Bontrager Serano SL review

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.

20160106_085017_resized

 

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.

20160106_085003_resized

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.

 

 

Back into the frying pan

But without oil, because that’s fattening,  but then again I read something on the internet the other day about how oil really isn’t and besides it’s good for your knees and one of mine hurts so maybe I should drink a pint of it before breakfast, like when Viv from the Young Ones necked a bottle of Mazola.

The wheels have slowly started to spin up again.  Work beckons me back, and I was treated for my conscientiousness in turning up by a beautiful ride to work.  Cotton wool clouds flanked the slopes of the mountain, the air so still that warm air pooled below overhanging trees.  True, there was nothing to blow the occasional stench of cow shit away, but I suppose you can’t have everything.

20160106_060650_resized

Oddly, I don’t seem to have lost too much in the way of fitness.  I attribute this to several things.

Firstly, by the end of last season I had the upper body strength of a three-year old.  Surfing, swimming, running and even the odd bit of swiss ball work have filled the bike-free days, and I’ve found to my amazement that I can climb out of the saddle at a high cadence relatively effortlessly.  I think this now means that a remark that I once read on the internet from a respected coach (who was respected because he put something on the internet) to the effect that any kind of exercise except for cycling is never going to make you quicker at cycling than just going cycling would is total BALLS.  I wrote this on the internet, so that means I’m respected, too, and this is now the new word and I may as a result start my own cult.

The swimming, running and surfing things:  all good ways of raising the heartbeat.  It’s pretty easy to coast on a bike when your heart’s not really in it.  Bit harder to coast when you’re running where everyone can see you, even harder not to push it when there’s a six-foot wave bearing down on you head and you arms already feel like noodles.  And the inevitable bit without breathing that comes shortly after that.  That probably helps too, in the way that oxygen starvation helps suppress conscious thought. Given that most athletes are, no matter how intelligent they might pretend to be in real life, demonstrably fundamentally as thick as pig shit because there’s really no other excuse for it, this is probably a good thing.  Stupidity wins races, after all.

I wrote about letting the off-season do its thing last time, and among the occasional bouts of excess, I’ve eaten really good quality food.  The garden’s bursting with leafy vegetables, fresh fruit is easy to find.  I haven’t watched what I’ve eaten – far from it – but I haven’t filled up with shit.  Some wise man once said that the best way to determine good food was to answer three questions:  one, is it from Greggs the Bakers*?  Two, does it look like anything sold in Greggs the Bakers*?  Three, is it the same colour as anything sold in Greggs the Bakers*?

You can figure out how this works, by the way, even if you are an athlete.

Happy eating.

*Greggs the Bakers may have turned into a health food emporium since I was last in the UK.  They’d have alienated their existing customers, but I’m prepared to be corrected.  Insert white flour, refined sugar and cholesterol peddler of shit of your choice.