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Being There: Selle Italia Factory

November 28, 2012
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If you knew someone who used to rides bikes in Italy around, oh say, 1902, there stands a good chance that they may have been riding on a Selle Italia saddle. The saddle maker has been in the business for 115 years and in that amount of time they have found their way onto the bikes ridden by both recreational and top professional cyclists alike.

The last time we visited Selle Italia was for the launch of their unique MonoLink saddle and post concept two years ago so we decided to drop by the factory located in Asolo to not only check in on their latest in saddles, but also their new ID Match fit technology (see below). 

As soon as you walk into the lobby at Selle Italia, you get an immediate education on the the process of making saddles.

In case you were still unsure what it was Selle Italia was famous for, maybe these over-sized recliners would make the case once and for all.

The saddle maker has created an impressive in-house museum showcasing their long history of making saddles.

Besides a plethora of newer saddles on display, they also have some legacy saddles dating back to the 1920’s and 30’s. Surprisingly, a few of these old saddles also used relief cut-outs, although less significant in size as with current models.

Among the many saddles on display was this one autographed by xxx World Champion Alessandro Ballan.

                                  Marco Pantani was a celebrated athlete for Selle Italia.

Frenchman Bernard Hinault was the first rider to get a signature saddle and with his help he gave the brand the international recognition in the Pro peloton that it has maintained ever since the mid-80’s among racers. This Turbo SLG weighed in at 280 grams.

In 1990 the earth just about shifted off its axis when Selle Italia introduced the minimalist Flite saddle. There was nothing else like it on the market at the time. This Flite Evolution was a more modern and lighter all carbon fiber version. Today the Flite line continues with five different models ranging in weight from 180 to 220 grams and it was on a Flite Team Edition that Alexandre Vinokourov won the Olympic gold medal. In addition to the new style of Flites, Selle Italia is now re-producing both the Flite 1990 and the Turbo 1980 in their original design. The 295 gram Turbo saddle is available in either black or (an awesome) brown leather cover.

Can you imagine what the UCI officials would say if a rider showed up for a TT using this radical saddle with maximum lumbar support?

With over 100 years of saddle production at hand, there is no shortage of saddle molds available to use as wall art.

With the wide variety of rail materials and designs on the market, there’s a lot more science going into making saddles than you might first guess.

The test lab features a variety of stress tests that fatigue rails, bases and saddle covers.

With science and medicine now playing as big a role in saddle technology as performance and design, Selle Italia has embarked on a new fit system of  their own creation. Called ID Match, the fit program relies on personal measurements taken at select Selle Italia dealers which then provides the consumer with a choice of six sub-categories of saddles  to choose from.

Dr. Luca Bartoli has been working on and perfecting the ID match system for two years. “The idea was easy,” he said, “but the solution was difficult to create.” Besides the width of a riders’ thigh, another key measurement used to consider the optimum saddle in the Selle Italia line is the amount of pelvic tilt when a rider is bent over.

                               Selle Italia has been making saddles in Italy since 1897.


Saddles with pressure-relieving ‘cut-outs’ are nothing new, and companies like Selle SMP, ISM and even Specialized have been touting the benefits of increased lower-body blood flow for years. Selle Italia, too, has long had a variety of cut-out saddles in its lineup. We’ve heard countless saddle success stories involving cut-outs, channels and other pressure-relieving features, but considering that Selle Italia’s latest model is called the ‘SuperFlow,’ the Italian brand evidently sees greater potential in widening the gap in the perineal area.

Like the other models in Selle Italia’s popular SLR line, the made-in-Italy SuperFlow is designed for the rigors of racing with its carbon composite shell, minimal EVA foam padding and black leather cover. Our test model SuperFlow measures 275mm long by 145mm wide, and it’s also available in a 130mm width. The overall profile of the SuperFlow is quite flat, with only some very subtle curvature toward the rear. At its widest point, the dramatic cut-out measures 38mm, and it runs 197mm down the length of the shell. Another noteworthy comfort feature on the SuperFlow is an elastomer insert positioned at the forward-most point of the cut-out, sandwiched between a carbon plate and the 7mm-diameter titanium rails. This elastomer is designed to alleviate road vibrations that make their way to the saddle’s nose.

On the road, the SuperFlow offers the same feel and support that other models in Selle Italia’s SLR range do, albeit with the very noticeable difference of a gaping hole running down the length of it. Testers familiar with other SLR models required a bit of time to warm up to the notion of the SuperFlow’s large cut-out, but each noted a decrease in numbness in the pelvic region, which is exactly what the cut-out is intended for. The SuperFlow’s standard 7mm-diameter rails mount easily to most seatposts. The inherent downside of a chunk of missing saddle material is that there is less surface area to rest your sit bones on. Testers who often shift their seating positions during long rides noted that it was more difficult to do so with the SuperFlow compared with a saddle that doesn’t have a cut-out.

Our one take-away was that as saddles are so personal, the 145mm width wasn’t a hit with everyone. As one tester put it, ‘I’m a fan of cut-out saddles, but this one was just too wide for me to get comfortable on. I felt like my sit bones were resting on the edges of the cut-out, almost falling into it at times.’ For this rider, the narrower version was preferable.

Selle Italia’s SLR saddles have long been a popular choice for pros and enthusiasts alike. So if you’ve enjoyed one in the past, then we recommend giving the SuperFlow a try-it might just open up a new kind of comfort for you. When shopping for a new saddle, however, make sure to try before you buy; many shops provide demo models for you to test. It’s your most ‘personal’ piece of equipment after all, so invest the time and energy into finding one that works best for you. We think the SuperFlow should definitely be on your list.

? High-quality construction
? Feels like other SLR models-that’s a good thing
? Nice to see two sizes available

Price: $300
Weight: 191 grams
For more info visit: Selle Italia


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