Shopping for and buying saddles is one of the trickiest things in cycling. What works for your training partner might have you in agony. Without trying a saddle yourself, it’s virtually impossible to know what will keep your backside happy hours into a ride.
With that in mind, the VeloNews tech team of Lennard Zinn, Caley Fretz and Nick Legan ordered in a few Selle Italia saddles and gave them a try.
Why Selle Italia? It’s the one brand that all three of us have a history of riding. We thought it was worth a look at the company’s current offerings and re-issues.
Each of us gravitated to a specific model based on our past experiences. We were all eager to give the latest versions a try. Here’s what we found.
Selle Italia Turbomatic Team Edition By Lennard Zinn Price: $197 The Scoop: Carbon rails, full padding, Lorica cover Weight: 242 grams Pros: Broad rear section, long nose Cons: Rear platform could be longer
Other than its thick, firm padding, this saddle is a far cry from the original Turbo saddle that took the world by storm in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The rear section of the saddle is wider (155mm) and flatter than the original Turbo, which curved rapidly off to the sides. Its wide section is also quite brief — this saddle is mostly nose (170mm of it), though its nose width and curvature mimic the original Turbo.
The Turbomatic Team Edition’s carbon rails have a tall, oval cross section to increase strength and stiffness. They attach to the shell via shock-absorbing elastomers. Saddle length, at 276mm, is standard, and the small notch at the back has no discernable purpose other than aesthetic.
I used this saddle for cyclocross and liked it. I vastly prefer a saddle that is wide and flat in the rear, and this one’s wide section, though short, keeps my sit bones supported, while its suspension elastomers, padding, and shell flex smooth the ride on rough ground.
My saddles of preference are the Selle San Marco Rever (sadly, discontinued) and the Fizik Antares, both of which are flat and wide in the rear and have far less padding than this Turbomatic.
A few years ago, measurements for a company-wide saddle test determined that I “have the biggest butt at Velo” (widest ischial tuberosities as determined by the Specialized “assometer”), despite the fact that my wife and daughters insist that I “have no butt.” Hence my preference for width in the rear of the saddle to support those wide sit bones.
Selle Italia’s Flite 1990 By Nick Legan Price: $138 The Scoop: Titanium rails, classic design, still relevant! Weight: 220 grams Pros: The saddles that defined the lightweight saddle segment is still great Cons: Not available in all the colors that it used to be offered in
Selle Italia arguably started the lightweight saddle segment and it did it with the Flite saddle. It was the first saddle to weigh under 200 grams. According to Selle Italia, the Flite is still the winning-est saddle in its lineup and that must be due to its nearly ubiquitous use by pros in the 1990s.
While this re-issued model is slightly heavier (220 grams), the now-classic shape of the Flite is still better than many modern models. The widest part of the saddle is 146 millimeters and the transition there from the nose is nice and gradual.
At 280 mm long, the Flite is quite a bit shorter than the fi’zi:k Arione Tri saddle than I normally ride, but I still found plenty of room to move around when needed. I think that it’s the shape. The hammock-like base flexes under the rider and the thin padding never seemed harsh. Titanium rails always seem to help make a saddle that little bit more comfortable too.
Unlike many other Lorica-covered saddles, the Flite uses full-grain leather.
The only bummer for this reviewer is that Selle Italia no longer offers the Flite in all the bright, sometimes garish, colors that it used to. I still have a celeste, Marco Pantani (Il Pirate) embroidered saddle that looks amazing. But black is the new black when it comes to saddles, so Selle Italia has your bases covered there.
If you loved Flite saddles in the past, you won’t be disappointed by the re-issue (or the newer version of the Flite- the Flite Team Edition). If you’ve never tried a Flite, shame on you!
Selle Italia SLR Team Edition By Caley Fretz Price: $267 The Scoop: carbon rails, minimalist padding, Lorica cover, Weight: 139 grams Pros: long nose, narrow rear, super light, strong enough for off-road use Cons: too narrow for those with wide sit bones More Info: selleitalia.com
The Selle Italia SLR is a minimalist racing saddle, with only a thin layer of Perfect Fit foam over its narrow 131mm wide, 275mm long shell. It is a favorite of the 20 Selle Italia-sponsored ProTeams and Pro Continental squads thanks to its low weight and good fit for narrow rear ends.
Like the Turbomatic, the SLR’s carbon rails are tall and ovalized for increased strength and stiffness. They attach directly to the shell (no elastomers here), and have a nice long clamping area for fore/aft adjustment.
The latest version of the SLR is a bit taller than before, with more distance between the saddle rails and the top of the saddle itself. I’ve been riding Selle Italia SLR’s for a decade. In fact my favorite saddle of all time is a perfectly broken-in SLR I bought in 2001, which always finds its way onto whatever bike I’m riding the most.
The latest generation changes the shape just a bit, adding a bit more padding all around and leveling the line from tip to tail. Where the old SLR used to dip a bit just forward of your sit bones, the whole top is now dead level. It still fits like an SLR, though, and I still find it incredibly comfortable.
With my narrow sit bones I tend to gravitate towards flat-top, narrow-shell saddles with minimal padding like the Fizik Arione and Prologo Nago. If you’ve found comfort with either, the SLR is likely to work for you as well. The SLR XC is the same shape but a bit more budget friendly at $180. It’s still light, too, at just 172 grams. More Info: selleitalia.com