There aren’t many saddles I could ride 96 miles the first time out, then sit on again for 110 miles the next day. But I did it on the Flow.
This was no torture test. The Flow felt comfortable from the start and stayed that way.
The saddle I used was identical to what’s being sold at retail, except for minor cosmetic flaws. I rode it for two days at the PAC Tour Midwest Cycling Camp in southern Wisconsin. The Flow manufacturer, SaddleCo, provided camp director Lon Haldeman with half-a-dozen saddles for cyclists to try (and buy, if they wished).
I was skeptical of the Flow when I saw it introduced at the Interbike cycling expo last October. It was certainly a creative design. The see-through mesh top looked light, airy and potentially comfortable. But I suspected that body weight would flatten it and cause crotch contact with the saddle’s hard plastic frame. It seemed that sitting toward the nose would certainly be painful.
But during the camp’s first three days, riders who tried the Flow were happy with it. In fact, one roadie immediately bought two. (See below.) I decided to install one for the camp’s fourth day (of six), but I also put my regular saddle in the support van, just in case.
And That’s where it stayed for the next 206 miles.
My first ride on the Flow came after We’d amassed 300 miles in three days. I’d ridden them on a fairly new Rolls saddle, but of course That’s an old design. It has dense foam padding but no cutouts, wedges or other anatomically designed features to add comfort.
The heavy mileage had already given me a minor crotch abrasion. Not a big problem, but I normally wouldn’t test a saddle when I was sore — it wouldn’t be fair to the new seat. But in this case, the Flow actually made my soreness feel better as the six-hour ride progressed.
The top of the Flow is close to its rails. I had to raise the seatpost to get my correct saddle height. Also, I had to position the Flow farther rearward than normal to keep from feeling the rear part of the frame. My sit bones told me when I had it right.
I was concerned that the mesh (“tensioned elastomeric monofilament fabric”) might sag if it got wet. Mother Nature cooperated with this test by hitting us with a Wisconsin summer downpour at 70 miles into the ride. No problem. The mesh stayed firm and didn’t seem to absorb water.
On the other hand, spray from the rear wheel could conceivably come up through the mesh and soak your chamois. This might cause skin to soften and chafing to start. It Wasn’t a problem, though, because my seat bag blocked the spray.
A Saddle About Nothing
How does the Flow feel? Unlike a Brooks leather saddle or a lightweight, gel-layered racing seat, the Flow didn’t give me any distinguishing impression. In fact, I all but forgot about it as the miles went by. I’d describe it as “characterless” except that sounds negative. You probably won’t develop an emotional attachment to this plastic-and-mesh creation — it looks like high-tech office furniture — but That’s okay if it does the job.
I can’t comment on long-term durability. That would take several thousand more miles. Will the mesh stretch, sag and allow body contact with the plastic frame? Will it fray or wear through? Will it sandpaper your shorts? It’ll take time to know the answers.
SaddleCo warns that the Flow is not for use by heavier riders (more than 200 pounds). I weigh 160. Also, it shouldn’t be used for ???extreme??? riding. Presumably, the saddle could be broken by weight or impacts.
As this is written in mid August ’03, SaddleCo is producing just 150 Flows per day in a Michigan factory, according to company president John Neugent. He says there are ???huge backorders??? and availability is limited. You won’t see much promotion till supply can meet demand. Neugent terms the Flow ???incredibly difficult??? to make, which may explain the limited production.
Three weeks after this review was published, two problems became evident involving the Flow’s rails.
- They are about 3 mm too narrow, which makes the saddle difficult to mount on some seatposts. The company acknowledges a couple of consumer complaints per week.
- They are about 5 mm too low. This could cause a rider to bottom out against the top of a seatpost that has a tall clamp assembly.
Neugent says both issues will be addressed in upcoming production.
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.