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Tech review - January 15, 2005
On test: Fi'zi:k Arione Carbon
I'm a lover, not a fighter
In less than three months on Fi'zi:k's new Arione Carbon saddle, Anthony Tan's gone from a fighter to a lover.
I chose the Fi'zi:k Arione because I thought it wouldn't suit me. I wanted to write my first bad review. I wanted to say that the shape was a silly one (especially its arrow-shaped end), and that I'm perfectly happy with my Fi'zi:k Aliante that my bum's been perched on for the last three years; that the silvery strip down the middle does absolutely bugger-all; and the wider nose meant the insides of my legs became so chaffed that I developed a condition known as 'Fi'zi:kitis' and am now living inside a bubble.
I wasn't able to write any of those things. Even the bit about the bubble.
While I've always favoured the more traditional-shaped saddles that began way back when I first clamped a Selle Italia Turbo to my first road steed c.1992, I have experimented with a number of flat-backed alternatives, such as the SSM Era and Selle Italia's flyweight SLR. Neither of the latter two really suited me, and I was equally convinced that the Arione would fit into the same 'nice, but not right' category. However, I was willing to give it a go.
Let me explain why. Following a operation on my right knee a number of years ago, the resulting rehabilitation required to return my leg back to its full strength has played havoc with other areas of my body, and thrown many bits and pieces out of equilibrium. I've managed to correct a number of these niggles, but my spine requires regular visits to the osteopath and unequal leg strength has caused my hips to be slightly out of alignment. As a result, my bike fit guy and Cyclingnews fitness panel expert, Steve Hogg, said one of the best things for me is a flat-backed saddle, even though he's well aware of my pet dislike for such things.
Enter the Arione.
At 300mm in length, the distinctively-styled '05 Arione Carbon is about three centimetres longer than your typical saddle, which Fi'zi:k make claim to three benefits. The first is that the longer rear gives roughly 12 percent more surface area than a standard saddle. Second is that a longer length overall has allowed Fi'zi:k to extend the length of the rails to accommodate 85mm+ of adjustability (claimed to be the longest in its category). And last is a by-product of the first two advantages as well as the Arione's ostensibly flat shape: a plethora of riding positions.
Another feature that is common to all of Fi'zi:k's high-end saddles is their 'Wing flex' design, where the sides are slightly more compliant to allow for an unobstructed range of movement on the pedalling downstroke. The white carbon/Kevlar-reinforced Twin Flex shell (new for 2005) and quality leather materials make for a stiff but flexible platform, and at 205 g's all up, it won't hold you back in the weight stakes.
I was pretty much a skeptic right from the moment I bolted the Arione to my seatpost and went on my first ride. It didn't look right, it didn't feel right... it just wasn't right.
No, it wasn't anything to do with faffing around with the fore/aft adjustment, since the distance from the nose of the saddle to the centre of my handlebars is virtually identical between my Aliante and the Arione. It was a little bit to do with the centre strip though, that underneath, rests a piece of a softer material to relieve pressure on the perineum/crown jewels/yo' boys; I used the silvery strip as a gauge to get the tip of the saddle pointing dead straight, however, I only realised a little later that the strip is not quite centred itself between the two pieces of black leather on either side.
That slight misalignment was the least of my issues - it was that bloody flat shape which was giving me the biggest grief. A variety of riding positions may be an advantage, but at first, I just couldn't get comfortable, my body and bum used to a one position, only position mindset.
But then, three rides later, something strange happened. As if a spiritual force had taken control of my sit bones and gluteal muscles and put them at ease. And the more riding I do, the more I like it.
See, once you and your bottom get comfy, see, you begin to enjoy the Arione's advantages. I like the fact how much more stable you feel, and whether it be true or not, it gives the feeling of a more powerful pedalling stroke. I like the wider nose and the slightly more compliant silvery strip, but I reckon it needs to be a little wider for its intended benefit to be fully realised. And while I still tend to stick with the one riding position, I have experimented with a few different positions when climbing or going flat-out on ze flats - something I couldn't do on my Aliante.
Like my Aliante, however, the '05 Arione Carbon uses only the best materials, and so far, everything has stood the test of time, enduring a number of wet rides, soap and water washes with a strong rinse, and loads and loads of salty sweat from my derričre. That said, at US$ 265 (almost twice the RRP of the standard Arione), you'd expect it to last.
One could say I've gone from a fighter to a lover. Over time, the Arione has fended off all my negative preconceptions and turned me into a proponent for flat-backed saddles. I honestly would have thought this could never have happened to an anal-retentive, stubborn-as-a-mule-guy-like-me.
Price: $US 265 (Arione Carbon), $US 135 (standard Arione)