28 May 2009

bikefix Exclusive Review: Bontrager inForm RL saddle

I'm not sure why, but I didn't really expect to like the inForm RL. Sure, I was a big fan of Keith Bontrager's saddles before his company was swallowed up by the behemoth known as Trek (or the Ford of the bicycle industry)- but that was a long time ago. My inForm came on a bike that I picked up last year. Its one of the new generation of sized saddles, and as such available in three widths (mine is the intermediate 146). Maybe I was just expecting something similar to Specialized's Alias (the last sized saddle I tried), but I figured that I'd give it a go, changing it out for a favorite before too long. Fast forward several months and a few thousand miles and it hasn't left my bike.

Though one wouldn't necessarily know by looking at it, the saddle in my past that the inForm RL most resembles is Fi'zi:k's Aliante. The while the rear of the saddle is slightly convex (or saddle-shaped), the inForm is flatter than many saddles, both across its breadth and along its length. The rails are hollow stainless steel (here painted white), the weight a very reasonable 220g (claimed) and the price a not-as-reasonable-but-still-manageable $100. Bontrager claim "intelligent graphics placement," and while I think that bumpy seams & graphics should be kept from high-friction areas by default, they often aren't, so it bears mentioning. The company also claim "zone density" padding, which varies the density of the saddle's padding to match the particular zone's function (firmer under the sit bones, less so under the happy parts).

The inForm RL seems made for race shorts. For some reason, it works wonderfully with high end shorts with thinner padding, such as the Castelli Free shorts I reviewed last fall. The fact that the inForm RL works so well with minimally padded shorts and less well with bulkier chamois' suggests to me that they've really nailed the shape of the saddle and densities of padding. The large platform at the rear, which would possibly get in the way on the dirt, provides plenty of space to move around and find a comfortable position during long road rides. The synthetic leather cover is slipperier than some I've used but is holding up very well and its lack of grip has never been an issue. All-over perforation (as in the center section) might help- but would probably compromise long-term durability.

The price of high-end saddles has gotten out of control recently. Paying well over $100 for a part that offers very little weight savings with little guarantee of comfort is quite a gamble. The inForm RL's weight is on the low end for saddles that I find comfortable and its price seems fair given the competition. Bontrager's Unconditional Comfort Guarantee (on saddles purchased aftermarket) makes the inForm RL a pretty safe bet. For road riders looking for a comfortable, flat-ish saddle along the lines of the Arione (but more comfortable, in my opinion), the inForm RL is worth seeking out (try your local Trek or Gary Fisher dealer).



No comments: