Guest poster Jeff Hemmel is still trying to find the perfect perch.
Saddle reviews seem to be a popular item on the web. Obviously, a lot of us are still searching for the ideal interface between butt and bike. This year Bontrager introduced a new saddle for your consideration — the Affinity. I’ve been quietly evaluating one for several months this fall, and after plenty of miles I’m ready to offer my impressions.
The Affinity RL. Click to enlarge.
Like the InForm saddles introduced the year before, Bontrager’s Affinity line has the requisite science behind it. It uses the InForm “Science of Comfort” design, which basically means it was designed using a lot of data like pressure mapping and 3-D motion capture. That info was used to create a seat that comes in three different sizes and curvatures to match a rider’s skeletal structure. The InForm theory is basically that riders don’t really sit on their sit bones, but instead their pubic arch. Support that arch properly and you take some of the pressure off the pudendal nerve and artery, alleviating the numbness and pain that makes many of us squirm after a few miles have passed under our tires.
The original InForm neglected to feature a cutout, but rather featured two densities of foam, stiffer in areas that supported the skeletal structure and softer in those areas that came into contact with the more tender parts of a rider’s anatomy. The Affinity also uses that dual-density foam, but it adds a gender-specific Contour Relief Zone, essentially a subtle lengthwise divot at the saddle’s midpoint to provide a little more pressure relief.
Like the previous InForm, riders get sized in a local shop by sitting on a simple bench with a gel top. The indentations of your buttisimo reveal a color-coded indicator below the gel that corresponds to the correct size. In the previous InForm I was sized for the “medium” saddle in the three-size lineup. Bontrager reps indicate the same sizing applies to the Affinity, although the corresponding metric measurements of the Affinity line are a bit smaller.
I used to think I could find the perfect saddle by reading reviews. I now know that everyone is different, and one person’s holy grail of a saddle is another person’s unholy nightmare. But I can pass along some details that might help you decide whether the Affinity might be a saddle you’ll want to try.
For starters, Bontrager alludes to the fact that the original InForm was designed for a race-like riding position, rather low and aggressive. The Affinity targets a wider audience, riders who according to Bontrager “prefer a slightly higher hand position.” In other words, if you ride bent over like an elite pro, the original model should work best; if you ride like the rest of us, a little more upright, the Affinity should be more to your liking.
As I mentioned, I dedicated myself to riding with this saddle for an extended period before giving my impressions. At first I wasn’t immediately thrilled with it. As time wore on and the saddle broke into my butt (or vice versa) I began to find it rather comfortable. I haven’t experienced any significant numbness (an occasional problem with my previous InForm), and the saddle has proved more than tolerable on extended rides. The only times I’ve found it uncomfortable is when I’ve really pushed the pace for extended periods. That probably makes sense; it’s at these moments that I’m typically more bent over in an aggressive riding position.
If you’re tempted to try the Affinity, keep several things in mind. For starters, Bontrager offers an Unconditional Comfort Guarantee. If you don’t like the saddle, you have 30 days to return it. The catch? It’s not a money-back deal, but rather an exchange.
It’s also important to position the seat properly. The tried-and-true method is to measure the distance from the center of your crank to the top of the seat, as well as the distance from the nose of the saddle to the stem bolt. The Affinity rails are “taller” than the original InForm, however, so I had to lower my seat post to achieve the best position. The Affinity’s rails also are positioned further forward than the Affinity. To duplicate my fore-aft measurement I had to push the seat as far forward as possible. A Bontrager rep suggested that I consider running a 5mm offset seatpost rather than the more common 20mm, as it would likely better fit my body no matter what saddle I chose.
Final verdict? It’s not the perfect saddle, but I’m beginning to think nothing is. I’m still riding it, however, after almost 90 days and 1,700 miles.
That must say something…