- Specialized Avatar Gel BG Saddle
- 020 8391 3500
The Avatar isn't actually marketed as a mountain bike saddle, but then neither are most of the saddles that we've been happily using for years so we'll gently ignore that. It's the cutting edge of Specialized's Body Geometry saddle range, with the chief innovation being the introduction of three different sizes.
The idea came from Specialized's research into bloodflow in certain key arteries that, on many saddles, tend to get a bit squished, leading to numb bits. Despite various scare stories about impotence in cyclists, no-one's established any link between that and a bit of numbness, but to our minds losing the feeling in your tackle during a ride can't really be a good thing. Anyway, maximising blood flow is what the BG saddles are all about, with the groove down the middle and the hole in the nose both designed to relieve pressure.
The next step for Specialized was to work on making the saddles fit better. It turns out that not only does the distance between different people's ischial tuberosities (the bony bits in your bum that you sit on) vary hugely, but it also varies in a way that's impossible to predict just from looking at them. There's no correlation between weight or waist measurement or how big your bum looks and how far apart those critical bones actually are. Which means that thin people don't necessarily need narrow saddles for optimum comfort. So the Avatar comes in a choice of 130, 143 or 155mm widths to cover nearly everyone, and Specialized dealers have a cunning memory-foam cushion for you to sit on so you can measure up and find out which one you need. Your optimum saddle with also depends on your riding position - because the sit bones are angled, their apparent width is different if you sit upright or lean forward.
So you've chosen your width - what's the saddle like? All widths are 270mm long, with hollow chromoly rails and feature gel padding on the wide bit. There's also a layer of memory foam which comforms to your particular shape to spread the load. The cover is a water-resistant synthetic leather which seems to hold up well. The not-really-intended-as-an-MTB-saddle giveaway is the suede-effect areas on the top of the saddle, which are very good at holding on to dirt and being tricky to clean.
Saddle choice is, of course, a notoriously subjective thing. But having that width choice puts the Avatar a step ahead already - each size is designed to fit a much narrower range of people and can therefore be designed to fit better. The padding is firm but intelligently placed, and we'd rather have firm padding on a good shape than soft padding on a bad one. It's a mildly swooping profile, and we didn't experience any difficulties in staying sat in a comfy position. And no numbness was in evidence either. We can say the same about quite a few saddles, but by no means all, and we're happy to believe the various clever people in white coats who've measured the bloodflow in the arteries concerned and found BG saddles to impede it the least.
Positives: Choice of widths means better fit, comfy without being squishy, decent price
Negatives: You'll need to get your bum bones measured, suedey bits hold the dirt
Verdict: Not everyone wears the same size shorts, so why should we all ride the same size saddle? Yes, you've always been able to get different width saddles but what's new here is first, that there's a way of establishing how wide a saddle you need and second, wider doesn't automatically mean more bulky and squishy.