Specialized Toupé Saddles

IMG_0370The Specialized Toupé Team Saddle

IMG_0368

The Specialized Toupé Gel Saddle

What passes for variety on the part of some manufacturers often ranges between differences in style and random changes that bear no logical relation to other products in a line. While I’m all for coordinating component choices so that a bike has as harmonious a look as it does function, I think there’s more to putting together a bike than making sure the handlebar tape and saddle match.

Specialized has taken a single approach to saddle design and managed to manifest it in 10 varieties, not counting changes in weight and color. The Toupé saddle comes in three widths, two base stiffnesses and two different padding thicknesses.

The three widths the Toupé is made in are 130, 143 and 155mm. Wisely, the folks at Specialized avoided calling the widest saddle a women’s saddle and instead simply distinguish the saddles according to width and padding.

So how do you determine which width is for you? With the help of the spectacularly named Assometer. The Assometer features memory foam that will briefly record an imprint of your sit bones and measure the distance of one sit bone to the others. The three widths, 130, 143 and 155mm isn’t the actual width of the saddle, but the measurement of the ideal sit-bone width for that saddle.

I’ve often joked that I have a big, fat ass. As it turns out, it’s only sort of medium; I take the 143mm Toupé. To date I’ve tried two widths and two different versions. There is no doubt the 130mm width is too narrow for me; sitting on it feels like I’m sitting on a broomstick without benefit of tutorial by Elizabeth Montgomery.

The Toupé saddles are meant to reduce pressure on the pudendal arteries in men and nerve compression for both men and women. The problem with most saddles of this ilk is that they so reduce pressure on one area, they increase it unforgivably on the surrounding tissues. On many of these saddles the large center cutout has left me feeling like I’m sitting on the saddle rails themselves. Not fun.

Specialized has reduced the width and depth of the cutout to the smallest possible area. The saddles’ ability to reduce pressure and maintain blood flow will vary from one rider to another, but any rider should see an increase in comfort the company says.

Like other saddles I have experienced/reviewed/suffered, the Toupé is a mixed lot for me, but then it is supposed to be. None of the 130mm-wide or 155mm-wide saddles should feel comfortable. The 143mm-wide saddle has been another story. Over bumps and rough road, the Toupé Gel is, in fact, more comrotable than its counterparts. It absorbs shock to a surprising degree. However, it’s not a saddle I can slide around on comfortably; either my sit bones are in place and I’m comfy, or I’m not. As I slide forward on the saddle the edges seem to roll off more dramatically, causing the outside edges of the saddle to place pressure on my nether regions.

The Toupé Team is a different story. It’s a firmer saddle overall, minimal in flex and moderate in padding. And while it is shaped nothing like my preferred saddle of choice, the Fi’zi:k Aliante, I find it to be one of the more comfortable saddles on the market. It provides excellent support when seated on long climbs while also offering sufficient support for moving around during all-out efforts.

My Toupé Team weighed in at 158g, essentially on the money for the published weight, while the Toupé Gel weighed another 40g more than its brother. While the Toupé comes in two very lightweight and minimal versions utilizing carbon fiber, these two are both durable and affordable with the Toupé Team carring a suggested retail of $170 while the Toupé Gel is slightly less at $160.

, ,

9 comments

  1. djl

    I have owned three Toupe saddles. The fisrt two saddles broke after six months ( about 4000 miles). I weight 165 lbs. I’m not very happy with this product however, Specialized replaced the broken ones for me both times. The third one is being kept as a spare.

  2. mark

    I have mixed feelings about Specialized. I can’t stand their attitude towards Boonen’s cocaine use and would avoid their products for that reason alone.

    Only problem is that the toupe gel saddle and Body Geometry shoes and gloves are the most comfortable things I’ve tried. So I have Specialized-branded stuff at every point of contact with the bike. They must be doing something right.

  3. Larry T.

    Two years ago I went through a painful and expensive trial-and-error search for a new saddle. In the old daze it was easy, Turbo, Rolls or Regal was pretty much it. This time round I started out with various Terry models designed for men. Didn’t like any of them during 1 and 2 hour test rides. Selle Italia versions next, no dice. Specialized Toupe was suggested next so I plopped my fat butt on the ass-o-meter and installed the appropriate model based on their chart. This saddle was the worst of all to this point. Cheaply made to boot. I was getting kind of irritated on the backside (and in general) as this search was getting out of control. Neuvation sent out one of theirs (can’t remember the exact model) but were at least nice enough to offer (and follow through with!) a “like it or return it” program. Neuvation took care of the return promptly. Sat on various Fizik models but without a cut-out section those didn’t even get a test-ride. SMP was next. Expensive and strange looking. Started with Pro–too wide between the thighs but OK in back. Evolution–too narrow overall. Glider–just like Goldilocks, “just right” at least in shape. No pressure on any of the “tender vittles” NONE. Yes, your weight is more concentrated on the sit bones, make no mistake about that. But after a couple of 1 and 2 hour rides the idea began to make sense. An interesting side benefit is the sloping nose–you can actually (as we were all told back-in-the-day) roll your pelvis forward so your back is flat and absorbs the bumps! Makes getting down in the drops WAY more comfortable. With all these benefits I was more than willing to put in an extended period of getting used to the odd-looking, but incredibly well-made saddles. Now I’m hooked and can ride on nothing else. At more than $250 a copy these things should look like they came out of a Ferrari and they do. 100% Made in Italy doesn’t come cheap these days and the saddles are not light in weight but I’ll be on SMP until I can no longer ride a bike.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      It’s always interesting to hear other folks’ experiences with saddles. Sometimes I wonder how so many people can like so many different saddles that I find profoundly uncomfortable and then I just look at how different faces are.

      Thanks for raising points regarding quality of construction. As I’ve managed to wear out an edition of every saddle a like (sometimes even break them) I have yet to come across a saddle made as well as some of my frames. I often wonder why.

      Mark: I would like to hear more about what you perceive Specialized’s attitude toward Boonen to be. My professional take is that they are in a very awkward position. They have an obligation to promote any win made aboard their bikes so long as it is ruled legal (Bernard Kohl’s polka-dot jersey would be a negative example) and a contract to sponsor the team which is, in fact, Boonen’s employer. So they can’t actually fire him, yet they are plagued with the bad PR his antics bring. I’d compare it to the overly aggressive sales strategies that got so many mortgage companies in trouble: The brass loved the sales but the unqualified buyers were a nightmare. In those cases, the sales team brought the companies down. Boonen’s a problem, but I don’t think he could bring the company down; now a team full of guys like him, that could be much worse. My analysis aside, it’s good for them to hear about the problems they face, so please share your thoughts.

  4. MM

    The Toupe is fine and well if you sit on the back of the saddle, or don’t ever get into the drops to put hammer to anvil. I test rode one for a weekend and was happy on the two rides that didn’t require me to adopt any sort of aggressive position. Enough padding and flex to make it comfy and the 143mm width seemed correct. And like Padraig, I have a big ass, but it seems there is little meat on the underside/sitbones.
    The last of the three rides was another enjoyable affair until we started riding hard tempo. Once I was forced to get in the drops and roll my hips a bit forward, it became an exercise in junk smashing. After 30 minutes, I had to call ‘no joy’ and sit up. The complete lack of padding in the nose of the saddle is a doo-dad killer. It was removed and replaced with a new style Flite Ti Gel as soon as I got home. Some love the saddle, I ain’t one of them!

  5. Rich, SfS

    Wow saddles are so personal that they really only ever should have a IMO rather than review in front of them. I’ve included two of my opinions on saddles below.

    On the SMP, I’d agree. It’s a freaky saddle to look at but damn do those looks hide a comfy perch. I think they are crazy expensive, but they do work.

    http://www.sprintingforsigns.com/node/234

    http://www.sprintingforsigns.com/content/specialized-bg-toupe-gel-saddle

    Ironically I loved the saddle below it in the range, which I can’t remember the name of, but it;s nearly midnight. (No plugs intended by including the links)

  6. Alex

    I´m sure Specialized is not suplying Boonen with anything but bikes, parts and money, so whatever, I´ll let him pay the prices for his choices.

    But I can´t ride on anything else than the Toupé for the past 3 years (on my road bike, my mtn bike has a WTB SST and I wouldn´t change it for nothing). I use the 143mm as well, and I can stay all day long without even feeling it, during my rides or afterwards.

    My Toupé has to be replaced every 6 months or so. It bends and bends in the middle with time, no matter what. I´m not Chicken-light at 167lb, but not heavy either. Warranty is not an issue with Spz so that doesn´t really bother me, to get a new saddle twice a yr. But it shows how much this saddle needs improvement. It´s the only saddle I´ve used in more than 22 yrs of cycling that does that, and I credit the crazy “minimal” and “lightweight” approach en vogue among some manufacturers for that.

    The toupé Gel seems to have a more solid chassis, though. I´ve used one for over a yr and it´s still perfect, flat and beautiful. But I still prefer the Toupé. Any other saddle gives me aches in the lower back, even though I compensate any differences caused to my bike fit. Saddle choice is just so personal indeed!

Leave a Reply