The not-so-minor details
Specialized Women’s Ariel and Jett Saddles
Designs optimised for different width pelvic bones, riding styles and riding positions
Retail staff trained to expertly match saddles to riders
Test program allows customers to try before they buy
Baggy shorts or hydration pack straps can catch on V-shaped cut out at the rear of the saddles on very steep, technical terrain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.