Rapha built their name on premium clothing, high-quality bib shorts being a standout. But they felt saddle variety was limiting how they optimized shorts for rider comfort, so Rapha set out to design their own saddles. Designed to pair with their Pro Team & Classic bibs and tailored for rider size, we’ve been test riding the new Pro Team saddle, and have the details on the Classic saddles as well…
Rapha Pro Team & Classic road bike saddles
Low key designs, with the occasional splash of pink may be the hallmark of Rapha’s premium clothing, but to many riders it’s the comfort & quality of their Pro Team & Classic bib shorts that have stood out. Designed for a close & compressive fit for fast riding or a more forgiving & softer fit for longer days in the saddle, the Pro Team & Classic shorts have surely found their devotees over the years, with both designs continuing to evolve.
Again designed for either an aggressive road race or more endurance focused position on the bike, the Pro Team & Classic saddles aim to extend the fit and comfort one step further in this core contact point. The saddles were designed from scratch in-house by Rapha to interact perfectly with their like-named bib shorts. Rapha sees saddles as a key component to complement their clothing line so they brought top saddle design specialists on board and partnered with an Italian producer that has been making saddles for over 100 years. We got a sneak peek at the new saddles a few months back.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen shorts & saddles designed to pair together. Fizik did the same thing when they introduced their LINK shorts for 2017, and the pairing has some merit as both the shorts & saddles can work independently as well.
Like Rapha has done recently in adjusting chamois width and density across their size range, the saddles come sized to fit as well. Rapha says they studied cyclist physiology and riding styles to create these two distinct saddle ranges, and variability of fit to become more individual-specific. Both saddle styles come in two widths 130mm & 145mm, and are said to use a more rigid foam for the wider saddles to better support heavier riders.
They’ve even developed a simple web-based saddle calculator that will suggest the ideal saddle & bib shorts pairing based on rider waist size, weight & riding style.
We’ve played with it a bit, and the saddle suggestions seem right, but the bib short fit might err on providing a tighter fit, especially with the Pro Team. At 80kg & 185cm tall it puts me in a Pro Team medium which works, but I personally prefer the large as easier to get in and out of (although either size still pairs with the wider saddle.
Rapha Pro Team Saddles – Tech Details
Both saddles feature lightweight carbon rail construction, a synthetic leather cover, and are made by hand in Italy. They all feature a one-piece looped carbon rail that runs the full length of the saddles to provide for an even balance of flex and support. The saddles feature a 7x9mm oval clamping surface, but don’t get a visibly reinforced clamping area like we see on some other carbon-railed saddles.
The Pro Team saddle gets a lighter weight carbon shell, and just a thin layer of padding on top of its more flat profile. The more narrow 130mm version claims a weight of just 144g, while our 145mm saddle’ actual weight is 152g.
The Pro Team saddle is also optionally available with a center cutout for those looking for pressure relief.
Otherwise the cutout saddle is the same. Both versions of the $395/345€ Pro Team saddle share the same retail price.
Rapha Classic Saddles – Tech Details
The Classic saddle gets a more curved and uh… classic design, with a good bit more padding. It also gets a perforated synthetic cover, available in black or white.
The Classic shares the same carbon rails as the Pro Team, but uses a fiber reinforced base that is more flexible and a bit heavier. That makes the Classic suited for more endurance style riding, but also means it can sell for a good bit less, yet still pricy at $250/215€.
Rapha Cycling Club limited RCC edition saddles
Like many of Rapha’s premium products, they get members-only RCC versions. Rapha’s club membership lets cyclists get a RCC print to replace the Pro Team jail bars, or…
…for the Classic, members get a pink contrast color under the perforations and an embroidered RCC logo on the tail. Otherwise the RCC saddles have the same price and spec, just with an extra level of exclusivity.
Review: Rapha Pro Team 145mm wide road bike saddle
We’ve had the Pro Team saddle for a bit over a month, and I have spent the time riding a mix of dirt, gravel, cobbled & asphalt roads. Paired with a set of matching Pro Team bib shorts (as well as other non-Rapha shorts), I figured harsh road surfaces would be the first to sus out any comfort problems.
I generally ride a more narrow saddle than the 145mm Pro Team suggested by the online calculator. For instance over the past couple weeks I’ve ridden road & gravel on a 124mm Fizik Arione, 132mm Ritchey Streem & 132mm wide Brooks C13. I like to slide up and down a long, flat saddle on rough roads to engage different muscles and to stretch, so the Arione was already on the bike that this replaced. I was happy to try the wider saddle, after having good luck with another 145mm test saddle recently. The Pro Team saddle looked short compared to the Arione, but its usable length was about the same, and the shape was flat enough to comfortably move around on.
Rapha says that their saddle padding is what sets them apart – with foam density tuned better for rider weight. The foam of the wider Pro Team saddle that we have on test does tend towards a firm feel, but it still has a bit of cushion feel. The foam looks & feels very thin. But presumably paired with a flexing carbon shell, the saddle never felt stiff, even when ridding on rough road surfaces.
Is it comfortable?
Yes. Is it $400/350€ comfortable is a harder question. Even more so if you buy in that you need a set of $270/230€ Pro Team II bib shorts to get the most out of it. (The Arione R1 that this replaced was 3g lighter, much narrower, but also 150€ cheaper.)
Saddles are very personal, as are shorts. With that said, it is the most comfortable saddle at this weight that I have ridden in recent memory. Paired together, the foam density and saddle flex are a perfect fit for me. Whether that is helped by wearing Pro Team shorts is harder to say. About half my rides are in Rapha bib shorts, and I do like them a lot. But riding this saddle with shorts from Campagnolo and Gobik over the last few weeks for example, still delivered a comfortable ride (and realistically indiscernible over such a short period of time.)
In any case, if this 145mm Pro Team saddle is any indication of the quality we can start to expect from Rapha in terms of premium saddles, then that’s good news. I think the debate will have to be in long-term quality & durability, because of the high price of these saddles. If you are already a Rapha Classic or Pro Team bib shorts fan, then this is a logical extension. If not, its a pretty big leap. I personally like the Pro Team saddle, maybe you can find one to test out before you have to drop this much cash on it.