It’s like sitting on hundreds of tiny volcanoes.
No, really. It is. Except the volcanoes are tiny, rubbery, and instead of shooting hot lava into your posterior they do an admirable job of both cushioning it and keeping it in place.
I’m speaking not of tectonics but of something far more benign: the small, open-topped, volcano-shaped rubber cones that makes up Prologo’s CPC material. The company borrowed CPC, which stands for Connect Power Control, from motorsports and is thoughtfully applying the cones to much of its saddle and glove lines.
We first spotted CPC saddles at the Giro d’Italia last year, under Alberto Contador and his Saxo-Tinkoff teammates. The claims behind the material are far-reaching, some more relevant and realistic than others. Assertions of improved air cooling and of massage and manipulation of muscles are both a bit dubious — if the CPC material was aiding in either category, we certainly couldn’t tell. But improved grip and shock absorption were undeniable; the cones grab at whatever they come in contact with, completely changing the feel of all the CPC saddles, and the gloves in particular do a wonderful job of killing road buzz.
I tested CPC on two different contact points — two saddles and a pair of gloves — specifically, the Zero II CPC Nack ($285) and Nago EVO Tri CPC ($195) saddles and two pair of summer gloves, one with full finger coverage and one with short fingers, that cost a whopping $100. The prices are high, about 30% higher than the same saddles without the CPC treatment. Prologo says the price increase is simply due to the cost of the material.
The CPC is undeniably grippy, though the cones are smaller on the saddles than they are on the gloves.
On the regular, non-TT saddle, the cones are arranged into blocks, five down the nose and three for each sit bone. The cones are not uniform in size; they taper from small to large as they move away from the edges of each block. So the center of the nose and the sit bone areas get the widest, tallest, and therefore softest cones. The idea is to provide a bit more cushion in these areas, without making the saddle overly grippy.
Saddle companies have been adding grippy material to the surfaces of their saddles for some time, with little real success. The line between feeling planted in the saddle, a good thing, and stuck to it, a bad thing, is thin, indeed. It will change for every rider, too. Most other saddles err on the side of slippery, with just a few raised ridges or a bit of silicon to keep a rider in place. CPC goes in the opposite direction.
The CPC changes the personality of the saddle completely; though the fit is basically the same, I sat on it differently because my rear was planted and it didn’t move. I could perch on the very tip of the saddle and not slide, or plant on the back end while climbing and feel the saddle holding my body in place. I quite liked that sensation. It feels more efficient, like I was relying on my core a bit less to stay planted.
The top of the Zero II CPC saddle was so grippy, in fact, that shifting around while in the saddle was somewhat impossible. Inevitably, it would hang on to my shorts and pull them into an odd position if I tried to shift around too much.
The solution was to simply sit back down on the saddle precisely where I wanted to stay. I had never realized it, but with normal saddles I sit on the nose then slide back; that’s impossible with CPC. The sit-and-stay method took me about two weeks to get used to before becoming second nature. It’s now no longer an issue.
The TT version of the Nago, which features extra padding on the nose and no CPC material on the sit bone area, was excellent for maintaining a long, low position, but the grippy surface can’t make up for a poor fit. If you slide around on the nose of your saddle all the time, like Alberto Contador, the CPC will help but is not a magic fix.
The solid feeling while climbing with a CPC is certainly appreciated, as is the grip when on the rivet. But if you’re the sort of rider that needs to shift around quite a bit, a CPC saddle is not for you. The sensation is unique, whether one finds it reassuring or constricting will be highly personal. Some will love it, others will never adjust.
The saddles may be love-or-hate, but the gloves are all love. They are a welcome evolution, perhaps the best gloves I’ve ever used, particularly the long finger version.
The CPC material lends itself perfectly to gloves — it’s incredibly thin, so it doesn’t create hotspots like many large, raised pads do, but still dampens vibration well and provides unmatched grip. The patches of tiny cones used on the fingertips are the best bit, though. They provide a wonderful, tactile feel unlike any I’ve encountered. They’re as close as it gets to going glove-free, while retaining full-finger protection.
It seems there’s a reason the motorsport version of CPC is sometimes used in Formula One drivers’ gloves.
The thin back panel of the gloves breaths well and fits nicely. The cut is spot on as well, and the gloves fit true to size. Small loops near the fingers aid removal of the short finger version, but don’t get in the way while riding.
Yes, they are very expensive, and not particularly durable in the event of a crash. But if you want one of the best cross-country mountain bike gloves money can buy, look no further.