Ever get a sore butt from cycling? Then this could be the seat for you! Making a bicycle saddle that remains comfortable for the duration of a long ride has been an ongoing challenge for bicycle designers. Companies like Brooks with their thick leather saddles arguably came closest to solving the problem, that was until material and manufacturing technology advances made it possible for Tom Ritchey to implement a design that's been on his mind since the 1970s.
New for 2014, the Ritchey Vector Evo saddle system could be a game-changer for experienced cyclists who find long rides uncomfortable in the seat area. This product review comes after 700+ miles of test riding on a range of different road surfaces.
Tom Ritchey, featured in the video, is one of the mountain bike pioneers. An ardent life-long cyclist himself, he has a reputation for designing high quality bicycle components and tires that improve the experience for serious cyclists. Most of his inspiration comes from his own cycling adventures on the geographically diverse trails of the San Francisco Bay Area.
In a recent interview, Ritchey stated the idea for the Ritchey Vector Evo saddle system first came to him in the late 1970s. "But the materials I needed to make it weren't available back then," he said.
Reviewed here is one of two models in the Vector Evo line, the Contrail, which has a little more padding than the Streem model, and with a very slight bow helps to keep the rider in a single position.
The Vector Evo Contrail is composed of a thin, micro-fiber covered platform that is stretched out by four support points under the seat: One at the front and three at the rear - one on each side and one in the middle. These three rear supports form a wing that converges through two arms into a monorail. This monorail is made of a very strong, but flexible, carbon reinforced thermoplastic.
The design problem with the traditional tubular support rails under the seat is the strength requirement makes the rail very stiff and it transfers a lot of vibration from the road surface.
Ritchey's solution provides both strength and comfort in a lightweight saddle. How much strength? Well this reviewer weighs 190lbs and on at least two occasions during testing I came unclipped on a fast rocky descent, and landed very hard on the saddle. Maybe hard enough to have bent steel rails (which I've done in the past). So far the seat is showing no cracks or deformation.
As for comfort, among my longer rides I have completed two six hour and two eight hour mixed-surface rides. Toward the end of each ride I have noticed that there have been no hotspot or other concentrated-pressure issues. For me that's a first. Ritchey explains this is due to additional lateral flex in the seat. While there is plenty of flex, I have yet to see any sag in the saddle.
I ride a rigid bicycle: no suspension front or rear. With traditional saddle systems, I've always found myself taking more weight on my legs on rough fire roads, elevating my butt an inch off the saddle to relieve the constant pounding coming up through the frame. This would get to be a problem four or five hours into a ride when my legs were starting to get properly fatigued. The Vector Evo system solves this. It offers sufficient spring to cushion those vibrations. This is another first.
At 220 grams the Contrail is a very lightweight seat. The Streem model, which weighs 45g less, has a flatter profile, less padding, and according to Ritchey information is designed for riders who prefer to move around a lot on the saddle. While the Contrail certainly makes it comfortable to maintain a primary seated position, it remains very easy sliding to alternative positions fore and aft on the saddle.
Used with the Ritchey LINK seatpost system, there is approximately 2cm of aft adjustment and 2.5cm forward from where I have it now. And the Ritchey LINK seat post system allows for very fine tilt adjustments. Just be sure to tighten the bolts all the way to the recommended 15Nm or you might find the seat tips back when hitting big bumps. For additional grip you could consider using a carbon paste too.
Priced at $149 and weighing 220 grams, the Ritchy Vector Evo Contrail is a lightweight saddle that offers all the comfort a long-distance cyclist should want.