One of the most important jobs done by a bike part for me over the last few seasons has been a Specialized Romin. That job is to carry my bum over mountain passes and around XC race tracks all across the world! Bike saddles are one of three contact points that you rely on to keep comfortably ticking the pedals over for hours on end. Get it wrong and the pressure can be unevenly distributed leading to numbness, whereas get it right and suddenly you choose your bike saddle over your lounge!
For me, the Romin’s deep centre channel and slightly curved mid-section suited me perfectly and I set about collecting them before Specialized stopped making it. Unfortunately, my stockpile ran out towards the end of last year and the new Romin was slightly different so I decided it was time to move on. Maybe the grass would be greener. Then I came across the new age stub nose saddles. Built for riders looking to be comfortable and producing power in an aggressive position, the stub nose features a shortened front end and wide back. This targeted aggressive position was probably more for riders on TT bikes or in the drops on road bikes, but after seeing some world cup XC riders favour them I started to become interested in why.
After some looking around, I settled on the Stealth saddle from PRO bike gear, a company related to Shimano. At first glance the Stealth is short and fat. The nose is quite wide and the recess through the middle is also wide. There is very little curve through the mid section which had me a little worried after having come off the pronounced curve of the Romin. Setting it up wasn’t rocket science, though it does require a few millimetres addition to the regular seat position due to the shortened nose. I’ll be honest about my first ride, I didn’t really like it. The outer coating was a bit too slippery and the nose was so different and fat compared to my past saddle that I just couldn’t seem to get comfortable.
I went about tinkering with the position when I got home, tilting it a bit more and moving it forward a touch. The next day I went on a proper ride with steep climbs and technical single tracks. And that’s when I understood the Stealth and why those pro’s I mentioned were probably picking the stub nose saddles. That slippery coating and short fat nose was no longer a concern once on single track or climbing up a ‘proper’ climb. It meant I could slip to the front of the saddle to put power out on a steep section, then in a split second, be back into my power position when the terrain flattened out. The aggressive position of a road bike in the drops or TT bike is similar to climbing a 20%+ climb on a MTB and I found I could roll my hips forward into a more powerful position. The ‘fat’ nose meant I was comfortable ‘on the rivet’ and didn’t feel like I was sitting on a pole like with some other saddles (not pleasant). The slightly curved rear helped ‘catch’ me and keep me in position when I moved from front to back. Also for technical sections I found I was far more dynamic and able to move around on the seat.
My last saddle was very much one position only, but on the Stealth, there are many more options for me to sit and pedal. On the road, this might not be so important but on a mountain bike it makes a great deal of difference and is one of those things you don’t realise your missing until you experience it. Agility is nice to have but comfort is the big one that can make or break a saddle. I bought the Stealth just before my prep for the XCO World Championships, which required training sessions both long and outdoors and indoor rides to escape the cold. I was pleasantly surprised with the noticeable difference on indoor rides when I’m not in and out of the saddle releasing the pressure every few minutes. I could stay seated and keep tapping away in relative comfort. The padding was good and the deep recess, welcome. Ok, it might not be as comfortable as my lounge, but it was an improvement. I guess the grass is greener!