This article originally published on BikeRadar
Specialized has a new successor to its long-running – and very popular – Toupe road saddle. After riding a pre-production model for the past seven months, we found that it's quite a nice place to spend a few hours of your day.
More durable but yet more comfortable
Specialized saddle product manager Nick Gosseen told BikeRadar over the summer that one of the prime development goals with the new Toupe was to squelch as much as possible the long-term shell sag that invariably plagues pro cyclists and anyone else that logs a lot of time on the road. As compared to previous Toupe models – especially very early models – this latest S-Works model indeed sports a very firm true carbon fibre composite shell that yields little when you sit on it – and so far, ours hasn't budged.
Despite the firm foundation, we've found the new S-Works Toupe to still be exceptionally comfortable, especially on longer rides where the newly generous (but very dense) padding delivers excellent support for tiring muscles. The long central depression and cutout seems to almost completely eliminate pressure on private parts, too, and even the well-padded nose is a reasonably pleasant place to take a pull.
Even the subtly textured synthetic cover feels just about spot-on with enough grip to keep you in place but not so much that it grabs your shorts when you move around. Specialized touts the welded-on panels on the sides of the nose as "low-friction" but, in all honesty, it didn't feel any different to us when compared with the rest of the cover. That said, the tapered nose does a good job of staying out of your way as your cadence increases.
Not surprisingly, that carbon fibre shell and the attached woven carbon fibre rails make the new S-Works Toupe extremely light, which is all the more impressive given how it feels on the road. Actual weight will vary depending on which of the three widths you measure, but the full-production, medium-width (143mm) model we recently received weighs just 153g.
Not without its quirks
As with any saddle, it's not likely that everyone will get on with the Toupe's shape. Like its predecessor, it's very flat from front to back and modestly flat from side to side, too – not the best for folks that prefer more traditional perches such as a fi'zi:k Aliante, Prologo Scratch, or even Specialized's own Chicane.
We have mixed feelings on the perforated synthetic cover, too. While it looks neat, riders who frequent dirt or gravel roads will find that the little holes are virtual magnets for grime. We did a handful of 'cross rides on our sample and are still trying to dig out the baked-in mud. In fairness, however, this won't be an issue for the vast majority of road users.
Finally, this top-end S-Works model is awfully pricey and its upgrades unfortunately won't trickle down into lower-priced models just yet.
Specialized looks to have another winner in the saddle department with the new Toupe. Previous Toupe users seeking a replacement for a tired old friend will feel right at home, and this new version should hold its lustre longer than before. For the uninitiated looking for something new, the new Toupe is certainly worth a test ride.
Available colours: Black, red, white
Highs: Very comfortable, highly supportive, extremely lightweight, multiple sizes available
Lows: Expensive, perforated cover can be hard to clean
BikeRadar verdict: 4.5 stars
More information: www.specialized.com