Astute's Skylite Pilarga SR saddle may look on the pricey side, but with its twin bases, shock absorbers, memory foam and carbon fibre rails, you're getting a lot of engineering from this Italian handmade saddle. Add to the fact it's one of the most comfortable saddles I've every ridden and all of a sudden that cost is looking value for money in terms of smiles per miles.
So what makes it so special then? Well, I think it all comes down to the details – little added extras that make the saddle a little bit better in terms of comfort and, just as importantly, aesthetically.
The tri-density memory foam padding is, quite simply, brilliant. It's quite hard, you can feel that if you try to push it down with your thumb, but once you place your full body weight down it moulds to your shape and offers plenty of support.
The main comfort comes from the twin base, though. Two thin layers of nylon, the upper one reinforced with carbon, create a hull that flexes in between the stiff, one-piece carbon fibre rails, therefore absorbing road imperfections and impacts. It can be a bit disconcerting at first, as you kind of feel like you're floating in the middle of the saddle rather like a hammock, but you soon adapt. The movement is subtle, mind, it's not like you're bouncing off down the road.
The reason there are two bases is more for aesthetics than performance: it means that the Microfibre upper can be stretched over the foam and sandwiched between the two to avoid the need for any glue or ugly staples. It certainly gives a very smooth, clean finish to the overall look.
I mentioned the stiffness of those carbon fibre rails and it's no exaggeration: they don't move at all. To help here, Astute uses two small rubber elastomers at the junction between base and rail at the rear. I honestly couldn't feel any benefit directly from it, which could be down to how good a job the padding and base are doing. Put it this way, the elastomers don't make the saddle too soft.
As far as fit goes, most race saddles tend to be around the 135mm wide mark but the Pilarga has a wider rear end at 10mm more. This gives a little bit more material for your sit bones, making it ideal for the current crop of endurance and sportive bikes we're seeing on the market of late; the more upright, relaxed position is changing how you sit compared with a nose down, bum up race position.
The nose remains narrow, though – around 40mm – so for those with large thighs you don't get any rubbing issues when pedalling.
With a length of 275mm, it's about 30mm less than you get with, say, a Fizik Arione, which you might miss if you like to be able to slide to the back of the saddle when climbing. Saying that, though, the wider rear portion of the Pilarga means you have something to push against when it gets really steep.
The rails are standard 7mm diameter and while having flat sides, the top and bottom profile are rounded to fit straight onto the majority of seatposts; it fitted with every one I tried. There is plenty of room at the rear to fit a saddle bag too.
Weight wise, it's not exactly light compared with similarly priced saddles, especially considering the materials used, but we're only talking 50g or so, so it's not exactly a deal breaker.
Overall, I love the Astute, even a little bit more than the Fizik Kurve Snake I tested last year. The Pilarga looks classy and offers a ride that is truly forgettable, which is something you want in a saddle. The details and finish really help to justify the cost, and being one of your main contact points it's worth spending out on something that suits.
On price it matches the Fizik at £190, and yes, it's extravagant, but for this level of comfort, quality, looks and even exclusivity, I would buy one. It added to the pleasure of riding my bike for hours on end and that can only a good thing, right?
A saddle that feels great straight out of the box, with top notch quality and detailing, but you do have to pay for it
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Astute Skylite Pilarga SR saddle
Size tested: black-black Black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Astute has this to say about the Skylite: "SKYLITE is a saddle designed to meet athletes' specific needs. The full carbon rail enhances its well-known features of toughness and lightness. This saddle is perfect for people who are looking for a new product with advance technical features and aesthetic details that make a difference."
The Skylite Pilarga is an excellent saddle for both performance riding and when you want to take things a little easier, those day-long epic rides when you need a saddle that is comfortable and supportive. With carbon fibre and shock absorbers they have certainly gone down the innovative route.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Covering of Future microfiber,extra-strong yet soft, waterproof, breathable, washable and is in accordance with all Ecolabel requirements
* Length: 275 mm - 145 mm
* Try-Density NES70TM padding system to enhance ergonomics and comfort; the Memory FOAM system guarantees saddle recovery to its original shape
* The inside base is made of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Nylon
* The outside base is made with a special Nylon Fiber Soft Touch
* Rail tube Ø 7 mm with graduated scale, made of carbon fibre
* SPAS: Shock-Pad-Absorber-System, a new patented system based on two specific shock-absorber pads placed in between base and rails that absorb shocks and vibrations and eliminate any friction between the rail and the base
Cover: FUTURE Microfibre
Padding: TRY-DENSITY NES70TM Memory Foam
Inner Base: Carbon Fibre Reinforced Nylon
Outer Base: Nylon Fibre
Rail: 7mm Diameter Carbon Fibre
SPAS: Shock Pad Absorber System
It looks beautifully put together with real attention to detail.
I got on with the Pilarga straight out of the box and nothing has changed.
Everything looks well made and put together. There's nothing to suggest the carbon rails are at all fragile, but I've had others snap in the past.
Not super-light for a saddle of its price, with the twin base construction most likely adding the weight over the likes of Fabric's Scoop.
The Astute is a brilliant saddle for a whole range of applications. The memory foam padding means that it's comfortable from day one and remains that way. The slight flex in the base adds to this without the saddle feeling overly soft.
Considering the carbon rails and build quality, the Skylite Pilarga is a premium product at a premium price. At £190 it's pricey for a saddle but if it's one that makes all of your riding a joy, I'd say, for me anyway, I could borderline justify it. There are other cheaper options in the range, mind.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Superbly. A clever mix of stiff materials and comfortable fabrics.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Pretty much everything, a saddle that just feels 'right' straight out of the box.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Carbon rails bring a premium price.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
I pretty much sit on a different saddle every ride thanks to the constant rotation of test bikes and while I'm lucky enough to get on with the large majority of seats, the Astute Pilarga just felt right every time I sat on it. No adjustments or bedding in needed, straight out of the box it's a brilliant saddle which, coupled with the build quality and finish, means it's a product that's hard to fault. The price alone will make many riders baulk, but for all-day comfort whether you are taking it easy or on the rivet, I'd consider it a worthwhile investment.
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Kinesis T2 My best bike is: Mason Definition
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.