I like personal product reviews versus magazine reviews because they provide real world feedback to the nuances of particular equipment, especially over the long term. I've found when it comes to bike saddles however, even the best reviews won't compare to actually getting your keester on one and going for a ride. Nonetheless, I thought I'd share my saddle of choice because as with many things I just kind of "arrived" at my saddle and have stuck with it, even when I've had to hunt for a replacement.
Saddles are interesting because what fits one person may or may not fit another. Some go for the most comfortable while others will go for the lightest possible. I think most shoot for somewhere in between. Some manufacturers like Specialized and Bontrager have gone to varying widths based on butt measurements and there are others like Adamo who have completely re-thought saddles with pretty funky looking shapes. Many lineups feature saddles for folks who are more bent over or for riders who like to ride more upright. Fizik has become popular over the last few years with their Arionne model which offers a platform for the rider to slide forward and back quite a bit while there are tried and true saddles like the Selle Italia Flight and Lance Armstrong's long time choice of Selle San Marco's Concor Lite.
18 years, 2 saddles
When I started mountain biking in 1994, I had a $300 Specialized Hard Rock. I quickly started upgrading components to lighter and more functional bits. I also had to keep up with my buddies. Needless to say that by the time I was done with that Hard Rock, it was the pimpn'est $300 mountain bike around!
One of my first upgrades was a new saddle. I went to my local bike shop and picked out what I though looked comfortable but light. I chose a Bontrager with its trademark "clipped ears". The sides of the saddle were cut off to allow the rider to slide back off the saddle for descents. Titanium rails, reasonable padding and I probably paid around $100. When I upgraded my bike to a Stumpjumper, the saddle came with me. The Stumpjumper was stolen and I got a Scott Pro and quickly swapped out saddles to the Bontrager. I sold the Scott in 2000 and got a classic Bontrager OR hardtail. I spec'ed the bike with, you guessed it, the same Bontrager saddle.
In 2006 I purchased my first in a long time road bike. I got a Lemond Tourmalet. The low grade saddle that came with the bike was too thick and too heavy for my tastes. The saddle I had been using on my mountain bikes for so many years was really built for MTB'ing so I went to the Performance Bike catalog. The Forte Pro SLX looked the part, was light at 205 grams, had a nice cutout for my taint and was only $50. I put a lot of miles on that saddle and loved it. I had found saddle #2.
I upgraded to a carbon bike in 2009 and spec'd the Forte once again. But when I got a new bike for 2010, Performance had discontinued my beloved saddle. How could they?!?! An exhaustive search of the interweb turned up nothing. But in my search I stumbled across the Pronto SL-Z2 made by Velo. Score! It was the same shape, same shell and same rails with only some cosmetic changes. Same $50 price tag too! The ride was spot on. I lucked out. But this winter, after 2 solid racing seasons, the Velo wore out and it was time to replace.
I went back to the interweb and sure enough, the Pronto had also been discounted. Search number 2 yielded a perfect replacement.
Serfas Phanton Carbon
While Velo stopped selling the Pronto, they keep making it and marketing it under the Serfas brand as the Phantom Carbon (Serfas website) This time however its been upgraded with braided carbon rails which dropped the weight to 155 grams. I'm happy to report that the saddle is a spot on replacement and upgrade of the Forte Pro SLX I ordered in 2006. Comfy, light and even more damp with the carbon rails than its predecessors. The retail price jumped a bit to $170 but thanks to The Bike Shoppe and Serfas the price was right.
The carbon rails are a bit thicker than the ti rails so I had to swap out the guts to my seat clamp. With my shorter crank arms however the change evened out and I only had to adjust my seat mast top 1 mm.
The saddle measures out at 273mm x 133mm.
I did try out a few different saddles last winter while training at The Bike Shoppe's spin lab. The Selle Italia SLR Gel Flow was un-bearable. The Fizik Arionne has a long, flat top which is great for moving around but felt like I was sitting on the seat post without a saddle. I rode a Fizik Aliante which I liked quite a bit, but its shapely cut made moving around on the saddle difficult.
The Serfas Phanton Carbon, like its ancestors, is a neutral shape. I'm a larger framed guy and it feels like the saddle would fit different body types. You'd also have to spend over $200 to find a comparable weight carbon saddle so its a great value. If you're taint is suffering, a new saddle may be needed. I highly recommend this saddle and Matt over at The Bike Shoppe in Ogden would be glad to set you up!