Selle San Marco Rolls Titanium
During our first ride on the Selle San Marco Rolls saddle, it felt like the kind you'd find on a horse. Wide. Just a wide bar with a little flare at the end. The second ride, the Rolls felt like it had been under us for years.
Seeing the Rolls atop our bike was a bit of a discontinuity. Like it had been our Sancho Panza for many a campaign. The saddle belonged on a narrow-diameter-tubed steel-framed bike with downtube shifters. Odd how bulky looking saddles perched atop small-diameter tubing while svelte saddles look appropriate sitting atop large-diameter tubed bikes. The black leather makes the saddle look older to us; we're more partial to the "pro" white. The white wears more interesting as well -- the lines and cracks represent the hard miles completed.
Freaky how easy setting up and getting used to the Rolls was. We first based the saddle tilt on what works with our Flite. Because the Rolls isn't as curvy, we set the overall height 2mm lower than we do with the Flite. Because the Rolls has more material in back, we measured the setback 3mm further back than with the Flite. The numbers were just guesses based on observations.
Then we set up our rollers and climbed aboard for the first ride. While the saddle is not terribly wide at the nose, 37.5mm, which is just about the same width as our Flite, it felt really wide when we first settled into it. The Rolls starts getting wider immediately, rather than remaining narrow for some distance and suddenly flaring out towards the end.
After ten minutes of light spinning on the rollers, our undercarriage was starting to get used to the new saddle. There were no pressure points, no odd spots where there seemed to be rubbing. When we're not happy with a saddle, it usually feels like we're sitting on top of the saddle as opposed to in the saddle. We were in the saddle almost immediately. We could get a good spin on very easily, moving up to and holding 120rpm, and then slowing down and churning 80rpm, and then spinning to different points in between. A half-hour on the rollers and it seemed like our body was at peace with the saddle.
The next day we took it out on the road. No micro-adjusting of the height or sliding the saddle on the rails or adjusting the tilt was necessary. Our body wasn't pitching itself forward or back trying to find a sweet spot. It was all good.
And that was how the Rolls remained. It was a member of the family, a yang to our yin, a complement to our bottom, fitting perfectly and making us better. We expect that the saddle will take a few more weeks to fully "break in." We've discussed breaking in saddles before and whether or not it's a good thing. By that, we mean that we figure there is a little more sag to be had, and that maybe the sag is dependent on where the rider sits over the course of up to a few thousand miles, but "breaking in" does seem to be really about breaking down parts of the saddle and we don't know how the breaking in or down stops or if it stops. The people at Selle San Marco won't talk about sag, but they do talk about break-in periods with their "vintage" saddle line.
Vintage saddles are a topic of some debate. When the Rolls was new, back in the 1980s, it seemed like a copy of the popular Selle Italia Turbo. A great saddle, especially compared to the Cinelli knock-offs we had been riding, and light, and available in so many colors. These plastic-shelled, leather-covered saddles like the Turbo, Rolls, Concor Supercorsa, etc were considered thin gruel compared to a saddle of stretched leather ala Brooks. Back then, fans of the stretched leather saddle complained that the new saddles didn't fit anyone well and they never "broke in" under a rider. The enduring popularity of the Brooks-style saddles is probably why the Selle San Marco Regal has those brass rivets. The rivets are entirely decorative, but hearken to the then-disappearing style. While the Brooks lives on, most of its competitors died out and it has been years since we've seen one in a bike race.
We don't know why the saddle shapes that came about in the 80s still have a strong following today. It's not just the old salts of bike riding who are riding the old styles. Plenty of pros, particularly classics riders and often on Belgian teams, are rocking the old saddles. Some of these pros weren't even born when the Rolls debuted, and started riding after San Marco had discontinued production, yet they've found a home on these old hammocks. The enduring popularity is why Selle San Marco brought back the Regal, the Rolls, and now the Supercorsa.
For us, the Rolls reminds us of the Turbo. It's not merely the visual, but the actual. We've got a Turbo on our commuter. So, yes, we've got a certain familiarity with the saddle, but maybe there's more going on. It strikes us that there's more margin for error on a saddle with a bit more padding across the entire saddle. With the extra padding throughout the saddle, it might not matter as much where the person sits as it does on a saddle with much less padding or unevenly-dispersed padding. Or maybe greater saddle surface area just disperses pressure better.
For those interested in the details, the saddle is 282mm long by 143mm wide. That's reasonably long by most standards, save Fizik's Arione. The width is a good bit wider than many. The saddle is a bit of a pig; we weighed it at 280g, though other samples have weighed in at 278g and the advertised weight is 312g. It does have titanium rails, but with that much shell, it's hard to be really light. The brass plates on the sides and back probably add a little, too.
But then, 80g over a light saddle is a small price to pay for comfort. And the Rolls is very comfortable. It almost makes re-think our saddle commitments.