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Selle San Marco Shortfit Carbon FX Saddle

Selle San Marco Shortfit Carbon FX Saddle Review: Changing your shoes, pedals or saddle can be a big decision and far from easy. Your saddle is a very personal thing and is usually your first impression of any bike and to try a different shape or size is a bold step. Chuck Peña has ventured into the unknown of the ‘Short Fit’ saddle – Here are his thoughts and experience.

Castelli Gabba RoS

I’ve been riding the Fizik Kurve Bull saddle for the past five years and absolutely love it. It’s a very unique saddle without any padding to speak of, yet extremely comfortable (for me) because of the way it flexes. Even though you (obviously) sit on the saddle, the feeling is more like one of floating. Surreal is a term that comes to mind. However, my saddle was beginning to show signs of wear and, unfortunately, was discontinued several years ago. One logical option was to find another one from a retailer that still had stock or on eBay. But I’ve also been intrigued by the introduction of shorter nose saddles that have become more popular in the pro peloton. So…

I was happy to be the guinea pig to review the Selle San Marco Shortfit Carbon FX saddle (featured in the PEZ Holiday Gift Guide’19 #2).

Why a short-nose saddle?
This is the proverbial $64,000 question to which there is no definitive answer.

But you might want to ask yourself how much (if any) time you actually spend riding on the nose of the saddle.  The reality is that even when you think you’re riding “on the rivet,” you’re probably not on the actual nose of the saddle.  So a short-nose saddle gets rid of unneeded real estate (and weight for the weight weenies).

Short-nose saddles have been popular with the triathlon and TT crowd because they allow you to lean forward more and get lower into the aero position more comfortably by reducing pressure on soft tissue. It’s just not that the nose is shorter on short-nose saddles. The nose of the saddle is usually wider than traditional saddles, providing more of a platform for sitting when the rider wants to ride “on the rivet.” Although not to the same extreme as TT or triathlon, why not a similar concept for a saddle on a road bike where getting more aero is what it’s all about these days? For a “burgeoning senior citizen,” my back is still pretty flexible (although playing golf with my daughter is a killer) and I still ride a low (-17 degree stem with no spacers) position on my road bike, so a short-nose saddle would seem to suit me.

Short-nose saddle design is supposed to encourage riding in a more fixed position, offering better stability and better weight distribution, because you’re not moving around as much. That actually describes my riding position, so a short-nose saddle would seem like a good match.

Rider height might also be a factor. If you’re 5 feet 8 inches or shorter, your body mechanics might work better with a short saddle. Well, I’m 5 feet 8 inches tall!

Another potential benefit of a short-nose saddle is increased clearance for the quads and hamstrings because there’s less saddle to get in the way.

Finally, if your current saddle is just uncomfortable, a short-nose saddle might be the solution (regardless, you need a different saddle!).

Why the Selle San Marco Shortfit Carbon FX?
Everyone knows that a saddle is a very personal choice. What’s comfortable for one rider is a pain (in the a** or other anatomical areas) for another. And I know it’s always a risk switching to a new saddle. The overriding criteria for me was that any new/different saddle had to have a similar shape to my Fizik Kurve Bull, which is based on the Aliante. That means a saddle that has curve both front-to-back and side-to-side.

Interestingly, the Aliante shape is supposed to be for less flexible riders with high pelvic rotation per Fizik’s original “spine concept” for saddle fitting introduced in 2009. Yet, I’m actually fairly flexible per Fizik’s definition (being able to touch your toes) and, according the them, should ride a “flat” saddle like the Arione. I actually test rode an Arione and it was completely uncomfortable for me. One of the reasons why it’s so important to test ride saddles and not necessarily go entirely by a manufacturer’s recommendation.

The Selle San Marco Shortfit Carbon FX is what they call a “waved” shape that has a curve/dip, so has a very similar side profile to my Fizik Kurve Bull. Selle San Marco recommends it for riders with high pelvic rotation and claim it’s suitable for riders with both a flat back (retroverted pelvis) and accentuated lumbar arch (anteverted pelvis). Honestly, based on Google-ing, I don’t know what the technical mumbo-jumbo really means — but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with how you curve/arch your back and rotate your pelvis.

The other factor was saddle width. My Fizik Kurve Bull is 146 mm wide. At 144 mm wide, the Selle San Marco Shorfit Carbon FX isn’t the exact same width, but — as the saying goes — close enough for government work.

So just based on shape and size, I thought the Selle San Marco Shorfit Carbon FX would be a good fit.

BTW, it’s worth noting that the Selle San Marco Shortfit Carbon FX is not marketed as a gender-specific saddle and Selle San Marco claim it is suitable for women.

Saddle specs and features
● Length – 250 mm (if you’re curious, the UCI minimum saddle length is 240 mm)
● Width – 144 mm
● Weight – 150 grams (NOTE that this what the Selle San Marco website says, but the spec sheet provided with the saddle says 140 grams).

The above specs are for the FX version of the Shortfit saddle, which has carbon rails.  The Racing version has alloy Stealth Xsilite rails and is heavier. Selle San Marco also make a narrow the Shortfit (with either carbon or alloy rails) that is 134 mm wide and lighter than its wider siblings.


My saddle must have been on a diet because it tipped the scales lighter than spec!

Besides weight, the carbon rails have a different frame design than the alloy rails. The alloy rails on the Shortfit saddle are a traditional design in that they are two separate rails that run parallel from the rear of the saddle to the nose. The FX version with carbon rails has what Selle San Marco calls a “Carbon Waist – Dynamic Node Action” design. The rails run parallel with each other from the rear of the saddle but cross to form an X-shape before attaching at the nose. Selle San Marco claims this allows them to make the saddle even lighter and more rigid, avoiding twisting, and maintaining an excellent level of comfort.”


The x-factor

One important thing to remember with carbon rails is that they’re not round. They are ovalized. If you have a seatpost that clamps the rails from the top and bottom, you shouldn’t have any issues. But if your seatpost clamps the rails from the side, you’re going to need an adapter from the manufacturer.


Carbon rails aren’t just lighter than alloy, they’re dead sexy!

The saddle shell is carbon-reinforced polymer, so both light and stiff. Much like shoes with a nylon/carbon composite sole, the idea is to provide some flex so it’s not board stiff and thus more comfortable. As is the case with a lot of racing saddles, the padding is a relatively thin and firm “Biofoam” that is supposed to have memory foam-like qualities. The saddle cover is a synthetic material called “Microfeel.”

The Shortfit Carbon FX is definitely a minimalist saddle, which always makes me think of this story by former women’s pro racer Amy Charity buying her first road bike as a total noob:

“Testing a few bikes in the parking lot, I commented how incredibly uncomfortable the saddles were. Why do they make their saddles like tiny little bricks, I asked the salesman with genuine curiosity. (Little did I know how much I would grow to appreciate a minimalist hard saddle.)”


A faux carbon finish at the back of the saddle

New for me is the relatively large cutout on the Shortfit Carbon FX (I’ve always ridden a traditional saddle). The cutout is supposed to improve the blood flow preventing numbness and provide relief from pressure on the perineum.


Relief for the “down under” bits

Mounting the saddle
Because the Shortfit Carbon FX saddle (or any other short-nose saddle) is shorter, you’re going to have to figure out replicating your fore/aft position. Even though the saddle has markings on the rail, these are really of no use if you’re switching from a different saddle because the rail lengths and the position of the rails relative to the shell are highly unlikely to be the same as your current saddle.


Don’t assume these bear any resemblance to the rail markings on your existing saddle

One way to do it is to hold the saddle next to your current saddle (mounted on the seat post) and “eyeball” about where on the rails you need to clamp. In other words, a lot of trial and error adjusting.

A method that’s more likely to replicate your old saddle position (even if it doesn’t, you’ll be very close and only have to make very minor adjustments) is:

● Lay the short-nose saddle on top of your traditional, longer length saddle
● Align the wide part (where you sit) of the saddles (sometimes as easy as simply pushing the backs of the saddles up against a wall)
Measuring the length difference between the saddle noses
● Measure the distance between your current saddle’s nose to the steerer tube
● Add the difference in saddle length to the nose to steerer tube length
● Install the short-nose saddle with the above distance between the nose and steerer tube

Of course, make sure you set the saddle angle to your riding preference (mine is to have the nose and tail of the saddle level with each other). This also gives you an idea of what the wave/dip in the Shortfit Carbon FX saddle is like.

Don’t forget to get your saddle height right. Don’t assume that just slapping a new saddle on your seat post will result in the saddle height being the same as your old saddle. It might, but millimeters matter so measure. In my case, I actually had to raise my seatpost 10 mm to get the Shortfit Carbon FX to the right ride height.

Finally (for any saddle with carbon rails), make sure you torque the bolts properly. Selle San Marco recommend a max of 6 Nm. I went with 4 Nm, which seemed plenty tight.


I know it masks the gorgeous carbon rails, but for both grip and protection I wrapped the carbon rails with cloth tape

Back in the saddle
My Fizik Kurve Bull saddle was “love at first sit.” And my butt logged more than 25,000 happy miles on it. So how does the Selle San Marco Shortfit Carbon FX stack up?

One thing I was certain about was that the Shortfit Carbon FX wouldn’t be able to duplicate the surreal feel of the Fizik Kurve Bull – no saddle could.

My butt’s first impression of the Shortfit Carbon FX was that I definitely felt like I was sitting on the saddle. Whereas the Fizik Kurve Bull almost disappears under you, I could definitely feel the Shortfit Carbon FX. What I felt was firm but comfortable. And – even though the Shortfit Carbon FX is a few millimeters less wide than the Fizik Kurve Bull – it felt like my butt had a somewhat wider perch on which to rest (this is probably because the Shortfit Carbon FX is a little flatter at the back of the saddle before dropping off to the sides).

With the Shortfit Carbon FX’s wave shape, I was able to find my position on the saddle easily. And once there, I could just settle in and pedal. Where this was most noticeable was getting into a rhythm on seated climbs.

The shorter nose made it easier/more comfortable to get aero. And it was more comfortable when I found myself riding more forward on the saddle.

Despite the relatively thin and firm padding, the ride never felt harsh or hard. The shell doesn’t flex anywhere near as much as my Fizik Kurve Bull, so I’m wondering if the carbon rails help take some of the edge off.

Probably the biggest revelation riding the Shortfix Carbon FX was the cutout. I could definitely feel the difference versus a saddle without a cutout. There’s just more room “down there,” which translates into more comfort – the kind of comfort that even my Fizik Kurve Bull couldn’t provide because it didn’t have a cutout.

I haven’t had a chance to do any all-day rides yet, but my butt was happy for 2-3 hour rides on the Shortfit Carbon FX. But I don’t have any reason to believe it won’t be comfortable on longer rides. Based on the riding I’ve done, I’m pretty sure I’ve found a worthy successor to my Fizik Kurve Bull. Winston Churchill once said, “No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle” and I’m looking forward to many hours riding the Selle San Marco Shortfit Carbon FX.

Saddles are a very personal thing. Indeed, given the contact point, it’s a very intimate choice. So don’t take my or anyone else’s word that a particular saddle is right for you. You really do need to test ride a saddle to know if it’s comfortable and will work for you and your riding style. That said, if you currently ride a saddle with a curved shape and want to see what the whole short-nose saddle phenomenon is about, the Selle San Marco Shortfit Carbon FX (or Racing if you want to save a few dollars in exchange for adding a few grams of weight) is a solid option to consider.


Me and Joe Dombrowski… both converts to short-nose saddles


PEZ contributor Chuck Peña is a former weekend warrior racer who now just rides for fun and coffee (as well as the occasional taco), but every once in a while manages to prove Fausto Coppi’s adage true: Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill. He lives in Arlington, VA with his wife (who is his favorite riding partner), his daughter (who takes great joy in beating him at golf all the time, but at least he’s still faster on a bike), and their dog (who is always there to greet him when he comes home from a ride). You can follow him on StravaTwitter, and Instagram.

 

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