Premium clothing brand Rapha has moved into the saddle market with the launch of two models. Two years in the making, the manufacturer's design brief was to make a saddle that performed in tandem with its bib shorts, favoured by so many road cyclists.
There are two models on offer: the Pro Team is aimed at hard and aggressive riding, for riders that prefer a low-down position on their bike, while the Classic is made for comfort over longer days in the saddle.
We've had the chance to get our hands on an early model. The process starts with Rapha's online fit calculator, where after inputting rider weight, waist measurement and ride style, the calculator makes a recommendation on a combination of bib short and saddle that has been tailored to the rider's specific needs.
According to Rapha, each saddle has foam padding tuned to rider weight, while a single-piece carbon rail runs the length of the perch and is said to provide compliance. Handmade in Italy, the Classic saddle we've received looks to be of the highest quality.
We also received a pair of Rapha Classic bib shorts to test the saddle with, something Rapha's creative director Alex Valdman claims is essential to the overall experience: “We wanted to create an unrivaled riding experience by combining the Rapha chamois with a saddle, so we recruited the most experienced saddle manufacturers, developers and engineers in the industry to help us create a system that could provide total comfort.”
Our Classic saddle certainly looks just that – classic. We're fans of the lines and think it wouldn't look out of place on a heritage Colnago. When combined with the modern tech, it's an appealing combination of old and new.
There are details that catch the eye too: the Rapha logo on the rear, the pink flash on the underside of the nose, the perforated upper. All add to the saddle's premium look.
Testing saddles is tricky as comfort in this area is so subjective. I was surprised at the results of Rapha's fit calculator – it offered up a saddle far more rounded and a lot skinnier than I'm used to. When this was combined with a set of bib shorts that I haven't found the most comfortable in the past, Rapha certainly had its work cut out.
Are you sitting comfortably?
Two Rapha saddles are available, The Pro Team (£295.00) and the Classic (£180.00), in two widths - 130mm (narrow) and 145mm (regular). The Pro Team saddle is also offered with a cutout option.
Both saddles are available in an additional RCC livery. For more information, head to rapha.cc
I was surprised that, in the short term, I found the saddle to be more comfortable than expected, although on a longer ride the difference from my usual saddle of choice was noticeable.
I made sure to ride in both the Rapha bib shorts and those of a competitor. I can't say I felt too much of a difference, although it's difficult to say on a new saddle. Switching saddles is a significant move, particularly if you've already found one you're happy with, so time will tell. One thing is for sure, in moving away from conventional apparel, this is another significant move by Rapha.