Saddles with cut-outs are nothing new, and most saddle manufacturers offer a few models with carved-out centers. Selle SMP takes it one step further, though–the Italian company designs all of their saddles with cutouts. Each model–from the ultralight Full Carbon to the generously padded Plus–features the distinctive eagle beak profile and relieved central channel.
While Selle SMP may be unfamiliar to some, the company began producing saddles in 1947. For more than 65 years, SMP saddles have been designed and manufactured exclusively in Italy. In 2004, the company was granted four patents for their saddles’ central channel, eagle beak tip, frame, and split rear depression.
Choosing the correct SMP saddle is easy, thanks to the company’s selection table. Simply locate your waist size on the chart, and look for the recommended models. Unlike competitors who offer the same saddle in multiple widths, Selle SMP divides their seventeen professional/road saddles into seven different size families (with men’s and women’s models differing only by color and graphics). Plugging in my waist size revealed that I fell between the large and extra-large saddles. Knowing that I tend to prefer relatively wide saddles, I decided on the Avant, Plus, and Pro models.
|Model||Length (mm)||Width (mm)||Weight (grams)|
All three saddles feature carbon-reinforced nylon shells and microfiber covers (the company also offers versions with genuine leather covers). Each of the test saddles were equipped with stainless steel 7.1mm rails, although the Avant and Pro are also available with unidirectional carbon fibre frames. Selle SMP utilizes three different levels of padding–minimum, standard, and high. The Avant and Plus are classified as high-level padding, and the Pro is spec’d with standard-level padding. Fit and finish was excellent, and each saddle included a tri-color ribbon signifying the Made In Italy construction.
As with any saddle, proper setup is key to comfort and efficiency. Selle SMP saddles are designed to divide the body weight between the glutes and the lower part of the pelvis. To achieve the proper balance, SMP recommends installing the saddles with an initial neutral position. This is achieved by centering the rails on the seatpost clamp, and adjusting the saddle’s tilt to horizontal (with the aid of a spirit or bubble level). From there, the saddle’s position can be fine tuned to accommodate the rider’s preference.
I tested each saddle on multiple bicycles, and with seatposts of varying setback/offset. Each saddle was installed using the aforementioned guidelines, and the initial positions proved to be very comfortable. Fine-tuning the saddles’ positions usually required tilting the noses up slightly, and adjusting fore/aft position to compensate for very steep or slack seat-tube angles. SMP saddles feature rails that offer plenty of room for adjustment, but take care to properly tighten your seatpost’s clamp, as the slick finish can cause them to slip over time.
Although the three saddles all share similar dimensions, I found that I preferred the wider, flatter (side-to-side) shape of the Avant and Plus models. This wasn’t too surprising, though, as my preferred personal saddles all tend to have very flat rear sections. And while I was initially skeptical of SMP’s swoopy profile and eagle beak tip, the saddles’ unique shape worked exceptionally well at reducing pressure on my soft tissues. This improved comfort was immediately apparent when riding in the drops, or climbing steep, technical trails while perched on the saddle’s nose.
That increased comfort doesn’t come at the expense of support. Selle SMP’s one-piece loop frame helps prevent the heavily relieved shell from sagging or collapsing, which is often an issue on conventional saddles with large cut-outs. The saddles’ thick, dense padding proved to be extremely effective at filtering out both high-frequency (paved roads) and high-amplitude (unpaved trails) vibrations. It’s too early to evaluate long-term durability, but I didn’t encounter any issues or premature wear during the four-month test period.
If you’re unhappy with your current saddle, consider one of Selle SMP’s models. Riders who cannot get enough setback, or those who prefer a more angled saddle position will be well served by the Italian company’s offerings. A list of current stockists can be found here, and many dealers have demo or loaner saddles available.
Disclosure: Albabici / Selle SMP provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.