Direct-to-consumer retailers Williams Cycling have added road saddles, bars, stems and seatposts to their popular range of clincher and tubular road wheels. The American company are sticking to their usual business model with the new gear – a potent mix of performance and value.
"One of the benefits of our direct-to-consumer model is that we have unfiltered communication with our customers," said company founder and namesake Keith Williams. "We were constantly getting requests from people who loved the wheels and wanted us to offer more products. We finally did a formal study in early 2011 to evaluate the demand and it was definitely there.
"On the manufacturing side, after five years in business we’ve established a reputation as a company that pays up for quality, sells into the coveted North American market, and pays their bills on time. So we knew there was strong demand and we had a list of trusted manufacturers eager to partner with us."
Williams Cycling's new saddle range is made up of four models, each with distinct shapes but identically priced at US$129/£82 and similarly enticing in terms of specs. Common features include carbon fiber rails, carbon-reinforced nylon shells, luxurious-feeling Italian microfiber covers in black or white, and actual weights well below 200g.
The Aurora SLC is the lightest model in Williams Cycling's new saddle range
All the saddles have proven manufacturing quality courtesy of Taiwanese saddle giants Velo. Given that Velo manufacture for countless other name-brands, it's perhaps not surprising that several of Williams' new offerings bear strong dimensional resemblance to other models we've seen – albeit at much higher prices.
The Aurora SLC is Williams' lightest model at 151g, with a long and flat profile, a central cutout and sparse, high-density polyurethane foam padding. Next in line is the 157g Axiom SLC with more padding, a more rounded shape left-to-right, a cutout shell, and flex zones underneath the sit bones.
Williams peg the 188g Endura SLC as their most traditional shape, with a hammock profile front-to-back and a slightly curved profile left-to-right, more generous padding throughout, sit bone flex zones and a full-length central depression to help reduce soft tissue pressure.
The Endura SLC is the most generously padded saddle in the range. It uses a central channel instead of full-blown cutout
The lone triathlon-oriented offering is the 189g Tempo SLC, which is notably wider through the midsection and sports a very broad and generously padded nose for extra comfort when perched over aero bars. Williams admit their initial four-saddle range is modest but say it's suitably comprehensive in terms of shapes.
"We thought about offering a range of builds but at the end of the day it made more sense to focus on giving customers a choice of shape within a product family," Williams told BikeRadar. "We gave them all the same price because they’re all top-quality saddles and we don’t want varying prices to be a factor when people are choosing the saddle that works best for them. People tend to associate differences in price with differences in performance, and we didn’t want that to be a factor."
Williams' new component collection also includes two drop bars, an integrated aero bar, two stems and one seatpost. Mountain bike components (and perhaps wheels) are a possibility moving forward.
The Tempo SLC is aimed at triathletes, with a very wide and heavily padded nose
"People will buy from Williams because we offer high quality products at an attractive price," Williams continued. "We partner with the same manufacturers as many of the major brands in the industry. We can directly tap customer demand and the insight of our sponsored athletes to focus on creating exactly the products riders want. We know that the products we make are as good or better than most, and after five years people are aware of this.
"The biggest hurdle that we’ve had to overcome as a company is people’s idea that quality is tied to price. People are trained to think that the highest pricetag is attached to the best product and that inexpensive equals cheap. People are finally starting to understand our model. They understand that our direct-to-consumer structure has allowed us to bring them excellent wheels at an appealing price, and that the same model will work with components. People will buy from us because they know that a Williams product is going to be solid, no matter what the pricetag says."