Selle Italia says there's life in the leather saddle yet

Three models available in new premium range

With impeccable timing, the Selle Italia brand has been reborn with a range of three leather saddles made using their old machines and a "whiff of today's technology", plus matching saddle bags and lock-on grips.

We say impeccable because they were revealed to BikeRadar today at the headquarters of Selle Italia near Venice, the same day that a stage of the Giro d'Italia finishes right in their backyard. 

Given the long ties between the Italian grand tour and the saddle brand, it seems to make sense. After all, when Fausto, Gino and Tommy would fly up the Dolomites on steel road bikes, what saddles would they be riding? That's right, leather ones. 

So what are these new handmade saddles, and why has the Selle Italia brand been rebooted with them? Let's dive in…

Three new leather saddles

They come in nice packaging too:
They come in nice packaging too:

There's a race saddle called the Storica, a classic endurance saddle called the Mitica, and a trekking saddle called the Epoca. All are made with three layers of fabric: a bottom leather layer, then a mesh in the middle, and an upper leather layer to finish. Selle Italia says that, once pressed together, these three materials can better resist deformation and last longer than a single sheet of leather.

All three also feature dual-metal compression rivets designed not to lose their shape or tear the leather when you tighten the cover. This compares to the hand-hammered copper rivets found on the most famous leather saddle brand, English firm Brooks.

The rivets are made up of two metals, to reduce stretch:
The rivets are made up of two metals, to reduce stretch:

Interesting details include metal saddlebag mounts at the rear, gleaming chrome rails, carefully imprinted logos, and a leather tensioning system that draws the leather tighter on the metal frame over the course of the saddle's lifetime. Plus, on the Mitica endurance model there's also a bottom plate to stabilise the saddle's elongated shape.

The Epoca touring saddle has plenty of surface area to give riders enough room to move around and shift position on long rides in an upright position. All three saddles (Epoca, Mitica, Storica) will initially come in two colours: black and honey, although the models we were shown came in a few different versions, including green and red leather.

Pricing on all three models is to be confirmed, though we were told that they'll be priced for the premium end of the market, slightly above their main competitors due to a claimed higher level of technology used in construction – so upwards of £100/$150. Oh, and the packaging has been carefully put together too, with a simple dual-colour design and a copy of old Gazetta dello Sport articles on Fausto Coppi winning a Giro stage.

Accessories

The new sella italia leather saddlebags:
The new sella italia leather saddlebags:

There's also a range of matching leather accessories planned, including saddle bags and lock-on grips, which again will initially come in black and honey coloured leather. The saddle bags look to have enough capacity for a multitool and inner tube, and perhaps a gel or two, but not much more than that. They'll attach via the metal holes found to the rear of the leather saddles.

The leather grips come in two versions, regular and ergonomic, and are clearly designed for town bikes and hybrids. Pricing TBC, but we don't think they'll come cheap – best guess is around the £50 / $75 mark.

Satisfaction in the old ways

Some of the old moulds that were pressed into service:
Some of the old moulds that were pressed into service:

Selle Italia product manager Piet Van Der Velde explained why the company decided to move back into making leather saddles after decades of working with plastic, carbon, titanium and other modern materials. 

"We found great satisfaction in doing this project," he said. "It's like taking a Model T Ford knowing how that works and trying to make it better with today's technology but not destroying the Model T Ford itself."

Given that the company still had the old pressing machines needed to make them, the next step was to figure out how to source the correct materials, and how to use the machinery.

"The metal construction is not so easy, you have to find the right people to do the high-grade chroming, you have to do the stamping, use the right materials in the riveting, it's a labour of love that goes into these saddles. It's all made and cut by hand."

They ended up seeking out a factory that makes horse saddles, to learn from the experts how the material works, how to use hide from different parts of the animal to get the best use from it. "The first few models and accessories we're showing today are just the start, it's a little exercise for us on how to make these saddles again."

Click through the gallery above for a closer look at the new saddles.

Jamie Beach

Deputy Editor, UK
Jamie's been addicted to bikes from the moment his stabilisers came off. Earliest cycling memory is the chipboard-ramp-on-bricks, but happiest one is bombing down a Mallorcan mountain pass that seemed it might never end. Always on the hunt for the perfect rain jacket, a keen collector of hats.
  • Discipline: Road, gravel
  • Preferred Terrain: Big mountains with long climbs, equally long and fast descents, the chance to get above the treeline.
  • Current Bikes: Genesis Croix de Fer, Kona Cindercone
  • Dream Bike: BMC TeamMachine SLR01
  • Beer of Choice: Augustiner
  • Location: Bath, Somerset, UK

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