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.