I got my hands on a gorgeous lightweight full carbon saddle. And the first obvious question you want to have answered is whether or not it’s worth investing in such a very expensive product.
In my case we’re talking about the ax-lightness Phoenix saddle. It’s a full carbon saddle weighing a mere 60 grams, which basically makes it one of the lightest saddles in the world.
I chanced upon it when somebody offered it to me with a very steep discount, because it’s slightly damaged. I’d already done research on some of the coolest looking carbon bike saddles, and the Phoenix was actually on the list.
The ax-lightness Phoenix is their most expensive saddle, and originally retails for €300 or about $360. I got it for 75 euros, so I consider myself very lucky.
I bought this saddle mainly because of the bling factor. I judged whether it was worth taking the risk of buying something that could turn out to be totally unusable and decided to go for it.
I read a review where the writer said that the obvious notion of having a carbon saddle because of the clearly visible carbon weave was a tad too much bling for his taste. I disagree and think it’s a thing of beauty.
If you don’t know any better you might believe it’s nothing but a cheap piece of hard plastic. But the fact that a mere 60 grams can hold an adult male body is an extraordinary feat of human engineering, and the intricately laid out carbon is indicative of that human drive to excel.
So no, I don’t need this saddle too, but that’s not the point.
My old Selle Italia OCR Compact Road saddle weighs in at a respectable 326 grams. The ax-lightness Phoenix full carbon saddle weighs 60 grams. That’s more than 5 times lighter for a total weight reduction of 266 grams.
That’s a lot. And is a significant step you can make when you’re reducing weight in all of the components with a goal of shaving kilos off your bicycle. With the new slick MTB tires I reduced the weight with 530 grams. So with the weight reduction achieved in this saddle I’m almost looking at a kilo.
But now that I’ve got it, how does it stack up against the one it’s going to replace? Before I answer that question I want you to watch a clip from the following movie from a professional bike fitter:
In this video you can hear the following statements:
- “Saddle problems are less subjective than they are made out to be.“
- “We used to do saddle fitting in here […] it’s a waste of time. Even with a pressure mapping system, which I have, it’s a complete and utter waste of time. ‘Cause I find out most of the time, you’d get someone would come in. The saddle 30mm. too high, the bike’s too big, they’ve got no support in the shoes, the shoes don’t fit them. All of these things have massive implications in the saddle.”
In this video you can hear the following statement:
- “The nature of people’s saddle problems has almost always nothing to do with the saddle itself. […] Saddle discomfort has nothing to do with saddles. It’s almost exclusively to do with how the rider’s interacting with it.”
- “The two most common traits that we see in rider’s position […] that contribute to saddle problems are excessive saddle height. Because the rider usually lists to one side, which creates this asymmetrical interaction. And / or excessive reach, which results in the rider gravitating to the nose of the saddle to reduce the reach […] and they sit on the narrowest portion of the saddle, and that will cause you saddle problems.”
Lance Armstrong stated “it’s not about the bike”. If you believe the person in the video you can safely say with respect to saddle comfort: “it’s not about the saddle”.
With that out of the way I generally prefer a hard saddle, so soft padding doesn’t move into areas I don’t want it to perform pressure. For a lot of people this seems counterintuitive resulting in a question like: “isn’t such a hard saddle uncomfortable?”. And it doesn’t get any harder than full carbon saddles.
And this Phoenix full carbon saddle is classically shaped without any center cutout, whereas the general trend is towards saddles with cutouts. I now firmly believe that a cutout will not be the defining factor in saddle comfort.
So with all that out of the way the big question is: is it more comfortable than my old saddle?
I would like to think so, especially because it needs to be better because of the price. But the ax-lightness Phoenix is a very different saddle from the OCR. So let me delve a bit deeper into the subject matter
Things to consider before buying a full carbon saddle
- Besides the obvious price difference, the main characteristic of a full carbon saddle is that it has no padding that’ll keep you into place. This means that your bike and saddle needs to be setup correctly, or you will start moving around excessively. And putting tape on top of this saddle kind of defeats the purpose of using it. Bike fitters would say the saddle “locks you into place”.
- Like every carbon product, this saddle is very strong but fragile. It’s more apt to crack and/or break than no full carbon saddles.
- Managing the saddle delicately when moving your bike while not riding is simply quite a nuisance. You can’t move your bike by lifting the back of the saddle. And only with this saddle do you realize how much you use that movement.
- It’s also very common to lean your bike against something by using the saddle. You can’t do that anymore either, unless you’re willing to scratch and damage your very expensive saddle.
- I already had a fixed seatpost clamp instead of a quick release. And that’s a simple, but effective method of preventing someone from walking away with both the saddle and seatpost. These two parts could possibly represent hundreds of euros.
- I didn’t, but if you buy such an expensive saddle, I certainly hope you like it. Brands like Schmolke offer the option to test-ride a purchased saddle, which basically you can send it back used and get a full refund. But even with such a guarantee, it’s not the same thing as being able to really test-ride several saddles. But it is an option you might want to take into consideration when you’re looking for a full-carbon saddle.
- Make sure your current seatpost is compatible with the rails of your full carbon saddle. The rails of my ax-lightness Phoenix is 8mm. That means I need a seatpost with a clamp that’s compatible with 8mm. rails. Only after the fact did I find out the Cane Creek Eesilk seatpost was only compatible with standard 7mm. rails.
So that wraps up this article about full carbon saddles. If you like this article give it a thumbs up. If you have any questions or suggestions for new articles, let me know in the comments below. Cheers.
You might also like
There are a number of reasons why you should put bullhorn bars on mountain bikes, and in this article I’m going to give them. I’ve