Michael Hanslip Coaching

If you want to go faster, you have to pedal harder


Finding the right saddle for your bike is much like finding anything where fit is involved in a mass-produced good. Which is to say maybe the first one you try is close enough that you never look beyond it, or perhaps you try all you can get your hands on and still find yourself wanting something different.
Most saddles follow a tried and tested construction process. A nylon shell is covered in foam which is further covered in leather or leather-like substance. Rails can be made from many substances, most of which have little influence on the comfort level of the saddle.
The first saddle I tried that wasn’t of this variety was way back in my teen years when I got a traditional saddle – stretched leather over a metal frame. These days that pretty much means a Brooks saddle, but there were other choices back then and mine was from France rather than England. It was quite comfortable, but it left all shorts with black dye in them and it got bent when my bike tipped over and couldn’t easily be straightened. End of experiment 1.
Much more recently, Brooks released a modernised version of this same saddle in rubber and canvas instead of leather. I applied to be a tester and was granted a C17 to review. I liked it quite a lot, but it moved around too much to be a permanent addition to my bike. I’d love to try the racier version with carbon rails – both for the lighter weight and narrower dimensions as for the stiffer chassis that might all contribute to less movement. Just in the past weeks this has found its way onto my indoor bike. With no corners and no bumps the movement is a non-issue.
Fizik is an Italian saddle brand that had 3 main road saddles to suit the more flexible, the less flexible and the inflexible rider. The Arione, the more flexible option, was my go-to saddle for many years. The one drawback was that the shell had “cuts” in it to allow the shell to flex out of the way of pedalling legs for greater comfort, but the cuts eventually ran through the middle of the shell rendering it unrideable. Fizik has a gen 2 version of the Arione now, which I have 3 examples of for my 3 road bikes. It is much more durable than the original (no cuts), but also much less comfortable for me.
On the trainer, the Arione was replaced with the C17 to good effect.
The state of the art in saddles is now a 3D printed unit. The printer creates a spider-web like network of small plastic struts all joined at thousands of nodes to create the three dimensional shape of the seat. There is no padding and no cover, just the lattice of plastic struts. Specialized was first to the market with one of these, and now they have two models and two variants. Fizik came out with something similar more recently. Again they have two models and at least two variants. I was interested to read that both saddles are produced by the same American company that has unique 3D printing technology and the ability to create numerous saddle tops in a short period of time.
I really want to try one of the printed saddles. They just look like they’d be comfortable and the reports on them suggest most people like them. Unlike foam, which is the same stiffness everywhere – the 3D printed lattice can be different in stiffness anywhere across the structure to suit local conditions for a seat.
One drawback is price. There is no such thing as a cheap printed saddle. Though they have gotten markedly less expensive than they were a year ago.
MTB saddles are less demanding than road saddles because you sit for so brief a time on a mountain bike and the ground jostles you around on the seat too – effectively resetting things all the time. I bought a new trail bike two years ago and needed a saddle for it. The bike shop recommended something (Fabric brand) and leant me a demo model. I thought it was pretty good, so I bought two (one for that bike and a variation on it for a bike that required a new seat). With time I’ve realised I do not like the Fabric saddles. The flat one on the trail bike might be better on a road bike with more drop to the bars (rotating my pelvis further forwards and changing my relationship with the seat) while the more saddle shaped saddle on the long-travel bike just doesn’t work.
There are just so many “nearly” saddles. They are nearly what I want… I find it quite difficult to find the “yes” saddle. It can take 20 hours on a broken in saddle to decide if it is right, and it can take longer than that to break one in. Which means a typical demo situation is of little use except to toss out the obvious losers early. I almost hope that I get a 3D printed saddle and dislike it because it would be unthinkably expensive to put one on every bike…

Top Ganna

Just a week after Ganna set the Hour Record, he was back on the track on his expensive Pinarello for the track Worlds. Not only did he win but he beat the world record, previously set at altitude, in the process.
I remember when the team pursuit record went under 4 minutes, and now it's the individual pursuiters' turn to go so fast.

When you're fast: you're fast!!!!

Andiamo Ganna.

The Hour Record

Near the end of the 19th century, the first man established the “hour record” at around 35 km in 60 minutes (the women’s hours record came MUCH later and isn’t the topic of conversation for today). Now, the hour record is a cool cycling thing based on how far you can ride on a velodrome in one hour – that’s it: ride for 60 minutes and see how far you went.
When, in 1972, Merckx set the record at 49 km, it was out of reach for a long while. Ten years later, Moser was able to take that up to 50 km by using newly developed disc wheels and a lo-pro frame to gain an aero-advantage over the Merckx set-up. In 1992 it got bumped up again. First by Obree and then by (then) recent Barcelona Olympic Individual Pursuit gold medallist Boardman at 52 km.
Obree, Indurain, Rominger, Rominger and Boardman kept pushing the distance upwards in five steps to well over 56 km (56.3). Then the UCI stepped in and threw out 25 years of progress by telling everyone that Merckx was once again the record holder. From that day forwards, all record attempts had to be done on a 1970’s style bike. There were a few attempts, a couple of successes, getting the record up to 51 km. But the main problem was it didn’t appeal to anyone. At least the 90’s flurry of activity was based around the then-current Individual Pursuit regulations and any decent time trial rider would feel at home on a pursuit bike.
Then the UCI leadership changed and they opened up the hour to current pursuit bike rules again. The last decade has seen another whirlwind of records upping the distance from both strong GC riders and time trial specialists. They collectively pushed the record up to nearly 55 km (still not equal to Boardman’s 1996 record of 56).
In September an unlikely holder emerged at the end of one hour with a 55 km distance: an engineer from a pro road team, who is apparently a pretty handy cyclist himself, put all of the marginal gains he knew about into his personal attempt with fantastic success. That was just the prelude to the main event. On the same team was double world champion Ganna. Early on the morning of October 9
th (8th where he was) Ganna took his fancy Individual Pursuit equipment and crushed all the records with a 56.7 km record.
That is far enough that it might be some time before anyone can better it.