A few months ago I took myself down the forgotten highway and ended up in arse-searing pain. My bottom, for so long happy atop a Specialized Romin, demanded attention. I couldn’t see or feel anything wrong with the Romin, but it seems strange that a partner who for so long was a happy bedfellow was so summarily rejected. Perhaps it was broken somewhere invisible or perhaps the tectonic plates of my arse had shifted – whatever. I would quite happily have rolled the dice on that score and bought another, but sometimes it’s good to cast the net a bit wider and see what one can see, not least for the reason that I think it’s also fair to say that whatever little affection I had for the big S has almost entirely disappeared.
I’m not alone in my contempt for some of their litigious and anti-competitive behaviour of recent years. And as for their effect on local bike shops, don’t get me started. I mean, I get it that you want me to buy your bikes and shoes, I really do. It’s all good stuff and all and everything else being equal I’d probably buy some of it, but I quite like my bike shops to offer a choice. I used to like seeing old French and Italian brands that didn’t have the first clue about marketing and brand-awareness except for tradition, and excellence, and craftsmanship, and that kind of thing. Now I like seeing the survivors from then, American brands and British brands and Taiwanese and Chinese brands too. It’s a rich landscape for the bike-porn addict out there. Just about the only thing I don’t like is egomaniacal monopolies. Rant almost over.
I took myself into the local non-S shop about what they had to offer, which was, to labour a point, MORE THAN ONE BRAND but the Bontragers looked nice and they fitted them there, so I went that way.
I was fitted to something just a little wider to my old Romin (I was fitted for that, too, and I don’t think I’d buy a saddle unfitted these days. Not at $220 a pop.) and looked through their options. The Bontrager Affinity looked the most similar in concept to the Romin, but I ended up settling on the Serano. I seem to have been spending more time on the nose of late, and the shape seemed to my eye to offer the promise of a perch more receptive to moving around on. I’ve got to say too, I quite liked the look of the classic, Concor-like curves.
Getting technical, there’s some different padding-y stuff going on on top which you might or might not notice from time to time. Bontrager have got some flashy name for it but really, this kind of concept has been around since before forever, so I’m not going to dwell on it. I’d say it’s almost traditional, but then the shell’s carbon fibre and the rails are hollow ti, so the weight is distinctly modern. Bontrager say the Serano shape is for flexible athletes, but I wouldn’t really count myself as flexible. I’m not quite a sack of spuds, but some mornings I can barely touch my knees.
A couple of thousand k later and I have no regrets. It’s not exactly plush, but it’s mostly out-of-mind, which is just about all that I ask. A strange side effect of changing saddle is that one pair of shorts that were favourites on my old saddle are now instruments of torture, whereas another pair that I never thought were up to that much are now soft billowing clouds of loveliness. The nose is comfortable, and it’s an easy perch to shift around on, if not quite the park bench that the Fizik Arione is – a saddle, by the way, which my arse detests.
The Serano comes in three widths, and as a final observation, feels very nicely constructed indeed. Bontrager offer a 30-day replacement guarantee if you don’t get on with one of their saddles. If nothing else, that alone led me to take the chance of trying out a perch a little different than the one that went before.
Of course, that I got to wander around in a bike shop that offered stuff I got to choose between didn’t hurt either.