12 August 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Fi'zi:k Aliante Sport saddle

With the cost of high-end saddles rapidly approaching the $300 mark, many saddle companies are producing less expensive versions of their flagship saddles for the original equipment market. While the fancy materials and some complicated features are often forgone, some manufacturers are adding something much more important (to me)- a bit more comfort.

Fi'zi:k's Aliante Sport is an OEM version of their very popular pro-level Aliante. It shares the Aliante's rather wide, flat rear section, broad, flat-ish nose, slightly hammocked center and split tail. The shell is not carbon fiber or relieved like some aftermarket versions though the rails are titanium and the Sport has a bit more padding than the Aliante proper. All of this adds up to a very reasonable 260-ish gram weight.

The 8mm or so of moderately dense padding works very well under my behind. It's not so soft that my sit bones sink in and allow sensitive tissue to bear any weight, and the slightly hammocked center section seems to remove the need for any sort of cutout or channel. While I've used this saddle on the road, it has to be my favorite mountain bike saddle at the moment. The large-ish platform provides plenty of room to move around, which can add comfort on longer rides. The broad, flat nose provides a more-comfortable-than-most perch when things get really steep. On the road, I have experienced a bit of sleepy peepee, which I'd just as soon avoid, but it takes a couple of hours to reach that point. The synthetic Microtex cover may not be as breathable as the Aliante's, but seems to be holding up very well. When the inevitable tears do happen, they don't seem to spread, which makes this an even better off-road saddle. The sides of the saddle (where the center section transitions to the broader rear) are finned somewhat, which is intended to provide a bit of flex. Maybe my thighs are just too supple, but I'm not feeling it, though they can't hurt.

Sadly, however, the Aliante Sport is not on my bike at the moment. After about 8 months of regular off road riding (in the desert, mind, where it's not that muddy), it developed a heinous creak. The problem appears to be in the nose of the saddle, where the rail hairpin seats. After a while, this area seems to wear and becomes quite vocal. While it's bad on smooth surfaces, it becomes especially annoying on slow, bumpy climbs, where it sound not only at every pedal stroke but also over each little bump. This is the second Aliante Sport that's done this to me, and on a road ride with a friend recently he mentioned that his bike had developed a new creak. Sure enough, he had an Aliante Sport on and the noise was coming from the same spot.

If Fi'zi:k can fix the way in which the saddle shell mounts to the rails, they'd have a winner. The going rate (on eBay) seems to be about $70 ($40 without the Ti rails) and would be well worth it if they'd last a bit longer. The shape is spot on for a lot of folks and the construction seems otherwise top notch. The Aliante Sport also features their ICS slot, to which a nice little blinky or their saddle bag can be mounted. The little splash of sliver on mine is quite nice as well...



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