For a long time the Specialized Roman has been my saddle of choice. The large cutout, the shape and its relatively narrow waistline had provided the most comfortable perch I’d found to date.
A while back however I had an Astute Mudline VT saddle come in for review and I was a big fan. While it’s a mountain bike saddle, with a few key features designed to play nice with baggy shorts and getting up on the nose while climbing, the shape suited me really well. The only drawback was the price.
- A buyer's guide to getting the best road bike saddle
- How to choose a bike saddle
- The evolution of the endurance road bike
So when I had the opportunity to test the Italian brand’s Starlight road saddle, which is based around the same shape as the Mudline, I jumped at the opportunity.
If you haven’t heard of Astute, it's a small, handmade saddle brand based in the northern city of Padua, Italy.
Sitting in the middle of the brand’s lineup, the Starlight features full 3k 7x9 carbon rails and a fibre-reinforced nylon shell. My saddle measured 135mm wide and 270mm long.
Other than their striking aesthetics and workmanship, what sets Astute saddles apart is foam. Instead of using EVA foam, like the majority of saddles on the market, all of Astute’s seats use memory foam, which gets progressively softer as you move forward towards the nose.
The idea behind the multi-density foam is the firmer foam at the back offers sufficient support for your sitting bones, while the softer foam aims to reduce pressure on your sensitive bits.
There is considerably more padding on all of Astute’s products than you’d expect to find on a performance saddle, but it never ceases to amaze how firm and supportive they are when you actually sit down.
After months of riding the Starlite, and even longer on the Mudline, I can genuinely say the foam doesn’t deteriorate and retains its firmness for quite a while.
The additional padding was also appreciated when I ventured onto gravel roads and poor road surfaces. Even if a saddle fits you perfectly, sometimes thinly padded performance saddles aren’t all great on the rough-and-tumble roads — hence why we’re seeing some more padded versions of popular saddles such as the Specialized Power Arc.
With a decent-sized centre channel to relieve pressure there is a touch of flex in the shell around the channel, whether or not this works for you will depend on your body. Some may find this puts too much pressure on the front of the perineum, which is the most common complaint with saddles that feature a cutout, but it suited me well with no pain or numbness.
Made from Italian Ecolabel certified waterproof microfibre, this saddle has a nice feel and seems to hold up to plenty abuse. It also tipped my scales at 219g.
And so here is the only problem I have with the Astute Starlight saddle — the price. Coming in at £150 / AU$329, that price tag is hard to swallow. That said, there is a TI railed version that costs £115 / $219.
For that kind of money, other brands are into the full carbon rails and shell, high-end covers and eye-popping numbers on the scale, and it's in this respect that the Astute Starlite doesn't quite measure up.
However, if your preferred saddle is similar in shape to the Romin and you're looking to try something new, the Starlite is definitely worth a look (if you can afford it).