Product Test: Bontrager’s 70-gram XXX Saddle

Riding the scale of comfort

Long ago when company namesake Keith Bontrager was making his mark as a frame and component builder, he coined a famous adage to act as a reminder for cycling consumers who expected to have it all when it came to purchasing the latest and greatest: “Strong, light and cheap—pick two,” he warned.

Keith’s timely lament about what the limitations of what they’re buying power brought remains as salient now as it was back when the market was being flooded with lightweight (and questionable) mountain bike components.   

When it comes to the radical all-carbon XXX saddle, the Trek catalog lists among its many features that it is “perfectly comfortable for even the longest days on the bike.” Could that be true? 

THE TECH

There are few things worse than when a big bike company has a product launch and the product ends up breaking. That’s what happened two years ago at a Trek launch when they seeded a few journos with a pre-production version of the Bontrager XXX carbon saddle and one of them snapped in half. Oops. Back to the test lab they went. 

Following a few design tweaks, Bontrager’s XXX saddle has returned, and it is quite the engineering marvel. Made in America using Trek’s proprietary OCLV carbon, the XXX is the lightest saddle that’s ever crossed our desks. At 250mm long and 138mm wide, the XXX is a full-size saddle that is as slippery on top as it is smooth. The bonding of the separate carbon pieces is meticulous, and the curvaceous shape is truly eye-catching. It’s also very hard.

In addition to all the marketing verbiage about the saddle using Trek’s Aggressive Posture 2 and BioDynamic technology, the one design element we can vouch for is the Contour Relief Zone Plus cutaway, which is designed to enhance soft-tissue protection.

The XXX uses 7mm by 9mm carbon rails, so make sure you have a seatpost that will accommodate the oversized rails.

THE RIDE

The one caveat we have with the XXX saddle is that just as with handlebars and shoes, saddle comfort is a very personal choice. While the Bontrager XXX saddle isn’t uncomfortable, neither is it all that comfortable, either. We’ve definitely ridden saddles far more uncomfortable. 

After our first few rides, the saddle did leave us all curious who at Trek would consider the XXX to be an all-day comfort choice, because after two hours aboard, we were ready to call it a day. 

It’s a good thing that the saddle surface is as slippery as it is, because it allowed for easy fore-and-aft rider movement, which came in handy as you tried to find some of that all-day comfort. Still, no matter how much we moved around, our sit bones always found the hard edge of the CRZ cut-away and protested.

THE VERDICT

It’s no secret that as proud, badge-wearing roadies, we are all obsessed about weight. No matter how beautiful a bike, the first thing we always do is hoist it up and ask the same old question: “How much does it weigh?

The Bontrager XXX saddle will no doubt aid and abet anyone looking to impress. And not only when it comes to fellow weight-obsessed road geeks, but also to the many bewildered non-cyclists who always wonder about our masochistic inclinations whenever they roll their hands across a minimalist saddle and ask, “Isn’t that uncomfortable?” 

Let’s face it, roadies also have a long legacy of buying products that bring with them plenty of attention for their perceived cool factor. The Bontrager XXX saddle is one of them. At a feathery-light 70 grams with beautiful finish work, this is the saddle that’s perfect for the coffee-shop ride—short, casual and the perfect talking point to impress the friends with.

Would the Bontrager XXX saddle be our first choice for a saddle? No. Is it easily one of the best attention-getting products we’ve tested that just oozes cool points? Yes.

PUNCH LINES

As light as it gets

Super cool—just because

Lacks all-day comfort

STATS

Price: $380

Weight: 70 grams

www.trekbikes.com

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