The market for saddles these days is extremely hard to crack and with the sheer number of options out there it can be difficult to cut through the noise.
Astute is a relatively new Italian saddle maker that emerged from the desire to produce high-end saddles that are ‘Made in Italy’. We've heard that before, but the quality, aesthetic and overall performance make these perches absolutely worth a look.
The Mudline VT is one of Astute’s mid range titanium rail saddles. In contrast, the Skylite and Skyline range features a rounded shape and measures 125mm wide and 250mm long — it’s slighting shorter and narrower than Astute's other saddles. Not only did this shape and size suit me, but the design also helped to prevent snags on baggies.
It’s memory foam, but for your nether regions
When an Astute saddle is put in your hands, the first thing you notice after the aesthetics is the amount of padding. All of Astute's saddles, both on and off road, see more padding than you’d expected from a performance product. In fact, Astute says it’s ‘open U’ shape allows for three times more padding capacity than a competing saddle.
A squeeze of the seating is a bit more akin to a plush leather couch than something designed to support the majority of your body weight, through all kinds of terrain for hours on end. Despite this extra padding, I'm always shocked at how firm the saddle is when you actually sit on it and the foam is surprisingly supportive.
This Jekyll and Hyde performance is due to Astute's use of memory foam instead of the standard EVA foam seen in the majority of saddles. In fact, the Italian saddle maker uses three different densities of foam on the Mudline, which gets progressively softer from back to front. The idea being that the firmer foam at the back offers more support for the sit bones, while the softer foam at the front takes a bit of the pressure off your bathing suit parts.
Even with all of this foam, in the roughly six-month period I've been using the Mudline VT there is no sign of the foam wearing in or packing down and it still offers the same support as the first day I rode it.
With all this material it shouldn't come as a major surprise that the Mudline VT is not a particularly feathery, tipping our scales at 247g.
In addition to the generous padding, there is also a bit of flex around the centre channel and the carbon reinforced nylon hull. I found it added a bit of extra comfort, though some may find it puts too much pressure on the frontal area of the perineum — a common complaint of cut-out saddles. I usually gravitate towards saddles with the internal channel as they suit my derriere and the channel on the Mudline does its job well making for all day comfort with no pain or numbness.
The saddle also sees a dipped nose, which in combination with the softer memory foam made steep climbs — where you need to slide up on the saddle to maintain control of the front wheel — a little less uncomfortable and puts you in a good body position too.
Good as new
The microfiber cover also gets a bit of reinforcement around the rear third with Astute’s Bumper D-System, designed to prevent rips, scuffs and tears where they most commonly happen. I didn’t take any particularly big tumbles during my test period, but in spite of a few forced acrobatic dismounts, the saddle still looks good as new.
Overall my only real complaint with this saddle is the price. At £160 / $N/A / AU$355, for about the same money you can get an S-Works Phenom or a WTB High Tail, both are lighter and see carbon rails. While saddles are quite a personal piece of equipment, if you gravitate toward rounded saddles with a centre channel, the Mudline is definitely worth a look.