Remember the days when saddles were pretty much the same no matter what use they were intended for? There was a time when it didn’t matter whether you were time trialling, road racing or riding around a muddy field – a saddle was a saddle was a saddle.
But in the same way that bikes have gradually evolved to fill – or create – increasingly specific niches, saddles have also begun to develop along progressively more specialised lines.
Selle Italia’s range has now diversified to the point that there’s an almost bewildering array of saddles in its line-up, with multiple versions of the same model. To further confuse matters, the popular SLR – originally an ultra-light road saddle – now has an off-road counterpart in the form of the X-Cross.
As part of the SLR family, the X-Cross shares the same dimensions (275 x 131mm) and shape as its road-specific cousin. The reinforced shell is 30% carbon and sits on titanium rails, leaving the whole thing weighing just 186g.
Its tough Fibra-Tek microfibre cover is there to better withstand the punishment of cyclocross, gravel riding or even winter training on the road, when dirt and grit are likely to come between you and your saddle. The two herring-bone patterned anti-slip panels are tougher still, and their angled-ridges not only help you stay put on the saddle but also encourage muck to leave.
The SLR X-Cross falls into the S1 class in Selle Italia’s idMatch fitting system, meaning it’s intended for riders with narrow ischial (sit) bones and a low level of pelvic rotation. (There’s also an S2 version, the X-Cross Flow, for more flexible riders looking for a saddle with a cutout – see what we mean about a bewildering range?)
As it’s aimed at those riding rougher terrain,the X-Cross gets noticeably more padding than our favoured Flite saddle, especially along the nose. But despite being marketed as an off-road saddle, the X-Cross is a fine option for road use.
That nose’s extra padding isn’t so deep that it affects your pedalling or road feel, but it does reduce discomfort on long rides. Meanwhile the SLR’s anti-slip panels don’t prevent deliberate movement, so you can still shift your weight about easily when you do venture off road.
It’s too early to say how durable the X-Cross is, but so far it’s managed to shrug off the worst of UK spring weather.