28 December 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Specialized Alias Carbon saddle

As our regular reader has no doubt inferred, I've been on a quest of late for the perfect saddle. Sure, the Aliante Gamma has been good, but it tends to get squeaky with extended use. The WTB Rocket V didn't work well for me in the dirt but has found a happy home on my road bike. Selle Italia's XO Trans Am is plain awesome, but oddly impossible to get a hold of. Having heard great things, about that company's range of saddles, I was excited to try Specialized's Alias Carbon.

On paper (rather on Specialized's website), it seemed like a winner. A patented design was claimed to assure blood flow to sensitive arteries. The flat shell was shared with other saddles I've found comfortable. The 130mm width (one of three options) matched my small frame and the gray pads promised extra comfort under my sit bones. At $110, it wasn't cheap- though there sure are pricier options out there- and its 230g weight should have allowed for plenty of well-placed padding. Into my cart it went, to arrive at bikefix HQ a week or so later.

Generally speaking, I tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to bicycles and graphics. For whatever reason, though, the look of the Alias Carbon really appealed to me. The embossed shapes and textures in the Micromatrix cover imply grip and function that they can't reasonably be expected to fufill. Still, they look cool. Seeing as I don't have a princess' ability to feel textures through my shorts' inbuilt mattress, the embossing remained appealing rather than irritating. The faux-carbon print on the saddle's underside is pretty tacky for a saddle of this (or any) price, but is at least tucked away out of sight. The rails place the saddle's top a fair distance from the top of the seatpost, giving it a race-y look. Just be sure to re-adjust your seatpost height when replacing lower profile saddles.

My first ride on the Alias Carbon was an all-day group ride on Taos' fantastic South Boundary trail. Lots of climbing followed by a very long, quite varied descent. I knew it was a bad idea to spend an entire day on an alien perch, but I was excited to try it out so pulled on my favorite shorts and headed North. What can I say? It was a mistake. After three hours of riding, I could hardly sit. Thankfully, the last couple hours of South Boundry is largely descending. For climbing and riding in general, I really like the shape of the Alias. With its long, hammock-y profile, however, I really expected some more give. The gray sit bone patches felt soft (but supportive) to my thumb- but plain hard on my behind. After a month or so of giving it a fair shake (all for you, dear reader), I put the Alias out to pasture in the great Internet field known as eBay.

Granted, saddle choice is a subjective one, and I tend to put in longer days than many people. That said, I feel that the Alias' shape is great and the saddle could be greatly improved with some improved padding. Not squishy gel padding, but a soft yet supportive material like WTB and fi'zi:k have managed to find. I wouldn't even mind if it gained a few grams in the process. Until then, though, there are plenty of other saddles that I'd have to recommend trying first.




GreenLightGo said...

Take a look at the Bontrager InForm saddles. Go to a Trek store that has the butt-measuring thing, then try the InForm R. I found I was riding too narrow of a saddle - went with the 154mm InForm and it's been great.

bikefix said...

Green Light,

Thanks for the tip- I actually have an InForm RL on test at the moment... So far, I'm very (surprisingly) pleased. Look for a review in a few thousand miles. mb