Selle San Marco Regal Titanium
Despite all the changes, all the improvements, all the new technology that has come to cycling in the past 18 years, it's hard to get high-mileage riders to switch saddles. Which is strange when you consider the response you'd get if you asked the same riders to use most other 20-year old parts. Like, say, friction shifters. Look around on a club ride. There are plenty of riders running discontinued saddle designs. Flites, Turbomatics, Concor Lights, etc are all around. This seeming trend is a full-fledged movement at the pro level. Despite money changing hands, many, many pros get their old saddles re-covered with fresh leather every year, usually in a top that matches the saddle sponsors covering.
This is easily the worst kept secret of the pro peloton. Lance Armstrong rode a Selle San Marco Concor Light shell during his entire tenure on the US Postal/Discovery Team. At first, this was ok, as Selle San Marco was paying Postal to ride the Aspide model saddle. But later, the team rode Bontrager saddles, and Armstrong wasn't alone in getting Bontrager covers on favorite seats; others were riding the Regal. During his brief tenure on Discovery, Ivan Basso rode a Selle Italia Flite. Jan Ullrich sported a Selle Italia Turbomatic his entire racing career, though he did occasionally ride lighter saddles for time trials. Alberto Contador is riding a Concor Light today, even though his Astana team is paid to ride Bontrager saddles.
Selle San Marco's Regal Titanium saddle, the subject of this review, is a design that has been gracing bikes for almost 20 years. A similar saddle appeared on Greg LeMond's racing bikes in 1989 (same shape, copper "staples"), and a copper-riveted Regal graced his 1990 "Greg LeMond" bicycles. The saddle was a Tour-winner nearly 20 years ago.
It's a classics winner today. Just this year, Stijn Devolder rode a Regal covered in black leather to victory at the Ronde Van Vlaanderen and his teammate, Tom Boonen, rode one covered in powdery white to victory at Paris-Roubaix. Both are sponsored by Specialized and the team's "official" saddle is a Specialized Toupé. Sprinter Robbie McEwen's Silence-Lotto team is sponsored by Selle San Marco, so he rides a white Regal with huge Selle San Marco graphics on it. All of these riders conceivably started their racing careers on the Regal and have just taken them wherever they've gone.
Like Boonen, we chose a saddle covered in white. It isn't so much that it matches our brake hoods and handlebar tape, but more that black saddles don't move us. Maybe we have so integrated PRO ideas into our worldview that nothing else seems right.
The funny thing about saddles is that a saddle isn't really a seat when you're riding hard. That's why we can "sit" on such narrow, thinly-padded contraptions to begin with. The saddle is really a place-holder, a brace, when you're riding hard. If you don't like sweating and are riding in a spin-class, a soft, wide saddle with three inches of padding is comfy, but when you have to dig into the pedals and hammer, that cush causes pain. The plush foam compresses and springs back on each down stroke and you're butt is sliding back or forward seeking out a stable position.
We don't know why it's so hard to switch. A conceivable reason for the working stiff rider is that you have the same saddle on all your bikes, and changing one saddle will necessitate switching all the saddles. Admittedly, this is our biggest saddle issue; we have Flites on four bikes and like knowing the saddle is the same wherever we swing a leg over a top tube.
While Selle San Marco doesn't seem to know why the old saddle designs remain popular, either, they have finally decided to stop fighting the trend and are embracing it. They've got a vintage line that includes not only the Regal Ti, but the Regal, the Concor Light, the Concor, and even the Rolls. Sadly, they don't apply their S.I.Z.E. (Superficle Ideale per la Zona Ergonomica) system for determining the right saddle for each body to the Collezione Classics. .
This retro saddle is not only an old design, but harkens back to even older designs; the saddles that were nothing more than tough leather stretched over saddle rails. We guess that an ass just knows what comforts it.
The first thing to know about the Regal Ti is the weight. It tipped our scale at 287g. This makes it a bit heavy, though not a tank. Many saddles are in the 200-230g range, so we're only adding 2-3 ounces over what we consider the "average" weight of a saddle. To us, a "tank" of a saddle is another 2-3 ounces heavier.
While weight is something, it's hardly everything. If you've ever had a saddle that doesn't agree with your body, you know what we mean. An uncomfortable saddle can ruin every ride. And with bikes getting lighter and lighter, most are willing to sacrifice a few ounces for all-day comfort.
In terms of saddle dimensions, the Regal is a bit wider than many saddles we've seen.It's also among the longest that SSM produces. The width is 147mm at the tail and 280mm long. San Marco's Aspide line has widths of 130mm and lengths of 276-278mm. The Era K of 125mm wide and 272mm long. But width isn't everything. The nose of the Regal starts at 34mm and widens to 76mm before it starts to flare. In contrast, our Flite starts at 34mm and widens to 67mm before it starts to flare. The Flite is 20mm longer, but the flare starts at about the same point, 180mm from the nose.
While the top of the saddle isn't entirely flat, it's a bit flatter than we're used to. We figured that some of our own saddle's curve could be sag, drooping from use. Concerned about this difference, we called San Marco. They say that a "broken in" saddle will have a little more curve than a new one and breaking in process should take about 200 miles. While we can't profess to notice any break-in or able to measure any greater sag, it did take us three rides to get used to the saddle. It is firmer than what we're used to riding, both because there's less padding and because the shell is stiffer. As many can attest, a greater contact area supports weight better. .
We can see how the stiffer, wider saddle has appeal as it flexes less than many lighter saddles. We felt like our body was glued to the middle of the saddle when we were sitting on it, we neither slid forward when hammering on the flats nor back when we were powering up climbs. The feeling of having a "back stop" to push against added comfort and maybe a little power for the in the saddle, high-power, low-cadence moments that occur when you're over geared.
After over 1,000 miles logged, we think we've gotten a good taste of what the Regal is about. We definitely like how firm it feels when riding hard, though there have been some moments when it feels too firm. Aesthetically, our saddle seemed to get what appeared to be a case of chicken pox after we rode it in the rain three days straight. Selle San Marco recommended washing with soap and water, but that didn't seem to get out the spots. They seem to be of a bluish hue, as if our blue shorts rubbed off on the white. We're probably the only ones who notice.
When it comes to saddles, comfort is the best performance enhancer. We wouldn't care if this design was debuted this year, or before we're born. It works.