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FSA K-Force Light SB25 Seatpost

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Seatpost In Action

Graphic courtesy of Road Bike Review

I have written a few posts about my Alchemy Eros.  Starting with A Bicycle for the Cognoscenti Adventure, followed by My New Best Bike:  the Alchemy Eros, and 4,000 km / 2,500 mi Update:  Alchemy Eros.

A common theme in the two later posts is that the trade-off for a stiff and sharp handling titanium frame is a ride that is sometimes jarring.  I have owned, and still own in the form of a Ritchey Break-Away Road Ti / Carbon, Ti bicycles that are more comfortable.

I lived with the tradeoff between frame stiffness and comfort until I read an online article in VeloNews titled Getting the Most From Your Post.  First published in June 2012, the article is somewhat dated, but still relevant.  The article attempted to determine the role the seatpost plays in rider comfort.

In its typically thorough fashion, VeloNews set out to answer this question by testing 14 seatposts of different materials, setback and design philosophy. At Boulder’s Microbac accredited test laboratory, they measured vibration damping over small bumps with an accelerometer, and they measured linear deflection (flex) under body weight in two dimensions.

The winner was the FSA K-Force Light SB (Setback).  VeloNews judged the FSA seatpost to be the best choice for long road rides.   The FSA seatpost has excellent vibration damping, which makes it noticeably more comfortable, especially on long rides, dirt roads, or concrete or asphalt with lots of small cracks and expansion joints.

The seatpost that came with my Eros is the Ritchey Comp Carbon.

Ritchey Carbon Comp

Photograph courtesy of Ritchey

This seatpost was not one of those tested, but three other Ritchey seatposts, the WCS Carbon SB, the WCS Aluminium SB, and the WCS Carbon Straight, are among those in the Velonews review.  The Ritchey seatposts came in sixth, tenth and last respectively.

The Comp Carbon sits at the lower end of Ritchey’s seatpost offerings.  I thus assume that it would score even lower than its siblings on the VeloNews test.

Eager to soften the ride of the Alchemy Eros, I bought an FSA K-Force Light.

FSA K-Force Light

Photograph courtesy of Full Speed Ahead

I have the version with the same 25mm of setback that my Ritchey Comp Carbon has.  For purely aesthetic reasons I opted for the black and grey graphics rather than the red and white.

VeloNews had discovered that a setback post will give you greater pedaling efficiency and more high-frequency vibration damping.  My usual routes don’t have big bumps, where the greater flex of a straight seatpost is an advantage.

I have ridden 370km / 230mi on the FSA K-Light.  The ride quality of my Eros has noticeably improved.  Even with 10psi more air pressure in each tire.  There is much more vibration damping now.  My Eros rides much more like I would expect a Ti frame to ride.  So my qualitative impression so far matches the quantitative findings at VeloNews.

I have a 240km / 149mi ride, split over two days, this weekend.  I am looking forward to a more comfortable long-distance ride than I have had before on the Alchemy Eros.

Saddle Up

A rider touches a bicycle at three points.  At the pedals, the saddle, and the handlebar.  When I got my first road bike the components at these three contact points were chosen for me by James Flatman, the bike builder.  Thank goodness, because the choices of pedals, saddles and handlebars are seemingly endless.

My steel Alchemy came with Speedplay Zero pedals, a Selle Italia SL Flow saddle, and a Ritchey Comp Road Logic handlebar.  I was happy with all those contact points, so a year later when I got my next road bike I was happy to stick with what I was used to.

Welcome to the concept of product updates in the cycling components world.

My titanium Alchemy came with Speedplay Zero pedals, a Selle Italia SLR Flow saddle (the SL Flow having been discontinued), and a Ritchey WCS Carbon Evolution handlebar (the Road Logic having been discontinued).  The saddle and handlebars were not very different from the models which they had replaced, but they were different enough for the change to be noticeable.

So it was that I contracted that affliction that affects so many cyclists.  The desire to fiddle.  In my case with saddles.

Fortunately the itch to fiddle has not extended to my pedals and handlebars.  The scope for mucking around with my pedals is limited anyway.  I like the dual-sided entry of the Speedplays.  Other makes of road pedals are single-sided.  So my only option is getting lighter Speedplays; chrome-moly or titanium.  I haven’t yet been cursed with the ultimate cyclist’s affliction, the desire for the lightest components on earth.  So my stainless steel Speedplays remain my pedals of choice.

I must admit that I like the Carbon Evolution handlebar more than I like the Comp Road Logic handlebar.  The Carbon Evolution has an oval top with a 4 degree sweep, which makes it more comfortable  than the Comp Road Logic.  So about a year ago I put a Carbon Evolution handlebar on the steel Alchemy.

Back to fiddling with saddles.  Of the three contact points I notice the saddle the most while I am riding.  Not that the SL Flow or the SLR Flow are uncomfortable saddles.  They both have a central cutout, which I like.  This is the SL Flow.

Selle Italia SL Flow

This is the SLR Flow.

Selle Italia SLR Flow

The SLR Flow has a slightly larger cutout than the SL Flow, but they are essentially the same saddle.  Equally comfortable.  But as I learned more about saddle shapes and the different materials used to make them, I kept wondering if there may be a more comfortable saddle out there for me.

Then in the latter half of 2011 I read about the Fi’zi:k Kurve range of saddles.

Fizik Kurve

There was enough new technology in the Kurve saddles to appeal to the geek in me.  Spine Concept designs, Re:flex construction, a Tuner interchangeable tension system, a Moebius one-piece saddle rail.  Add positive reviews about outstanding comfort to the mix, and I wanted one.

The Fi’zi:k Kurves appeared in a few London bike shops some time before they turned up in Dutch bike shops.  At the very first opportunity I popped into Condor Cycles in London.  I had every intention of leaving with either a Kurve Snake or a Kurve Chameleon saddle, depending upon what a Spine Concept test showed I was best suited to.

The sales person asked me if I had any problems or discomfort with the Selle Italia saddles.  I said “no.”

I left empty-handed.  She refused to sell me a saddle.  She told me not to try to fix something that wasn’t broken.

That cured my saddle fiddling itch.

That is until I started seeing Michelle again.  Michelle is a Rolf Method Structural Integration Practitioner.   She does myofascial release therapy.  In plain language, she manipulates deep tissue to correct postural imbalances and restrictions.   I saw her regularly in the years before I moved to Houston.  As soon as I got back to Kuala Lumpur I signed up for a course of therapy.  I had lots of things that needed fixing.  Some brought on by cycling.

After Michele had worked on my hip muscles: adductors, glutes, illiopsoas, piriformis, sartorius, etc., my saddles felt less comfortable.  They felt too narrow.

I had learned that bicycle saddles come in different widths.  Perhaps Michelle had loosened up my pelvis such that my sit bones had moved further apart. So I went to a Specialized Concept store to have my sit bones measured.  The resulting number showed that my 130mm wide Selle Italia saddles were indeed to narrow for my sit bones.

Specialized makes saddles in three widths: 130mm, 143mm, and 155mm.  My sit bone measurement showed that I needed a saddle wider than 143mm.  So I left the shop with a 155mm wide Romin Comp Gel saddle under my arm.

Specialized Romin Comp Gel

I replaced the SL Flow saddle on my steel bike with the Romin saddle.   The Romin felt very comfortable at first.  As time went by it felt less and less comfortable.  At the same time the SLR Flow saddle on my titanium bike became increasingly comfortable.  My sit bones must have slowly migrated closer together again.  The Romin saddle started feeling too wide for me.

So when I had to choose a saddle for my Ritchey Breakaway I picked the latest iteration of the Selle Italia SLR saddle.  The SLR Superflow.  A 130mm wide one.

Selle Italia SLR Superflow

The SLR Superflow has a monster cutout.  Which must work as designed because this a very comfortable saddle.

Since April this year I have rotated between the 130mm wide SLR Flow, the 130mm wide SLR Superflow, and the 155mm wide Romin Comp Gel saddles.  The Romin was a mistake.  Certainly in the 155mm width.

Last week I replaced the Romin Comp Gel with another 130mm SLR Superflow.

I think I am done fiddling with my saddles.

But about that handlebar tape . . .