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£350 › Pricey perch from Italy

Cycling Plus - - CONTENTS -

As­tute Sky­carb VT sad­dle, Bon­trager Pro han­dle­bar, Rapha Hel­met, Lezyne En­hanced Su­per GPS, win­ter socks shootout

DID YOU KNOW THAT £350 would buy you 175 break­fasts from Greggs? Other things you could pur­chase (at the time of writ­ing) for the same amount in­clude: an en­tire road bike from De­cathlon, 442 litres of Duchy Orig­i­nal semiskimmed milk from Waitrose, or a 16-yearold Re­nault La­guna 1.8 with nine months’ MOT. This is not to den­i­grate a fine piece of seat­ing, but to of­fer per­spec­tive on what is, by any rea­son­able mea­sure, a bloody ex­pen­sive sad­dle.

As­tute is an Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer based in the north­ern city of Padua, mak­ing a range of sad­dles cov­er­ing all dis­ci­plines of cy­cling. The Sky­carb VT is the top of the range road model, a cutout coun­ter­part to the Sky­carb SR and one of the com­pany’s ‘flat’ sad­dles – re­fer­ring to the side-to-side pro­file. Front-to-back, it’s slightly shaped, with a dip in the mid­dle to aid pres­sure re­lief.

The Sky­carb VT nom­i­nally mea­sures 135mm wide and 275mm long, al­though we’re not sure how As­tute comes up with its num­bers – we found an ex­tra 5mm or so in both di­rec­tions. For this kind of money you’d ex­pect a fairly im­pres­sive weight and while it’s light at 135g it’s not Earth-shat­ter­ingly so. A 143mm Spe­cial­ized S-Works Power weighs 25g more and is £150 cheaper.

The Sky­carb VT’s con­struc­tion is elab­o­rate. The sad­dle is cov­ered with ‘premium Ital­ian mi­crofi­bre’, which has a pleas­ing, qual­ity feel. Be­neath the sur­face is a layer of triple-den­sity mem­ory foam that gets pro­gres­sively softer as you move from the back to the front, with an ex­tra in­sert adding fur­ther give near the nose. Both sit on a full car­bon in­ter­nal shell, which is sand­wiched with the ex­ter­nal car­bon shell that forms the un­der­side of the sad­dle.

The full car­bon rails, mea­sur­ing 7mm wide and 9mm tall, are joined to one an­other at the nose, and fea­ture wide flange-like ex­ten­sions at the rear of the sad­dle, tipped with rub­ber pads where they slot into the shell. This is the so-called Shock Pad Ab­sorber Sys­tem, de­signed to in­su­late the rider from road vi­bra­tion. Sad­dle choice is a per­sonal thing and we’d al­ways en­dorse trying be­fore you buy if pos­si­ble. The Sky­carb VT has an im­pres­sive amount of pad­ding for its low weight and if any­thing, we found the foam a lit­tle soft. The shell is quite flex­i­ble too, bend­ing vis­i­bly un­der the weight of even quite light rid­ers. Whether or not that’s a good thing will de­pend on your phys­i­ol­ogy, but we found it rea­son­ably com­fort­able. We strug­gle with the idea of spend­ing this kind of cash on any sad­dle, but the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the Sky­carb VT’s de­sign does go a lit­tle way to jus­ti­fy­ing the price tag. Can it be worth it? That’s for you and your bank bal­ance to de­cide.

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