Saddles are notoriously difficult to evaluate. Everyone’s, um, perineal area is different. So is tolerance for pressure down there. Add varying bodyweights, riding styles and chamois designs, and it’s nearly meaningless to recommend a saddle.
But I was intrigued by the fizi:k Arione when I saw Phil Liggett show it on an OLN broadcast of the Giro d’Italia last May. In contrast to the current style in pro saddles — a narrow carbon shell with virtually no padding — it looked like a real person could ride it comfortably.
The Arione was designed in 2002 for Saeco-Cannondale pro Gilberto Simoni, the 2-time Giro winner. Although he’s a 130-pound lightweight, he wanted to improve comfort during long miles of racing and training. He’s also a climber, so he wanted a longer sitting surface that would let him slide to the rear for more leverage on steep ascents.
RBR finally received a sample from fizi:k in November. I’ve sat on the Arione for more than 120 hours (still using it), including 900 miles in 12 days while coaching at 2 PAC Tour training camps.
The saddle is covered with smooth leather except for a suede strip in the center. The idea is that the suede will grip shorts just enough so you don’t slide forward unintentionally. It initially did that well, but I decided the designers should have stopped the strip about 2 inches from the nose. The suede there can snag shorts when you ease back to the saddle after standing.
But this problem disappeared as the miles piled up. That’s because the suede texture disappeared, too. It became as smooth and non-grippy as the surrounding leather. That’s not a problem, of course, unless you need help staying in place.
The Arione brags several other innovations. First is Wing Flex technology, the fancy name for a less-rigid section on either side of the shell. It flexes easily where thighs contact it to allow freer leg movement. I can feel the give when I pedal hard.
The saddle is also longer than normal by nearly 4 cm (1.5 inches). In theory, this provides more room to slide forward when going fast and to slide back for more power at climbing’s lower cadences.
One thing for sure — it upsets setup. Saddle fore/aft position is usually repeatable by dropping a plumb line from the saddle tip and measuring the distance behind the bottom bracket. If this number is normally, say, 6 cm, you’llprobably have to reduce it to 5 cm to account for the longer nose. THere’s plenty of fore/aft adjustability. At 85 mm, the rails are said to be the longest of any road saddle.
The Arione’s rear section is flat when viewed from the side and the rear. It provides a stable platform for sit bones. It should work fine for most riders, although some narrow-hipped cyclists may think it’s too wide. Obviously, it works for Simoni, who is quite small.
Good for the Long Haul
The greater length and more useable sitting area are supposed to combine to produce better pressure distribution, especially helpful at long distances. Indeed, I didn’t get any indications during my medium-length rides (up to 5 hours) that it would suddenly turn uncomfortable if I kept going.
To the thumb, the padding seems less firm than on many pro saddles. I wondered if it would compress during rides, putting my sitbones into painful contact with the shell. But that didn’t happen. Support seems the same at the beginning and end of rides. I’ll withhold final judgment until I see how the foam holds up over a full season.
Speaking of longevity, at Interbike last October, I examined Simoni’s Arione on his Giro-winning Cannondale. The cover showed some wear, but it looked like it would hold up for another season. The Wing Flex technology introduces a potential weak point in the shell, although I haven’t heard of any failures and Simoni’s saddle had no sagging that would indicate shell fatigue. He’s a featherweight, though, and I don’t know how long he used that particular saddle.
The bottom line (pardon the pun): The Arione has pro cachet and style with excellent comfort, at least for this tester.
Real Roadie Feedback
The Arione is about the most comfortable saddle I’ve tried. Time will tell if it lasts. And the length increase is at the back, so placing the nose of the Arione at the same position as the previous saddle should be correct. I also think the Arione should be level (with a level), front to back. But, that’s just me! — Bruce M.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.