I have a confession to make – I’ve never really thought much about saddles. Throughout my years of cycling, the saddle was never on my list of upgrades. There was always a new fork to try out, or a set of brake pads to upgrade, but never a saddle. Safe to say that I was fairly fortunate that the saddles that came with my three bikes never gave me much of an issue. They weren’t the most comfortable, but hey they did their job.
So you can imagine my skepticism when I was given the opportunity to try out the WTB Valcon Carbon. Apart from the fact that it was made using the same exotic stuff they use in performance cars (second confession – I’m a carbon fibre junkie), I have to admit that I found the other features of the saddle slightly gimmicky. Blame it on the numbness after years of marketing whitewash. So in went the saddle onto my hardtail.
This shit is LIGHT! According to WTBs website, this comes in at 183g. I don’t have a weighing machine lying around my house, but the difference is definitely noticeable.
I had the opportunity to do a quick test when I signed up for a Mountain Biking course (Highly recommended even for seasoned bikers, good to straighten out your technique). I had to get in and out of saddle most of the time due to the rigours of having to go uphill and downhill repeatedly, coupled with fast cycling on rocky terrain. I didn’t really think much about the saddle throughout the course; probably because I was too busy trying to catch my breath. It was only after I got back home did I realize that I’d forgotten to take notes for the saddle. But this is what makes a good product, it’s there but it’s not. It works so well that you don’t even realize it’s there. It was practically invisible. It was so easy and effortless to get in and out of saddle that I didn’t even realize it was there. The long thin nose made it easier to locate yourself to get back into saddle, whereas the rear sweeps back making it easy to get out of saddle over the rear during descents.
Over long distances however, my sit bones became sore due to longer seat times on the saddle. This is even with padded shorts. Before I go any further, I would like to point out that saddle choices are a very personal thing. My suspicion for this is due to my extra large behind. My sit bones basically sit (pun intended) on the outer edge of the saddle, where padding is thinnest and support minimal. The wider saddles on my previous bikes generally felt more comfortable for me over long distances due to my wide physique.
Now onto the special features. The key features are the Luxzone, Love Channel and DNA padding. Of all the three, the one which I felt was most effective was the Luxzone.
Man does this make a world of a difference on my “sensitive soft tissues”. The key difference with WTB’s design compared to designs from other manufacturers is that the cutout is covered. I’ve previously tried a saddle from another manufacturer with a similar feature but with the cut out completely uncovered. The sensation I got was that my “sensitive soft tissues” were being cupped and left hanging at the same time, which is not my kind of thing. It’s just nice to feel something propping you up. Again, this is all very personal. This also allows the saddle nose to have a thinner profile as there isn’t a need to pad up the cut out.
An additional plus point is that you don’t need to wipe the mud and dirt off your car seat after each session.
I can’t comment much on the Love Channel and DNA padding because I wasn’t able to get a comfortable position to begin with due to my wide behind. And oh yes, that carbon fibre! Did I tell you that this shit is light? One of the drawbacks though is that I found the ride a little harsher than before, as carbon fiber isn’t known for their shock absorbing qualities. On a hardtail this is more pronounced, though the difference isn’t day and night. In terms of performance, I really couldn’t tell if I was going any faster or working more efficiently with my newfound lightness.
All in all, the saddle will perform faultlessly on tight and technical trails. It works like magic, allowing you to move fore and aft, side to side with effortless ease. I wish it could have been a bit wider at the rear for more support, but then again my physique is of the wider variety. I’m quite sure that most of you out there would not think this of an issue. Whether or not you need carbon fibre is all a matter of how deep your wallet is and how much of a spec junkie you are. All I can say is that it just looks damn cool. If you’re gunning for that last 1/10th of a second of your time, then yes it’ll be worth it. For the enthusiasts blasting through the trails every weekend, you might not be needing the carbon?
Product Reviewer: Jin Han
KSH Cycles is the official distributor of WTB in Malaysia. For more information, visit their website at www.kshcycles.com.