When I first published this review back in 2009, My first impression of the Selle SMP Avant was, “Wow, the model for this saddle must have been one well-endowed man.” I was skeptical. The red, green and white stitching gave no indication that this bicycle seat was actually designed for a woman. How could I possibly be comfortable on a saddle with such an enormous cut-out? I was surprised that a statement addressing my concerns was included in the accompanying pamphlet –albeit in a less-than-perfect English translation:
“The central channel of the saddle, 3-5 cm wide, prevents the anus, the prostate, the peudenda veins, the deep dorsal vein and artery of the penis, scrotum and testicles, and the labia majora and minora, and clitoris, not to be squashed at all, allowing a continuous and completely natural blood.”
It’s now over three years later and I’ve got a second Avant saddle. This time I opted for a white one, and for all you women in Los Angeles who want to test ride a Rodriguez, now you can also test ride the most comfortable saddle I’ve ever owned.
While the overall shape and size of the Selle SMP Avant closely approximates the Terry Butterfly (a saddle I’m intimately familiar with, after many miles of riding), the similarities end abruptly. The Selle SMP Avant has considerably less cushioning than the Butterfly– but the main difference is its cut-out. While the Butterfly cut-out begins approximately 7.5 cm from the nose of the saddle, the SMP Avant cutout begins a mere 2 cm from SMP’s signature “eagle’s beak” nose and extends approximately 17.5 cm to the rear.
According to my measurements, the cutout is 2cm wide in front and 4cm wide at the rear. It’s enormous—you can almost put your hand through it.
I couldn’t help but wonder what part of this saddle I was actually going to sit on. But, after my first hour-long spin, the boggy, numb feeling I normally experience in my pelvis after a ride was noticeably absent. SMP’s innovative design cradles the ischium and leaves room for the coccyx while actually framing the soft tissue of the perineum, rather than compressing it. Here’s what SMP says about its design: “Surveys conducted by various universities in the United States in Norway and in Austria have shown that the squashing of pelvic organs and pudenda arteries may have serious consequences on the genital apparatus of athletes and amateurs.
The patent SMP arises from the study of the different positions assumed by the racer in the various phases of the course and by the consequent interaction between the saddle, pelvic organs and genitals-male and female-with an aim to preventing their getting squashed and rubbed, and the same time increase the blood flow to the leg muscles.“ Technical specs: The saddle has a nap leather cover, the padding is made from a foamed elastomer, the casing is made from nylon 12 charged with carbon fibre and the frame is AISI 304 tubular steel. The dimensions are 269 x 154mm and the Avant weighs in at 335 grams. It’s made in Italy and the construction is superb. Initially, the red, green and white stitching on the surface of the saddle was a problem after rides of more than 50 miles, causing itching and even a little pain. I was starting to feel like a Princess with a pea problem. However, with a sufficient break-in period, the stitching has been worn down and softened.
I have been riding exclusively with an Avant saddle for almost four years and in addition to many miles of training, I rode this saddle day after day for three different years on Cycle Oregon. I’m a slow rider and was on my bike over six hours a day. I have no reason to change this most important point of contact on my bike. In fact, SMP has come up with an ingenious complement to their phenomenal saddle. It’s Their SMP4BIKE Special Wear cycling bib for women.
The price of this saddle is nearly double that of the Terry Butterfly. However, if you have trouble being comfortable on your bike seat, the Selle SMP line of saddles is worth investigating. They offer a variety of widths and different levels of padding. SMP now also offers an entire “Lady Line” with your choice of black or white leather with pink stitching. In addition, Selle offers a test ride program through some of its dealers (including a few online). Overall, this saddle, with its distinctive cut-out, makes the competition seem like labial lip-service.
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