Fizik’s brand positioning as the Vegemite of the saddle world has won it some passionate supporters and some vocal opposition. Like Vegemite and Marmite, it is a brand you either love or hate. Fizik was created in 1986 by Selle Royal. It’s a relatively new company, but with Selle Royal producing saddles since the 50s it has a strong pedigree in saddle design and manufacture.The story goes that Selle Royal – a huge name in saddles, but strongly geared towards the recreational market – started Fizik to penetrate the high-performance market rather than risk cannibalising its own brand. As well as saddles, Fizik makes mean bar tape, saddlebags and top of the line race shoes. It is strongly positioned as a company focused on making cool, well-designed products. The Kurve represents Fizik’s latest attempt to lift the bar on saddle design by engineering a saddle that can be adapted to the rider’s style and movement on the bike.
Fizik saddles and I have had an uneasy relationship over the years. We had a fling back in 2010 when I was overseas. A Summer fling, if you will. I was young and naïve and filled with the joyful optimism that all saddles were created equal. It did not end well. In fact, I’ve now tried a few Fizik saddles and I have never found them comfortable. It follows, then, that my mood when testing the new Fizik Kurve could at best have been described as ‘apprehensive’. Still, my editor is a good bloke so I figured Fizik was worth a second chance. A lot of my friends ride Fizik and love it; it’s a very individual thing.
The Kurve represents a new approach by Fizik to saddle design. Rather than rely on padding for rider comfort, it is the base itself
that delivers the smooth ride. The saddles are engineered to flex beneath the rider, with an adjustable tension on the base to suit your riding style and comfort preferences. This is quite similar to what Brooks does, except these are lighter (224g), cheaper and don’t make you look like an English public schoolboy.
There are three models of Kurve you can choose from, each suited to a different level of rider flexibility according to Fizik’s Spine Concept system. The Spine Concept system is based on the premise that saddle shape should be determined by the rider’s level of flexibility on the bike. The Snake is for very flexible riders, the Bull is for those who have a very rigid posture, and the Chameleon is for those in between. I tested the Chameleon. In terms of Fizik’s standard range, the Snake is equivalent to the Fizik Arione series; the Bull is their Aliante series, and the Chameleon is their Antares. Each of the saddles has the animal type it represents pictured on the top of the shell. I admit, I initially thought someone had spilled glue on the saddle, but closer inspection revealed it to be a picture of a Chameleon.
The saddle consists of three parts – base, rail and tuner. The tuner is the part that makes the Kurve unique. It sits at the nose of the saddle, attached to the rails, and controls the downward flex of the saddle. You are provided with two tuners (hard and soft), which dictate the extent of the flex. The hard tuner limits the flex of the base on the rails so that you get a stiffer ride, and the soft tuner allows the base to flex more, giving you a softer ride. You can swap the tuners easily using a torx-head screwdriver.
The base of the saddle consists of layers of carbon composite, topped with a thin layer of foam (thinner than most other high-end saddles). The sides of the saddle are made from a more flexible plastic that is designed to reduce inner-thigh chafing while riding. The rails supporting the base are a single piece and run around the rear of the saddle rather than through the middle. This allows for more base movement and suspension than you’d get with a traditional rail design which has the rail contacts nearer your sit bones.
I gave the Kurve a decent ride, and although it was better than previous Fizik models I’ve tried, I still found that it could be more comfortable. Flex doesn’t matter to me as much as saddle shape, and the Fizik base shape just doesn’t suit me. I’d like to try it with a cut out in the middle as would, I suspect, a lot of women. I could definitely notice the difference when trying different tuners, but with the shape being unsuited to my anatomy, I found that a lack of comfort overshadowed any differences.
However, I couldn’t write a review and say, “this saddle was uncomfortable because it didn’t suit me.” So I shared it around a bit and asked for some extra feedback. Reports from people who do fit the saddle shape indicate that the tuners make a big difference to the feel of the saddle. The soft tuner tends to give more on bumps, and the saddle flex is well distributed along the entire length of the saddle. In short, it’s not a gimmick: it’s a genuine improvement to Fizik’s existing saddle design.
The Kurve is ideally suited to the Mr Millimetres amongst us who enjoy spending their Friday nights tweaking and tuning every part of their ride. Or to Beach Road riders who love having a $270 saddle that looks pretty nice. For my part, I just want a saddle I can set and forget. Having different options to me seems like more work.
If you already have an Arione, Aliante or Antares saddle, the Kurve could be a good upgrade because it gives you the chance to customise something that already suits you. But do check the shape to see if it is similar to what you are already riding.
Distributed by SOLASport