FIZIK ARIONE

Saint Paul comforts the Phillipian church by writing, "He who began a good work in you will finish it..." I know going in that God is a hard act to follow, even for an Italian-based saddle company with a factory not all that far from the Holy See. The question remains, however: Will this good work be finished?

If you're Gilberto Simoni, it already is. The Arione is the saddle upon which he races, and his involvement in its design was much ballyhooed last year.

However, I road tested this saddle on a steep tri bike (the Litespeed Blade owned by American Bicycle Group's marketing manager Herbert Krabel). The Arione is Herbert's personal choice. I considered this saddle as to its utility for riding with a seat angle in the high 70s or low 80s.

The first thing one notices is the Arione's length. I can tell you now, Mike Pigg would've loved this saddle. He was famous for riding not on the nose, but so far in front that he was off of it. Yet Pigg's saddle was set atop a standard geometry road bike (first a Centurion, later a Trek). Had Piggy had an Arione, he could've ridden a standard road position and a steep tri position all on the same saddle, which is part of the Arione's allure for triathletes. The Arione is 30cm long, which is 2cm to 3cm longer than most other saddles. That's an extra 2° of seat angle availability.

Furthermore, Fizik includes the extra length not only in the Arione's shell, but in its rails. You get at least one extra centimeter in fore/aft adjustability with this saddle versus most others. Oh the joy! (to quote William Clark when he first viewed the Pacific Ocean in 1804). You can use sexy-looking frames with crappily thought-out geometry and make them work more easily with the Arione's extra rail length!

But length isn't the Arione's only usable feature. Of note is its featureless flatness—no Roman nose in this Italian. Also welcome is the Arione's wider nose (also not normally an Italian trait). All these things are what you want in a tri saddle. These and, if you're a weight freak, lightness. This the Arione also has, at 230 grams.

What it doesn't have is the sort of cushioning we've all grown accustomed to since Selle San Marco gave us gel and foam and junk and stuff in the plush nose of its Triathgel Azoto. The Arione has enough for a road saddle, and the width across its nose allows the rider to spread his supported weight across a greater surface area. However, it would be that much nicer if there was more cushion for the pushin'.

This is a problem somewhat solved with a neoprene seat cover, except the Arione's non-standard, pointy aft profile makes either a QR or De Soto cover a bad fit. Doable, but sort of sloppy.

Hence my comment that the Arione is a good work not—for use in triathlon—as yet finished. It's already one of the two or three best saddles for a steep bike upon which I've yet ridden. In fact, I'd rate it slightly better for my needs than Selle San Marco's tri-specific Aspide. Would the Arione's shell be used as the base atop which sits a more plush upper, it might outrank the mighty Triathgel Azoto. But that's not yet the case, so it's academic at this point.