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On test: Selle SMP Strike Pro, May 15, 2005

Bending our ideas on saddles

Selle SMP's Strike Pro takes a radical approach to saddle comfort. Mike Brennan suspended disbelief and hopped aboard to find this dramatic-looking seat is surprisingly comfortable.

Selle SMP Strike Pro
Photo ©: Paul Mirtschin
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There are now so many different saddle designs on offer that it's hard for any saddle maker to stand out from the crowd with something new or innovative. After all saddles are, well, saddle shaped. In trying to make something different saddle makers often go off the deep end, with strange shapes and notions that look like they ought to be comfortable, but are useless for more than a few minutes. Selle SMP's Strike Pro stands out immediately with the dali-esque nose and gaping chasm running the length of the saddle to reduce pressure on areas south. But does it work?

Selle SMP has been making saddles since 1947 and though the Strike Pro is the company's first venture into high-end saddles. The unusual design is intended to "prevent the pelvic organs and genitals getting squashed and rubbed, and at the same time increase the blood flow to the leg muscles," according to Selle SMP.

The maker claims the new design drastically reduces pressure on the soft tissue of the crotch while relieving pressure on the blood vessels running down the inside of the leg to help increase blood flow. And it is pretty hard to argue against the point when there seems so little saddle to sit on at all. They also claim that the cavity helps protect the soft tissues and nerves in the crotch and the coccyx from touching the saddle while riding over uneven ground.

Side view
Photo ©: Paul Mirtschin
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The cutaway
Photo ©: Paul Mirtschin
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The underside
Photo ©: Paul Mirtschin
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Plenty of padding
Photo ©: Paul Mirtschin
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The nose of the saddle has quite a severe beak, designed to take pressure off the genitals while riding as well as providing a flat platform for seated grinds up long hills. The cut away through the middle of the saddle, while not a new concept on its own, is a standout feature of this saddle simply by virtue of the scale of the cut away; you can quite literally get most of your hand through. Another nice feature of the saddle is the sloped shape of the back of the saddle which has been designed to spread the load on the saddle between the pelvis and the buttocks.

On installation the first feature to note is the unusually long saddle rails, which makes positioning the saddle a breeze on just about any seat-post/frame combination. The saddle is only currently available with chromoly rails, and it's hard to imagine titanium rails not giving problems with the extreme fore and aft problems this design allows, so weight weenies will probably want to look elsewhere. The leather cover coped well with general trail abuse and a couple of minor excursions away from the handle bars at speed. This is always a bonus especially when the saddle doesn't have Kevlar corners or a plastic protector rail around the back like so many current offerings.

So how did it ride? Given that it is designed to be sat on for an extended period of time, I strapped it on for a couple of 24 hour mountain bike races. The general shape worked quite well both in and out of the saddle, offering stable and comfortable seated positions and not getting in the way when standing. The slightly longer nose helped on descents offering a bit more control over the bike through the thighs. The sloping tail of the saddle allowed seamless entry and exit off the back of the bike when the terrain demanded it. Riders in baggy shorts will also appreciate the drop nose on this saddle as it guides your pants back onto the bike with the rest of you, no more snags.

As for the ergonomic claims? The saddle did almost everything it claimed it would, there was little or no pressure on the soft tissue between my legs while riding which was really easy to appreciate after a couple of hours on the bike. The characteristic numbness that accompanies long rides seemed conspicuously absent while on the Strike Pro, although the tail of the saddle was a little hard for my liking. The nose dropped away at the front creating space to climb more comfortably although climbing on the nose of the saddle was out of the question as the length mean that you were just too far forward to climb efficiently.

There was a noticeable reduction in trail shock to my tail bone, but how could there not be with the great chasm built through the saddle?

Overall the saddle performed as the manufacturers claimed, it cut out the numbness and discomfort that goes with long rides, and kept the sleek shape needed to perform as a racing saddle. It offered plenty of control and room to move around the bike, while offering a design that is user friendly to riders in both Lycra shorts and baggies. If you can get past the looks of this saddle, it has plenty to offer the mountain biker intent on long sessions on the bike.

Weight: 290g
Recommended retail price:
Pros: Comfort, easy to move around on, unusual looks
Cons: A touch heavy, unusual looks
More information: www.sellesmp.com
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