05 March 2015

Good and Evil Saddles: Fizik Arione vs Fizik Arione R5

When I first started riding road bikes, I tried a bunch of different saddles before I found one that was really comfortable for long rides, multi days, etc.  There was one the came with my first road bike.  Then a WTS saddle with a cutout center. Then at one point a super-light Fizik Aliante.  And some painful experiments with Selle Italia models that did not suit me.

True, I was not always dressed in proper cycling gear (okay, there were those first few rides, embarrassing in hindsight, before I was told "no underpants, only an under shirt--and don't call it that, call it an inner layer").  And then there was a multi-year process of getting slightly better quality padded shorts, then bib shorts, then Assos bib shorts (and now, Q36.5).  

So when I found the Fizik Arione saddle, I could not have been happier.  Ride all day, then ride again the next day.  No sores, no pain, no numbness, lots of positions on the long/flat platform.  I see other people riding all different types of saddles, and hear them rave about ones that look, to me, extremely painful.  
I think Mike Rice was riding one of these in Toito a few years back.  Looks painful to me ... but he said it was great.

Someone was riding this awhile back -- I think Tom Wielrenner ... or am I misremembering?
Super light ... super hard.  Looks painful to me.
No, they say, it works for them.  There is a theory behind the bare shiny hard piece of twisted carbon (or two pieces at odd angles with a slot in the middle).  Well, more power to 'em.  But I will stick with what works for me.  The trusty Fizik Arione.

The Fizik Arione.  "Nylon reinforced shell".  Has carried me how many kilometers this past decade? 100,000?  More?
My only recent deviations?  I tried a Brooks B-17 -- very comfortable once broken in, if a bit heavy ... great for a touring bike or commuter (except you need to cover it in the rain to keep the leather in good shape). Then I got a Brooks Cambium -- worked fine on the Yamabushi for commuting, until one of the rivet heads came off.  I sent it back.
Brooks B17 - a classic. Mine is honey brown.
Brooks Cambium -- Liked it until tip's rivet cover popped off
But my stable of bikes has grown, the Fizik saddles do wear out eventually, and the Cambium was sent back and needed replacing, so I ordered another Fizik Arione in December.

I thought, maybe I should try the "VX" or "versus" type with a lower channel section in the middle.  But no, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  The reviews of the channeled version seemed more mixed than the standard, anyway.
The "versus" model of Arione.

Instead, one of the slightly lighter, higher-end Arione models, the Arione R5, was on sale, so I clicked and closed the deal.
Arione R5. Ouch.
I recently had a chance to put it on a bike and try it out.  It was a definitely newer and lighter weight model. Less padding (but I thought, should be okay, as long as I have padded bib shirts).  

In fact, the feel was completely different.  Uncomfortable.  Painful.  

And after my broken cable on the Yamabushi, I rode it in a pinch once in the city without padded shorts.  OUCH.  In a pinch indeed.

The R5 has a newer "nylon carbon thermoplastic composite shell" instead of the old "nylon reinforced shell". Whatever.  It strikes me as an entirely different saddle.  They should have dropped the Arione name and just called it an R5.

The real Arione. Good.

Arione R5.  Evil.  Ouch.


Unknown said...

Hi David...your memory served you right; at one time I was swearing by that SMP saddle. Ludwig and Ovest Nishitani-san highly recommended this saddle. Like you I have tried many saddles (probably more than 20) and have settled down with San Marco Regal , Brooks Swallow and Brook B17 Narrow. BTW, I still own a "real Arione" black with a red strip in the middle. You seem to like it so much that I am happy to present it to you for free :)

el Bondo said...

I've had the exact same experience. Loved my old fizik arione but not enjoying my new r5. I see they've just released the arione classic so there's obviously a fair fgroundswell of discomfort out there.

Ernesider said...

I ordered what I thought was a basic Fizik Arione from Laxzo. The ad said Fizik Arione and the illustration looked like my other Ariones, but what arrived was a Fizik Arione R7. Decided to give it a go. So took it on a 50 mile run on Sunday and I believe we are going to get along. Also a few 5-6 mile rides wearing unpadded baggy shorts (my basic test that tells me right away if a saddle is a complete no hoper, as was the one that came with my new bike ..!!) and no blisters/soreness or real discomfort. Definitely flatter than my other Ariones and I can slide back and forward with ease. I have to admit to a few sacrilegious thoughts as to whether the R7 might turn out to be my new favourite..??

Ernesider said...

After about 2 months the shell of my R7 broke 3-4 inches fron the nose.
After a week or so of messing about Laxzo gave me a full refund.
I found an old Arione (original) and fitted it. Suits me fine even if
It is a bit used looking on the new bike ..!!

David Litt said...

UPDATE: I have continued to use "classic" Arione saddles in the several years since this post (including the used one Tom gave me). I did get one "Versus", with the middle channel. but I note that Fizik at some point added a "wide" version.

In Tasmania this year I felt as if my very well-worn "classic" Fizik Arione's foam padding was starting to lose its spring. So I just got a Wide version of the R3 for my trip to Europe (and PBP). I have done a few short rides, and it has none of the problems I immediately felt with the R5. It does have a carbon inner shell, so is a bit hard. But the wide rear/sit bones area is good for my physique, and I have nearly a month before Paris-Brest-Paris to make sure it is acceptable, better yet, superior.