Thought some of you who are hunting for the perfect saddle might be interested in this -- I decided to give the Competitive Cyclist saddle demo kit a try.
The deal is you pay them $75, they ship you a box of 13 saddles, and you get to try them out for a week. After a week, you ship them back (return shipment already included in the price of the kit). If you decide to buy a saddle from them, you then get a $35 discount on a saddle (for those of you keeping score, that means it "costs" $40).
I thought it sounded like a great deal -- there are online dealers with return programs, and some local shops with demo saddles, but I figured I would never have the patience to ship lots of saddles back and forth, or go back and forth to the LBS repeatedly to try out such a variety of saddles. In the end, I learned a lot.
So here's what you get:
- a nicely packed case with instructions on how to ship the saddles; even a couple of zip ties to secure the case on its return journey.
- 2 layers of saddles
- they sent me 12 (they told me in advance that 1 of the 13 was not available for trial)
What I did/what I learned:
- 12 saddles is a lot to try in one week! I immediately disqualified several saddles because they were women's models (3) or just too minimalist/racing oriented (2) to try. That left 7 to try out, which is a lot of saddles to get through in a week.
- I devoted a couple of evenings to taking saddles out for short, 2 to 3 mile trials. A couple of saddles didn't even make it out of my neighborhood. But I picked 4 for longer rides.
- I did 20 to 35 mile rides with each of 4 different saddles -- the Selle San Marco Regal, one of the Selle Italia models , the WTB Rocket V, and the Fizik Arione. While not conclusive, I felt this was enough mileage to at least make a purchase decision on these guys.
- The test confirmed that for me there is no substitute for long rides on a saddle. Reading online reviews, others' comments, or short rides didn't teach me much. The 2 or 3 saddles that I really, really believed would be perfect for me ended up being horrible (for me). A couple of saddles I couldn't imagine I would like ended up making my "final 4" selection process. A couple of saddles that felt great for 30 minutes were not so great after two hours in the saddle.
- As a result, I think the kit was definitely worth the money -- if nothing else, it saved me from buying (and returning) one of the saddles I was committed to buy before I did the test rides. It also confirmed for me that my worn out Selle An-Atomica was worth rebuilding, so I sent it off to get rebuilt ($75). For long distances, I still think the Selle An-Atomica was better for me than any of these (though I'm a little annoyed it has to be recovered after less than 3 years of riding).
However, I am still deciding about a saddle I need for a 2nd bike (currently mounted with a Brooks Swift I have never gotten used to). For what it's worth, the 2 I liked the most were the Selle San Marco Regal (not such a surprise, since it felt like a cross between my Brooks Pro and my Brooks Swift) and the WTB Rocket V SLT (which really shocked me, because it's not like any saddle I've ever owned). I have no clue, though, if my preferences make sense for anyone else -- but I do think this is a good way to try out *lots* of saddles in a hurry.