Selle An-Atomica Titanico Saddle Review
Selle An-Atomica has been making their leather saddles with the distinctive slotted top since 2007. They’ve long had the reputation within the endurance riding community as being the premier saddle for long distances, besting even the tried-and-true Brooks. However, like many saddles with an uncommon design, they also look strange and imply its user has certain anatomical….issues. Surely such things are fine for heavier and older riders, but are overkill for a semi-young (35) and healthy buck such as myself, right? However, as I spend longer and longer days on the bike, comfort issues of a more general scope are always relevant—nothing kills the joy of a 100+ mile ride like saddle pain, as rare as it may be for me, and Selle An-Atomica’s products promise to prevent just that.
My test Titanico arrived in a nice canvas carrying case, complete with an instructional broadsheet documenting the manners of adjusting and maintaining it. The saddle has an interesting shape—sort of like an elongated Brooks Swift, with a more rounded tail. The rails are much longer and more versatile than the Brooks, allowing for me to set the saddle position with the non-setback seatpost I use with my usual saddle. The rail material has been recently changed to chromoly, replacing a less durable steel. To make the saddle more suitable to real-life conditions, the leather has been tanned to be water-resistant; the company recommends that you keep it covered if it’s outside in the rain, but it will be fine if you get caught in a storm on a ride. The leather can also be treated down the road with weatherproofing materials to restore its water resistance after long periods of use. Out of the box, it’s surprisingly light and the leather is very soft and flexible—a far cry from most new leather saddles.
The secret to the saddle’s strength is a thin laminate attached to the underside of the leather which reinforces the cutout. SAA saddles come in two varieties: the Titanico, for riders over 140 lbs, and the Legacy, for those under. The shape and size is the same, but the laminate on the Legacy covers less of the saddle, allowing it to stretch more. Modern molded “nerve sparing” saddles typically have a less-padded channel or hole in the center, with the idea that the sides of the saddle will bear the weight and reduce pressure. The Titanico’s design does this as well, but also allows the two halves of the saddle to flex independently as the user pedals along (an effective yet somewhat disquieting ‘butt-cam’ video on the SAA website illustrates this concept). Rather than molding to your body, as a traditional leather saddle does, the Titanico moves with it, flexing with each pedal stroke.
Very good in concept, yes, but how about in practice? I tested the saddle when my undercarriage was at a low point, dealing with some middling soreness and a persistent saddle sore, shortly before a 200 km brevet. I took the Titanico for a 30 mile ride in normal shorts and undergarments, and despite mild discomfort earlier with my usual saddle, felt no discomfort at all with the brand-new SAA other than the nose occasionally catching slightly on the inside of my shorts. On the off chance that things would change dramatically at mile 35, I brought my trusted Flite along on the brevet, but those 12 hours matched the first 2. To be honest, I didn’t even think about the saddle at all, which really is the ultimate testament to its comfort—in my experience, if you’re aware of your saddle, it’s because things are heading south. In comparison, my Brooks B-17 required at least 300 miles of use before being fully comfortable, and my Cardiff saddle has yet to be tamed despite logging over 500 miles on it.
The one caveat you’ll hear from users is that it can take some doing to get a SAA saddle set up correctly. On my initial long ride, the saddle settled a bit and needed a quick adjustment with a hex wrench to bring it back to my preferred level of firmness. Also, the tension bolt loosened up once or twice, although a little grease stopped that. Other than that, it wasn’t hard to get everything set up well on my long distance randonneuring bike. My daily commuting bike (a track bike with bars below the saddle height) was a different story. On my first ride with the saddle at the same slightly-up angle that was comfortable before, it felt like the cutout was going into things it should have gone around. After a little experimentation, I found a slight down tilt took away the friction and was actually just as comfortable as it was on the randonneur bike. One caveat, though—the nose of the saddle has a long metal section under the leather, so if you have a habit of sliding forward when sprinting, you will have to modify your form a bit. Other than that, it seems perfectly useable for aggressive riding.
And finally: Does the Titanico design prevent numbness? Everyone is different, but in my case, it was not a magic bullet. Numbness has never been a real problem for me—as long as I stand up for a little bit every once in a while, everything is fine. With other saddles I’ve used, every half hour the typical discomfort from the saddle gives you a reminder to get up for 30 seconds or so, so it takes care of itself. The comfort level of the Titanico, however, made me stay seated longer, which led to numbness. Once I realized what was going on, making a conscious effort to stand up occasionally was easy enough and solved the problem.
Getting a new saddle is always a bit of a gamble, but if you’re having persistent saddle pain or if you’re expecting to be spending a lot of time on your bike and want to avoid acquiring saddle pain, this saddle seems like as safe a bet as you could hope for. At $190, Selle An-Atomica saddles are not cheap, but are only slightly more than comparable Brooks models with simpler construction and materials—and they are entirely made in the USA.
Another review by Dan Goldberg, Urban Velo riding buddy and sometimes tech consultant. Read other reviews by Dan.