First Impressions: Selle Royal Saba & Selva Saddles

Founded in Italy by Riccardo Bigolin, Selle Royal has been producing saddles for more than 50 years. The company, which began in 1956, now exports saddles to more than 70 countries worldwide. To meet the needs of sport cyclists, Selle Royal created the Performa range of saddles. The new-for-2014 Performa series is comprised of three distinct saddle styles: flat, wave, and anatomic. The wave design, which includes the Saba and Selva models, features a contoured profile with greater padding toward the rear for extra grip and control.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder Selle Royal Saba Selva seat saddle italy

Selle Royal Saba saddle.

Leading Selle Royal’s wave line is the Saba. The handmade saddle utilizes the company’s Shock Shell base, hollow Secto rails, and FleX Foam padding. While the Saba lacks the long center channel found on the company’s Selva model, the Saba’s profile features a more pronounced dip between the nose and tail sections. The result is a flexible-yet-supportive platform with a definite sweet spot. Even with that sweet spot, however, the 279mm length and padded nose makes it easy to slide forward when climbing steep pitches. The Saba has a suggested retail price of €69.90 (including VAT), and our sample came in at 248g (235g stated weight).

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder Selle Royal Saba Selva seat saddle italy

Selle Royal Selva saddle.

Designed for all-weather, all-terrain use, Selle Royal’s Selva also features the company’s FleX Foam padding, but utilizes slightly heavier manganese rails. Compared to the Saba, the Selva has a flatter (fore-aft) profile, which, combined with the aforementioned center channel, allows for more flexible positioning. Whereas the Saba has a more rounded profile when viewed from the front, the Selva’s profile is more angular, with a flatter peak that runs the length of the saddle. Suggested retail price for the Selva is €49.90 (including VAT), and our test saddle weighed 273g (255g claimed weight).

Riders who spend more time seated in one position would be well served by the Saba. If you’re the type of rider who spends equal time in, and out of the saddle (or tend to move around on the saddle), you may want to consider the Selva. Both models feature Selle Royal’s Integrated Clip System, making them compatible with the company’s saddle accessories. Construction on both samples was excellent, with no excess adhesive, or sloppy edges.

Disclosure: Selle Royal provided product samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

First Impressions: Time ATAC XC8 Carbon Pedals

It seems that I have an affinity for French clipless pedals. Back in the early/mid-90s I used LOOK’s funky MP90 and S2S pedals. When Time introduced the original ATAC (Auto Tension Adjustment Concept) pedals circa 1996, I (happily) made the switch. Fast forward to late-2013, and I’m riding Time pedals once again. This time, it’s the company’s ATAC XC8 Carbon model.

The heart of Time’s ATAC system is a two-bar design that is self-cleaning, and allows angular rotation (±5°), as well as lateral float (6mm). ATAC cleats offer 13° or 17° release angles, and the pedals’ release tension is adjustable with a small, flat-blade screwdriver. Time lists the Carbon 8′s weight as 284g, and our sample pair weighed 288g (the cleats and mounting hardware came in at 46g). The XC8–like the company’s XC6 and XC12 pedals–uses an 8mm allen wrench for installation.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder Time ATAC XC Carbon 8 pedal Sugino ZX801D

The carbon body offers a good blend of support and ground clearance.

Clipping into ATACs requires a toe-down, forward motion that’s not unlike scraping gum off the bottom of your shoe. There’s no wondering if you’re clipped in or not, as the pedals provide a very distinct click (both audible and tactile) when the cleats are engaged. The cross-country ATACs may not have the substantial platforms/bodies of Time’s MX or DX brethren, but the XC offers improved ground and rock clearance while still offering enough surface area for unclipped pedaling.

Once clipped into the Carbon 8s, you immediately notice the increased freedom of movement afforded by the ATAC system. You can apply body English by rotating (or sliding) your foot, but without the risk of the pedal releasing unintentionally. Coming from 15 years of riding Speedplay Frog pedals, my feet (and knees) were used to roaming freely, so the ATACs’ float made switching over quick and easy. Even with the Time’s ample float, however, I never felt like I was expending unnecessary energy keeping my feet positioned correctly for proper pedaling technique.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder Time ATAC XC Carbon Louis Garneau T-Flex LS-100 BOA

Changing the release angle is achieved by swapping the cleats from left to right.

Nearly any clipless pedal designed for off-road use can perform well in dry conditions, but the real test comes when things get muddy (or worse). Time’s open retention system allows gunk to be easily pushed through the loops, while the cleats’ simple shape is less likely to trap debris. With the ATAC XC pedals, I could traipse through mud, snow, and even ice, and still clip in easily and reliably. As the cleats broke in, entry and exit became even smoother.

During this review period, I tested the XC8 pedals with Louis Garneau’s T-Flex LS-100 and SIDI’s Dominator 5 shoes. Neither shoe required any modification to accommodate the ATAC cleats. Despite the cleats’ diminutive profile, I never noticed any hot-spots with either of the aforementioned shoes. While it’s too soon to comment on the Time’s long-term durability, the company offers a wide range of replacement parts.

Disclosure: Time Sport and Louis Garneau provided product samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

First Impressions: SKS Raceblade XL Fenders

It’s no secret that fenders make riding in the rain a hell of a lot more tolerable. But what if your bike doesn’t have the necessary mounting points, or clearance for traditional full-length fenders? Thanks to SKS-Germany’s Raceblade XL fenders, you can add wet-weather protection to nearly any bicycle.

SKS offers a staggering array of fenders (or mudguards, if you prefer). The company’s Raceblade line, originally intended for racing machines, has expanded to include the full-length Raceblade Long, and the model that we tested–the Raceblade XL. While the three models offer varying amounts of coverage and protection, they all feature mounting systems designed to accommodate hard-to-fit frames and forks.

GRAVELBIKE.com SKS Raceblade XL H+SON Archetype Kenda Kriterium Endurance Black Mountain Cycles CamelBak Shimano microSHIFT Speedplay Frog

No additional toe/wheel overlap, even with winter shoe covers.

The Raceblade and Raceblade XL share the same quick-release mounting system. Once configured, the fenders can quickly and easily removed or installed simply by unhooking the rubber fixing straps (no tools are required). If you don’t wish to remove the Raceblades, the included cable ties can be used for more permanent mounting. Even with the rubber fixing straps, the Raceblade XLs held securely over rough pavement and bumps. Whichever attachment method you choose, be sure to protect your frame and fork’s finish by using the included protective film.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder SKS Raceblade

A single rubber strap can be wrapped “candy cane” style for additional security.

How much protection do the Raceblade fenders provide? While they don’t offer the coverage of a full-length fenders, the Raceblade XLs are more than adequate for fending off light rain, road spray, or snow melt. In those conditions, your feet and backside will stay dry, but because the rear fender doesn’t extend past the brake, expect some slop to make its way onto your bike’s seat tube and bottom bracket area. Our XL test samples easily accommodated 28mm tires, and weighed 350 grams for the pair (including rubber spoilers and mounting straps).

GRAVELBIKE.com SKS Raceblade XL H+SON Archetype Kenda Kriterium Endurance Black Mountain Cycles CamelBak Shimano microSHIFT Speedplay Frog

Silver Raceblade XL shown with rubber spoiler (mudflap) for additional protection.

 

Disclosure: SKS-Germany provided product samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.