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Today Specialized announced the release of its new Power Saddle, a hybrid of many of the company’s existing designs that aims to ensure rider comfort while in an aero position. CyclingTips’ Wade Wallace has been testing one for a month now and had the following first impressions.
Update (October 2017): We now have an in-depth review of the Specialized Power saddle compared to the PRO Stealth.
Specialized designed the Power for the purpose of being able to ride in a low, aggressive, aerodynamic position while staying comfortable and not restricting blood flow to the nether regions.
The most notable thing about the Power is that it appears to be a combination of many of Specialized’s existing Body Geometry saddles. It bears the most resemblance to a Romin but with a shorter nose (by 30mm) and a more generous groove in the middle. However, the widest part of the saddle measures the same as the Romin and comes in 143mm and 155mm sizes, going as wide as 168mm in the Expert and Comp models.
Dr. Roger Minkow, who designs Specialized’s Body Geometry saddles, has been working on and researching saddle design since 1997 to help erectile disfunction by cutting up existing saddles on the market. After a method of measuring penile bloodflow was discovered in the early 2000s by using a transcutaneous oxygen monitor (which is used to help treat burn victims that has bloodflow sensors attached to the skin), he was able to refine his designs further. That development, Specialized says, brought us to where we are today with the Power.
According to Dr Minkow: “The interesting thing is that even at 0% bloodflow to the region, male riders cannot feel the difference. If you get numbness, that’s most likely because there’s compression of the nerves. It doesn’t mean it’s the constriction of the artery. You can’t feel the constriction of the artery.”
But as Dr Minkow explains, women are quite different in that regard. “That’s totally different from women who can feel everything exactly where it hurts. A woman can always draw an exact diagram and tell you exactly where the pain is and that will always correspond to where the high pressure area is.”
Specialized says that the Power was designed to suit both men and women’s anatomies, with three available widths to choose from.
On a recent visit to Specialized’s headquarters in Morgan Hill, a demonstration of the transcutaneous oxygen monitor by Dr. Minkow showed how significantly the bloodflow fell when a rider went in the drops while using a saddle from a different brand. In comparison, when the saddle was switched to the Power and the rider crouched down into the drops, the bloodflow loss was significantly reduced.
For the past five years my saddle of choice has been the Specialized Romin. It’s been excellent to me and has been one of the most comfortable saddles I’ve used, but I wouldn’t say that it ever let me completely forget about the fact that a tiny piece of carbon and foam was propping up all my weight.
I’ve been riding the Power for just over a months now and was impressed from the moment I first sat on it. Sitting up on the hoods or crouched down in the drops, both positions are just as comfortable and I can, for nearly the first time, say that I almost forget that a stiff, thinly-padded carbon saddle sits beneath me. Personally, the overall effect of the design translates into a feeling of decreased pressure in the perineum, and a comfortable but solid platform for the sitbones and surrounding area. Specialized says they designed the Power to accommodate one position, and one position only. Their rational for this is that if a rider needs to move forward and backwards on the saddle, then it’s not right. For me, this doesn’t pose a problem (and I will often move forward on it). But the only way you’ll find out is if suits you like it does me is to go and ride a few kilometers on one yourself.
The Power comes in the flagship S-Works model which is a pricey $349.95 AUD ($300 USD), but also a more economical PRO model which comes in at $249.95 AUD ($200 USD) and offers nearly identical comfort and weight. Also available are the Expert and Comp models which have different foam and rails at $199.95 AUD ($130 USD) and $149.95 AUD ($100 USD) respectively.