Combines handmade Italian craftsmanship with a modern health-conscious shape
Pros: Comfortable and numbness-free
Cons: Heavy; odd-looking
If you’ve tried everything else but just can’t get comfortable (or avoid numbness), put the Avant from Selle SMP on your Christmas list. With a somewhat non-traditional shape, it supports your goods on a curvaceous platform with wide anatomic cutout. While not a weight weenie’s saddle at first glance, it just might change our tune after a ride or two.
- MSRP: $260
- Weight: 365 grams
- Size: 269mm x 154mm
Selle SMP, a pioneer in anatomic road saddles, completely restructured their product line back in 2004. Key to this design update is the Eagle Beak Tip, which bends the saddle nose down and out of the way rather than removing it entirely. This design feature was implemented on the Selle SMP Avant saddle, an ergonomic perch aimed at protecting your sensitive tissue.
Combined with a generous cutout and high amount of curvature, the Avant certainly looks a little extreme – but we found it to be supremely comfortable. Perhaps the only criticism of the Eagle Beak design is that while it does shift the nose downward to reduce pressure on the perineal nerve and artery, we would have preferred a slightly narrower saddle body to decrease thigh rub.
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While SMP has several different saddle widths and levels of padding available, each model offers only one spec. The Avant uses SMP’s highest level of padding in the performance line, which we came to think of as ‘medium-firm’ – enough softness to take the edge off, without feeling awkward or squishy. There are five levels of padding in the performance line, ranging from bare carbon fiber, all the way to the “high” level in the Avant. (Note that their touring and e-bike saddles offer even softer levels of padding.)
Compared to its competition the Selle SMP Avant is rather heavy, but that’s not without reason. First, it is handmade in Italy, and its robust construction is not unlike the quality you’d expect from Brooks saddles, or a fine designer watch.
Second, it uses very long rails made from one continuous piece of stainless steel, which bend out to a noticeably wide stance at the back of the saddle. SMP claims that this results in a stiffer, stronger, and safer pedaling base, with efficiency gains that overshadow weight savings (but note that a lighter carbon-rail version of the Avant is available for $400).
You may be wondering – why not simply lop off the dropped nose like popular triathlon or TT saddles? The devil is in the details: if you cut off three inches from the saddle nose, you’d also be cutting off the rails. Noseless saddles avoid this problem by moving the body of the saddle forward relative to the rails – and then removing the nose. This effectively steepens your seat tube angle considerably, requiring a high setback seatpost for road use.
Why, then, not just shorten the saddle’s overall length like the Specialized Power or PRO Stealth? These saddles have a fundamentally different shape than the Avant, with a more abrupt increase in width from the front to back of the saddle. The Avant opts for a longer, more flowing, perhaps more “traditional” shape, combined with the benefits of an effectively noseless platform.
Selle SMP saddles are for those not afraid to look a little different in exchange for a superb level of comfort, and total avoidance of numbness (and don’t want an odd-looking noseless time trial saddle on their road bike). We’d love a weight reduction for the Avant, but not if it comes with a reduction in comfort. If the 154mm width is too much for you, SMP has several narrower options to suit.