the early 2000s.

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ANUSS will be available on both Apple and Android platforms for smart phone and tablets this Spring.

“The Anatomical Universal Saddle Selector app takes the guess work out of choosing that most vital of components – your saddle,” said Jackson Taint. Added Mark Gütsch: “By giving riders, armed simply with their smart phone or tablet, the ability to ensure their saddle provides the perfect fit, we’re taking rider comfort and performance to a new level.”

The Anatomical Universal Saddle Selector (ANUSS) utilises the pressure sensitivity of modern tablets and the recent advances in smart phone camera resolutions to capture the precise dimensions of a rider’s saddle contact points. “Sit-bone width and perineum profile are rapidly analysed and then matched to the ideal saddle for each specific rider from the broad range of brands represented in the saddle database,” said Gootsch.

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ANUSS takes advantage of your smartphone’s rear facing camera to map the contours of your sit-bone and perineum areas.

Apple iPad users can take their ANUSS fit to an truly elite level; the tablet’s robust aluminium body and high strength glass face allows users to truly emulate their seated cycling position. Through advanced pressure mapping, the ANUSS app can then recommend saddle padding density, along with saddle shape and width.

“Together with leading orthopaedic surgeons and proctologists, we have closely examined and mapped the perineum and anal areas of thousands of riders, from pros to weekend warriors,” explains Taint. “Riders can also choose to contribute to the ANUSS database and help increase the accuracy of future user’s experiences, by uploading the pressure map or high resolution photo of their perineal area.”

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With ANUSS, visits to your bike shop for saddle fitting are a thing of the past. Using your tablet’s touch screen capabilities, ANUSS can generate a 3D model of your anal region and match it to a database of hundreds of saddles.

The ANUSS smart phone app is also Instagram and Facebook-enabled, allowing you to instantly share a 3D pressure mapped image of your perineum and sit-bones (along with your saddle recommendation) with your friends and fellow cyclists.

Early versions of ANUSS have already attracted the praise of mountain bike and road cycling professionals alike. Fabian Cancellara, of the Trek Factory Team, is effusive about the app’s potential. “After years of cobble classics, I thought I my saddle fit was perfect,” said Cancellara, “but after just a few minutes of playing with my ANUSS, I realised I could be even more comfortable on the bicycle.” Olympic XCO gold medallist Jaroslav Kulhavy has been a key figure in the ANUSS project. “For me, the ANUSS is all about helping new riders enjoy cycling even more. I am always showing my prototype ANUSS to friends and encouraging them to use it,” said Kulhavhy.

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Apple iPad users can take advantage of ANUSS’s Position Opitmized Objective Sensitive (POOS) technology, allowing accurate simulation of your cycling position.

“With our combined experience, and the input of our community of ANUSS users, the sky really is the limit,” said Gootsch. “We’re already looking at the development of ANUSS v2.0. which will build upon digital imaging capabilities – at this stage, likely inclusions for v2.0 include instant post-ride analysis of any redness or chafing to recommend other bike fit modifications such as saddle height, saddle angle or handlebar height.”

For more information about ANUSS and how it can change your cycling, or to download your free trial version of the app, head to www.anussapp.com.

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You got a match! With almost 1000 saddles in the ANUSS database, you’re guaranteed to find your perfect cycling partner.