Doing it all the hard way...

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Specialized Power Saddle Review

Mammas cover your babies’ eyes; this one gets graphic. 

If you are in a hurry just jump down the REVIEW section.

It started in the spring of 2015.  I upgraded my fat bike and needed a saddle. My tried and true friend, the Fizik Aliante, had undergone some upgrades in recent years and I got a new one and put it on my Gravel bike and pulled the older Aliante off that and put it on the fat bike.

At this time there was lots of upheaval on the bottom front.  Our team had changed kit suppliers and now I had a Castelli pad between me and my saddles.  I was also in the process of settling in on Buttonhole as the preferred protector of personal private parts. Finally with some changes to the stable there was some saddle shuffling going on.

All of this contributed to some periodic undercarriage unhappiness.  With multiple variables it was hard to point to a single cause.

In the days following the Winthrop Fondo last year it felt, and looked, like I had ridden on a hot clothes iron for several hours. (I warned you!) I didn’t dare get on a bike for a week or so.  The red badge of courage isn’t as awesome as they say. It forced me to overcome my denial and admit something wasn’t working.

I spent much of the fall and early winter experimenting with different saddles.  With the Dolomites looming, the stakes were high.  I tried different versions of the Aliante, with and without cut outs (or grooves in their case) but nothing ever felt right. Some of them felt horrible.  I tried a Selle San Marco Mantra that was okay but it clearly was not the end of the rainbow.

As the big trip drew closer I went back to the Fizik Kurve Bull.  It worked well enough but I still hoped for something with a cut out. One of our group had their Dolomite trip ruined by saddle sores.  That served as a reminder that I needed to get this sorted out.  I hadn’t had any issues that would require me to get a saddle with a cut out but once you ride one with a cut out it seems kind of illogical to force your soft tissue to function as a shock absorber when you ride.

I survived the Dolomites but still felt there was room for improvement.  About this time there was some serious saddle searching amongst my cycling cohorts. Hottie was looking for a new perch and a good work friend, Alex, had just found saddle Nirvana after his own painful quest.  El Chefe had long been a proponent of the offerings from Specialized, though I recall sitting on his prized Romin saddle and thinking it felt like a block of wood.  “Not for my ass,” I thought to myself.

I had been pouring over saddle reviews and talking with my friends. My upbringing didn’t include the Catholic-guilt outlook on life, but I was instilled with a belief that any problems I encounter are my fault and I must resolve them by working harder.  With that mindset I always feel the answer was out there if I look (work) hard enough.

El Chefe had just outfitted the women of Casa de Chefe’ with Specialized products and they were apparently raving about the results.  He offered up one of his spare Specialized saddles for me to try.  I accepted the challenge.  Alex had purchased a Specialized Power saddle and went from misery to delight.  I recalled seeing a Specialized saddle under Horst as well. Specialized seemed to be waving at me.  “Okay, I’ll give it a try,” I thought to myself.

I put El chefe’s Evo Romin on my commuter and gave it a go.  At first it felt like I was sitting on the corner of a table.  Then I rode and it cradled my sit bones and I felt I could pedal with more power. Hmmmm.  The Romin was an improvement but still not perfect.  I wondered if the Power Saddle would be better.

I got my sit bones measured and paid retail (yes, you heard right…..I paid retail) for a Specialized Power Saddle.  They do have a 30 day guarantee so I felt my risk was low. 
Specialized Bontrager and Selle San Marco make their saddles in multiple widths. Given that our sit bones also come in different widths this makes sense.  The offerings from Specialized come in three widths for women and three for men.  Counting the overlap they end up offering four widths; 137, 143, 155 and 168mm. I’ve got mine and you should get yours.

The Power looks like a normal male saddle that went swimming in cold water.  It is shorter than most and it takes a bit of trial and error to set up.  Obviously you don’t line up the nose but it also isn’t as easy as lining up the back of the saddle with your old saddle. The first five minutes of the maiden voyage I wasn’t sure. It felt hard but I certainly felt supported.  In a few minutes I settled in and have come to absolutely love it.

Specialized claim you can be comfortable in an upright position and also roll your hips forward into an aggressive riding position and not squash anything.  That is consistent with my experience. It supports your sit bones and lets you hammer away without the feeling that you are straddling your seat. It feels like the saddle stays out of the way of your pedaling. The stubby nose disappears and there are no rubbing issues.

I tried a Selle Italia Flite a few years back and that also seemed to stay out of the way but it didn’t support me as well. On longer rides that saddle would start to eat into my sit bones.

The padding on the Power saddle is minimal but firm. I was happy riding this on the road but was worried how it would be off road on the Tallboy or the gravel bike.  It turns out to be perfect in these situations as well.  I just finished the Winthrop Fondo on the Power saddle and I rode the next day without issue.
Comfort is way more important than weight and cost does figure into the equation as well.  The saddle is light enough and less expensive than the Fizik models. You can pay a lot more to get a version of the Power saddle that is a little lighter with carbon rails- but if Peter Sagan can ride Ti rails instead of carbon then so can I.

The Kurve saddle that I rode in the Dolomites is still on that bike but any new saddles will likely be variants of the Power saddle in my prescribed width.  

When I was buying the saddle the guy at the shop said that one of the ways they determine how good a saddle is hinges off of the Specialized guarantee. If they see a lot coming back for exchanges then it isn’t a winner and they don’t order more.  He said they haven’t had any Power saddles come back at all.  They won’t be getting mine back.

Five of five Evos.

No comments: