The Rapha Pro Team saddle, part of a new saddle range launched by the British clothing company today, is a lightweight, thinly padded saddle ideal for racing and performance-focused cyclists. You'd probably need to be a Rapha fan to choose it over more established saddle brands, though it is nicely made and very light. A fit calculator makes buying the right saddle easy, but there aren't as many shapes and sizes to choose from compared with most of those established saddle brands.
- Pros: Good shape, easy fit calculator, lightweight
- Cons: Firmness won't be for everyone, premium price
Rapha is best known for its extensive range of clothing but it has over the years branched out into other categories, selling helmets, shoes and most recently bikepacking equipment. It's never produced an actual bike component until now, though. To bring the saddle, designed in-house by Rapha, to reality, the British firm worked with Selle Italia, the famous Italian saddle manufacturer, to produce the saddle. This partnership even resulted in a new manufacturing process.
A clothing company producing its own saddle might seem like an odd move, but consider the importance of a comfortable interface between saddle and bib shorts and designing both sort of makes sense. Fizik, best known for saddles, last year launched a range of bib shorts designed to work perfectly with its saddles, so the idea of one brand producing both sides of this important contact point isn't such a crazy idea after all. In fact, it could be the start of a new trend.
"We wanted to create an unrivalled riding experience by combining the Rapha chamois with a saddle, so we recruited the most experienced saddle manufacturers, developers and engineers in the industry to help us create a system that could provide total comfort," said Alex Valdman, creative director at Rapha. "The team has invested over 40 years mastering saddle design throughout their careers, while the workshop has been making saddles for more than a century."
In this new saddle range, you'll find a Classic (£180) and Pro Team shape, each with a 130 and 145mm width option, and the Pro Team comes with a centre cutout option as well. That's six saddles in all. The Pro Team is flat and designed for racing, the Classic has a scooped hammock shape putting comfort first.
All saddles are made in Italy with lightweight carbon fibre shells, one-piece carbon rails and simple graphics, including a little message when you turn the saddle over. There'll also be special RCC colours for the club members. It has to be said, because someone will only point it out in the comments, that both saddles do bear an uncanny resemblance to certain other saddles already on the market.
To help you pick the right saddle, Rapha has developed a fit calculator where you punch in some vital data (waist measurement, weight and style of riding) and it recommends the saddle. After inputting my data I returned a match for a narrow (130mm) Pro Team saddle, and one duly arrived for testing.
I've been riding this saddle for about two weeks now, so this is perhaps more of a first ride impression than a full review – I'll update this review with some long-term insight a couple of months down the line.
Obviously, it makes sense to test the Pro Team saddle with the shorts they were designed for, so I dug out the pair of Pro Team II shorts I tested a couple of months ago. You can read my review on those shorts here.
Saddle fitted and shorts pulled on, and first impressions are very good. I can be fussy when it comes to saddle shape, but it only took a few miles to get used to this one, and after a few more miles I soon forgot about it, always the sign of a comfortable saddle and good fit.
Can you wear other brand bib shorts with a Rapha saddle? Of course you can. I've been wearing a plethora of other brand bib shorts with the saddle during my two weeks of testing and can report no issues at all. Could I detect any comfort difference from other brands of bib shorts to the Pro Team shorts? I'll be honest, as much as I looked for it, I could detect no real difference in comfort.
The shape of the saddle is very flat, there's minimal padding and only a little flex in the carbon rails. As you'd expect from the Pro Team moniker, it's a saddle designed for racing, or at the very least aimed at cyclists who like to adopt an aggressive position in the drops for riding fast even if there's no number pinned to their jersey. It's for racing snakes basically, not a saddle for cruising along in an upright position.
The foam density, what there is of it, has been 'tuned to rider weight and works as a system with our bib shorts' explains Rapha. I didn't find the firmness to be a problem; it was comfortable for short blasts and some longer, three- to four-hour rides. As it's intended for racing I used it in a recent 100km road race and it didn't distract from the pain in my legs.
There is some flex in the carbon rails and shell, but it doesn't cushion with the same level of bump-absorbing flex as some saddles manage to provide, a useful benefit on our rough roads. It might not be my pick for a steady-speed long-distance ride compared to my current fave, the Fabric Scoop, so I would be interested in trying the Classic saddle to see how it compares for those rides that don't involve a bucketload of lactic acid.
Coming in at 148g, the Pro Team saddle is right up there with the lightest saddles road.cc has tested over the years; not the lightest but pretty close.
Is it expensive? Compared to the Prime Race Carbon (£77.99) yes it most definitely is, but it's cheaper than the Selle Italia SLR Tekno (£310) and Fizik Arione 00 (£325). For sure it's right at the premium end of the saddle market. You weren't expecting it to be cheap were you?
Price aside, whether you buy the saddle or not probably has more to do with whether you're a Rapha fan. If you are and you've got the shoes, helmet and full kit, then you'll likely want the saddle as well, and there are probably enough options to suit most people while keeping the choice simple.
But if you're not a fan, given that the range is a bit limited, you'll get much more comprehensive offerings from the established saddle makers, which not only offer more shapes and sizes but a broader spread of prices too.
It's a slick looking saddle with low weight and good comfort for racing and fast riding, but expensive (until a Core version comes out?) and probably best for the die-hard Rapha fans.
If you like hammering along in the drops you'll like the new Pro Team saddle, but the low weight comes with a premium price
road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Saddle
Size tested: 130mm wide
Tell us what the product is for
Two years ago Rapha set out to make the best saddles possible. The brief was simple - our bib shorts have already set new
standards of comfort, but riding pleasure is ultimately governed by the contact point with the bike. Even the most comfortable bib shorts in the world are at the mercy of the saddle upon which they sit.
Rapha's saddles interact perfectly with our bib shorts to provide an exceptional level of comfort. We have examined physiology and riding styles and created a range of saddles more specific to the unique characteristics of the rider than ever before.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Foam density tuned to rider weight and works as a system with our bib shorts (Pro Team II and Classic II) to achieve the optimal comfort through compression.
* Two different models intended for different styles of riding. Pro Team for aggressive, hard riding, Classic for comfort over long days of riding.
* Lightweight carbon construction, made by hand in Italy.
A balance between comfort, weight and style. One-piece carbon rail runs the entire length of the saddle, provides flex and compliance for a more comfortable platform.
I've only been testing it for a couple of weeks and so far it's been just fine, but I'll update this review after a couple of months riding.
It's as light as similarly priced saddles.
If you get on with firmly padded flat saddles, you'll like this one.
It's a whole heap of cash, but no more expensive than other similar spec high-end saddles.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Provides a comfortable place to sit for cyclists who like to adopt an aggressive riding position – hammering along in the drops basically.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It's comfortable and lightweight.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The price is the main thing to dislike.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Not at this price.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they are a Rapha fan, yes.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a very good saddle, but it's a lot of money and there aren't a lot of models to choose from. But if you are a Rapha fan and want a light and firm saddle with a high-quality premium finish and appearance, then the Pro Team is worth a look.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.