If you find decision-making a full time occupation, anything that helps you to get the most crucial contact point on your bike correct from the beginning must be a good thing.
And with this in mind, saddle manufacturers now provide their own holistic saddle fitting methodologies and saddle solutions, and it seems to have struck a chord – and not just with saddles. The ‘bike fit’ idea has reached the point where there are now bike shops up and down the land who can take you through an entire bike’s worth of measurements with as much care and attention as a wedding dress fitter.
Selle Italia’s concept unpacked
This, then, is Selle Italia’s saddle Identity Matching System (idmatch) which claims to help any cyclist choose their ideal saddle. The idea is that, once they have undertaken the 15 minute or so consultation with a trained Selle Italia stockist, any rider should be good to conquer the trails with their buttocks slathered in total comfort.
Idmatch was apparently developed to take advantage of a combination of the rider’s ‘personal anthropometric’ measurements (size, weight, and proportions, basically), combined with their functional measurements. So after taking a few simple body measurements, the fit algorithms provide the rider with the best possible saddle, suited to their physical characteristics. We placed three testers in the firing line for a quick and painless assessment with a trusted assessor, which utilised a small inclinometer machine, some pelvic calipers [the what, now? – Ed], a tape measure and a healthy dose of personal honesty.
‘Suit You Sir!’
Firstly, we gave our details of the age/height/weight/gender/type of cycling variety. Next, our ‘Intertrochanteric Distance’ was recorded with pelvic calipers (not as painful as it sounds – Ed) – essentially the width of your sitbones. Next up, thigh circumferences were measured on the upper leg. The idea is that by relating intertrochanteric distance to thigh circumference parameters, the distance between the ischiatic tuberosities (where the pressure points on the saddle originate) can be calculated.
Lastly, ‘Pelvic Rotation’ was assessed by a small machine not much bigger than a pack of cards, called the pelvic inclinometer, placed at the base of the spine. As each rider has a different pelvic rotation, the assessor can use this and the other data to recommend the correct type of comfort level for additional support.
Here’s how our three testers got on with the recommended test saddles:
Selle Italia Novus Flow S2 idmatch saddle
Distributor: Chicken Cyclekit
My saddle choices in the past have been a little hit and miss to say the least. Usually I’ve had a saddle recommended for me, and I’ve taken a punt. Sometimes this has worked out well, and my heinie has been comfortably cosseted, and other times I’ve finished rides practically glowing, and I haven’t been able to sit down properly for a long while. Sound familiar?
The Selle Italia Novus Flow (a ‘2’ in Selle Italia’s sizing guide) is available in S (small) and L (large). As it’s a ‘Flow’ saddle, the Novus has a small pressure reducing cut out providing airflow to your undercarriage. The nose of the saddle is quite curved which helped me get into a good, comfortable forward position on the saddle for climbing duties.
The fit of the saddle is possibly the best I have ever found. The width is bang on, and my sit bones feel nicely supported. I’ve never ridden with a cut out centre section and was pleasantly surprised by it’s pressure reducing characteristics. Not to mention that cooling breeze.
Selle Italia say that the Novus can be used as a road or mountain bike saddle. It has a thin padding base which gives quite a firm feel to the centre section.
Overall I have been very impressed with the idmatch System. The Novus was a perfect width for my sit bones but the trade-off with this particular model, came in terms of its rigidity and more minimal padding on offer.
Selle Italia SLR Lady Flow S3 idmatch saddle
Distributor: Chicken Cyclekit
Tester: Sharon Anderson
Women’s sit bones are typically 1 cm wider than men’s and this probably explains why – not unlike a lot of female riders – I have had issues finding a comfortable saddle. In light of this, I took little persuasion when offered the chance to be fitted-up.
The idmatch system recommendation was that I should go for a small (S) saddle and one that suited a rider with a medium to high pelvic rotation (2 or 3). I opted to test the S3 SLR Lady Flow; a saddle aimed at serious riders but with added comfort.
The SLR Lady Flow has a genuine leather cover with a Fibra Tek coating, to resist fresh dirt. The shell of carbon fibre reinforced nylon, together with Vanox rails, give this saddle a high strength to weight ratio and it is rated for off-road as well as road use.
At 185g, the SLR Lady Flow is aimed at riders who are looking to save weight and this is kept down by the shell technology as well as the extra large, superflow cut out, which is designed to ensure that no weight is supported by the delicate parts of your anatomy. This feature also provides excellent ventilation. The cut out allowed me to adopt and maintain my optimal ride position – for me this is with my hips rotated fairly far forwards.
This is quite a flat saddle, which facilitates adjusting your riding position to suit the trail; the degree of taper to the sides that hug the hamstrings made me feel well supported when pushing back for hill climbing, and the slightly broader nose with its shock absorbing elastomer provided a reassuring contact point when struggling to maintain front wheel traction.
I always assumed depth of padding was directly related to comfort. In reality I have found that a firmer saddle with less contact can be more forgiving on longer rides, providing that the shell fits correctly. I certainly found this to be the case with this model.
I found this saddle to be a high quality offering and a long distance partner that helped make serious riding a less numbing experience, but a design that, to a certain extent, compromises on sit bone padding for lightness and increased soft tissue relief.
Selle Italia Max SLR Gel Flow L3 idmatch saddle
Distributor: Chicken Cyclekit
I have experienced first world saddle fitting problems as a tall chap, and I come complete with long torso and a lower back injury that often returns to remind me that well, I’m certainly getting older. The idea behind idmatch – that body characteristics and function can determine appropriate saddle support – certainly seemed logical to me but after spending years looking for the one true magic carpet ride, I remained mildly sceptical to how this might translate in the real world.
The saddle’s arrival caused a little intrigue. I had measured for the most comfort orientated perch in the range (L3) but the saddle’s profile was quite flat. Covered with lorica (and a Fibra Tek coating) with gel inserts, the padding also appeared firmer than that to which my arse was accustomed. And the super flow cut out area in the central spine of the saddle looked like huge sink hole that one’s delicates might disappear into and never be seen again.
These concerns were quickly allayed. There is ample flex built into the moulded shell and ti railed construction which absorbs a great deal of the worst trail feedback. And the cut out, rather than being a Jamie crippler, actually provides considerable relief and ventilation. I’ll be re-proofing my waterproof shorts come autumn though, just to keep the trail spray out. The flat profile design also enables plenty of manoeuvrability for body weight shifts and the nose is broad but flat too, for hard climbing duties.
To test the fitting theory further, once I’d nailed the saddle positioning for my sit bones I spent more time on the saddle without a chamois. The meeting of said sit bones and my soft tissue with the gel flow max padding seems an unlikely happy threesome, but this menage a trois might just last the distance.
Although I seem to be the most converted of our testers, my one caveat is that despite this saddle offering the maximum cushion in the range, the ride doesn’t quite offer the ultimate level of plush comfort I would like for a long day in the saddle. Maybe this says more about me than the design, but on balance I’ll certainly be using this model as a benchmark for future saddle expectations.
If you’ve experienced ongoing discomfort, pain or (eek!) numbness during or after a ride, it can start to ebb away at your commitment and enthusiasm for riding. This simple fit process certainly seems to convince our testers that buying from a more informed, anatomical viewpoint works.
The more you think about how your body engages with the key contact points on the bike, especially your precious backside, the more persuasive this argument becomes – and if time is money, and ‘decision making’ means getting things right first time, then this type of saddle fitting assessment starts to make a great deal of sense.
|Price:||From £99.99 to £106.99|
|Tested:||by Various for|