Fizik Tundra k:ium Saddle
Choosing a saddle is a very personal decision and old habits die hard. After spending a season on a Gobi and Aliante in all their swoopy plushness we were understandably skeptical about sitting atop the frying-pan flat Fizik Tundra for any length of time. After a short adjustment period though we're happy to report successful melding of reviewer and saddle. If Fizik can work through one annoying problem they'll have a great product that will definitely serve as the primary perch on our bike for the foreseeable future.
The Fizik Tundra is quite a bit flatter front to back and side to side than other saddles. Our test subject was 290mm long, 125mm wide at the widest section and 39mm wide at the nose. This compares to our Gobi's 290mm, 130mm and 36mm, respectively. The biggest difference comes in the contours. The Fizik Tundra only has about 1.5mm of sag in the middle versus the Gobi's 10mm. While this may sound excruciating for the uninitiated, in practice it actually makes for a pleasant seat. The lack of sag makes moving back and forth much easier and more comfortable on the Tundra. Sitting up on the nose for intense climbs or sliding rearward to the back 40 for descents is super easy atop the Tundra. Also the lack of sag and the flatter shape side to side seem to put more of the structure directly under the rider. It would take some sophisticated equipment to verify this observation scientifically, but this reviewer's backside felt more evenly supported than on other saddles -- think about walking on a flat floor compared to on a tightrope. As with the Arione and Antares on the road side the team at Fizik have managed to provide a solid comfortable base with the Tundra while sculpting away the unnecessary parts leaving a light, efficient race-ready perch.
Installation was a bit more of a drawn out process than with many saddles because its long flat shape amplifies any mistakes in angle and height. Once dialed-in though, the Fizik Tundra felt great. After logging many MTB miles aboard it we even moved it over to our road rig just to get a sense of how it feels without the distraction of rough trails and varying terrain. The fact that it's still there should give a good indication of the comfort that this saddle provides, and probably means we need to look into replacing our Aliante with a road saddle shaped more like the Tundra. Everyone is built differently, and some people can't stand flatter saddle.
A couple of miles into our first ride on the Fizik Tundra we started hearing a faint squeaking sound from somewhere in the back half of the bike. It was almost unnoticeable at first but gradually grew louder and more consistent as we powered up the first climb and became completely un-ignorable after a rocky, switchbacked descent off the back side. We eventually stopped to tighten all the possible culprits and check the saddle for any breaks. Everything looked good and solid but the squeaking started up almost immediately again and continued for the rest of the ride. We brought the whole setup into the shop the next day and cleaned the seatpost shaft, seat clamp, saddle rails, seatpost head and bolts, etc. Everything was given a once over. The noise persisted. Obviously the problem was coming from the saddle itself, and sure enough close inspection of the underside revealed the problem. The folks at Fizik have designed the Tundra saddle with a small band of carbon material wrapping around the bottom edge to provide some abrasion resistance and to beef things up a bit for the demands of off-road riding. Unfortunately there is a pair of screws securing the band to the saddle precisely where the Kium rails bend down and flair out in the transition zone between the nose and the seat clamp. The extra material around the screws and a slight bulge in the rails cause the Kium and carbon to barely touch each other in about 80% of the saddles we've received and inspected, but it's more than enough surface contact to create an annoying squeak when the saddles flex slightly under a rider.
After receiving a couple of squeaky replacements later from the US distributor and working to resolve the same issue for a number of customers, we elected to stop stocking the Kium version of the Fizik Tundra for now. We theorize that moving the screw holes back 1/4", or just thinning the material around the screws slightly would probably eliminate the problem without compromising the effectiveness of the carbon band. The designers at Fizik are apparently aware of the problem and are working on a solution that will be available later this summer, but we are not sure what the updated product will look like yet. For now, we're inspecting those that we receive very closely.
We loved the shape and feel of the Fizik Tundra. If you ride with an IPod and/or don't mind forcing your riding partners to give you wide berth on the trail then there's no reason not to get a Tundra today. For the past few months we've used the Tundra for solo rides, then reluctantly switched to something less aurally offensive for group outings. If Fizik can fix the persistent noise problem they'll have a top notch, no-compromise saddle in the Tundra.
Note: We have not experienced any squeaking issues with the carbon version of the Fizik Tundra as the carbon rails are shaped differently from those found on the Kium version.