Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Specialized BG Toupe Saddle ~ Review

Body Geometry (BG) saddles come in various guises both on a price and intended use level. Unlike many other saddle manufacturers they also can have up to three widths to choose from. The first thing you need to ascertain is the correct width for your sit bones. This in itself is a simple process that requires you to sit on a Gel pad to gain the information (it has makers on one side and a conversion table on the other side). Once performed it was calculated that I would need a 143 size, but depending on which bike or your given riding style you may need to reduce this, I am particularly thinking about time trailing or track riding when your position may be slightly more extreme than your regular road one.

When you are setting up the saddle you will need to take in to account the plastic nose and tail sections as these end up making the seating area smaller than their other saddles like the Alias. Compared to the original Toupe the Gel version has received a stiffer shell due to the increased amount of carbon now used. As indicated this version now has Gel on the sit bone area to increase comfort with a small increase in the weight of the saddle. With two colour options (black or white) it should suit most bicycles. The same hollow Ti rails remain from the original model, as there is no need to chuck the baby out with the bath water.

The pressure relief area works very well, and the best thing I can say in using it is that it goes un-noticed when in use. I have used a few other cut out saddles and this has definitely not been the case, with more pain being evident than the saddle reducing it. The real proof in the pudding is when you do jump onto a regular non-pressure relief saddle as you can immediately feel this area under the perineum. So in my books there are no negatives except one on the cut out, on wet rides the spray of the saddle can go up through the whole leaving you with a wet central section. Even if you don’t buy into the BG philosophy, you still end up with a great looking saddle.

The sides of the saddle are nicely sculpted away to leave less interruption from pedal strokes than some other deep-sided saddles. As I mentioned before, the plastic sections can affect set up, you loose 15mm on the front and another 15mm again on the back. This ends up reducing the useable overall length from a possible (measured at the longest point) 275mm to 245mm, making the contact area relatively small. If you have used an Arione before, which has a 300mm length, this will probably feel very strange indeed, but if you have used a Concor it should feel familiar. I would prefer if Specialized went back to a full 275mm length as this offers a wider spectrum of position options. Weight of the saddle is 206g and the useable rail length is 78mm, which is quite long.

For shorter rides, say up to the 80km mark, I found the saddle to be very comfortable with nothing to report back. Using it for longer rides (over 80km) the personality changed greatly. Over the longer distances the sit bones would become sore, to the point that once off the bike and sitting on a normal chair it would offer a mild discomfort. I put this down to two things, 1. The lack of padding available on the saddle, even though the Gel pads were there they did not provide the desired comfort level 2. The small reduction in length which never quite allowed me to achieve my ideal position, and at times forced me to ride on the plastic tail piece. I also threw into the equation that I am a heavier rider, but having talked to some other riders (70kg guys roughly) they also experienced the same issue over longer distances.

Final Words

I can’t fault the saddle on the build quality and I liked the sleekness and general appearance. Saddles are a very personal affair, and while it did not work for me over a long distance I was more than happy on shorter rides. My experience is probably in the minority as this has been one of the top selling saddles over the last 12 months. I would happily fit the Toupe to a track or TT bike where saddle time is less but comfort and weight are still important factors. If you are a mega mile muncher this may not be the saddle for you and you may be better served by looking at the Alias model in their range. Although it is a little heavier it does offer more padding and has a full length to play with, and over long distances presented me with no problems. If you are interested in this saddle (or any other Specialized model) see if you can persuade your local IBD to loan you one, it might just turn out to be your cup of tea.

This article was originally posted on 26th May 2008 on http://sprintingforsigns.com/content/specialized-bg-toupe-gel-saddle

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