Specialized S-Works Romin Evo Mirror saddle review: Light, cushy, and pricey
Specialized S-Works Romin Evo Mirror saddle review: Light, cushy, and pricey
“Frankly, the price of this saddle is absurd. $450! For a saddle! You’ve got to be kidding me. Here’s the problem. It makes my butt so happy. If I could twerk, which I can’t, it would twerk in the streets in unbridled, uncontrollable happiness.”
That’s what CyclingTips editor-in-chief Caley Fretz said about the Specialized S-Works Power Mirror saddle last year when he recapped his ten favorite cycling products of 2020.
Specialized has now added a second model to the Mirror range of saddles, the S-Works Romin Evo Mirror. It’s based on a more traditional shape than the snub-nosed Power, and although it weighs the same, it has even thicker padding, making it arguably more comfortable.
After riding it, I guess now Caley and I both need to take some twerking lessons, because this thing is stupidly good.
Foam padding used in traditional saddles is usually some sort of closed-cell material made by injecting gas into a liquid polymer under pressure — not entirely unlike how those home water carbonator things work. In this case, though, the liquid eventually cures into a solid, and the trapped gas is what provides the cushioning.
It’s a method of construction that has been used for ages, and for good reasons. It’s a well understood process, you can get a wide range of foam densities, and it’s pretty inexpensive. What it doesn’t allow, however, is precise tuning of multiple foam densities in the same block of foam. Sure, there are saddles out there that are made with several foam densities, but it’s usually maybe just two or three. Moreover, sealing in all those bubbles of gas requires a fair bit of polymer material when you consider how much surface area is involved, which adds up to more weight (which is why high-end ultralight saddles are usually pretty sparsely padded).
3D-printed saddle padding such as what you see here with Specialized’s Mirror technology and Fizik’s Adaptive models takes an entirely different approach.
Instead of relying on trapped bubbles of gas, what you have here is a 3D-printed polymer scaffolding. Cushioning results from tuning things like cell sizes and shapes, the strand thickness, and the polymer material. And since the printing can be programmed to be however you want it to be, the technology allows for a lot more variation in cushioning density and placement, all while requiring less material than traditional foam, which decreases weight.
For this new Romin Evo Mirror, Specialized now offers a more traditional profile than the stubby-looking Power. It’s about 20 mm longer — mostly in the nose — with a more rounded profile left-to-right. There’s also a slightly upswept tail for riders that like a slight shelf to push against when they scoot back in the saddle.
There’s no central cut-out in the padding per se, but there is a cutout in the shell and a deep depression running down the middle of the padding — and the padding that’s there is so soft that it may as well not be there at all.
The padding is very firm on the two spots that are meant to support your sit bones, and still pretty firm along the two lengthwise ridges until you get to the nose. Elsewhere, the padding gets progressively softer as you move further away from those areas.
Underneath, Specialized constructs the shell with a mix of molded carbon-reinforced nylon and proper woven carbon fiber composite, all of which sits atop one-piece carbon fiber rails. At the rear of the shell are two threaded inserts for Specialized’s optional Road Bandit bolt-on flat kit.
Specialized offers the new Romin Evo Mirror in 143 and 155 mm widths, with actual weight on the narrower size coming in at 185 g — 5 g lighter than claimed.
Retail price is the same as the Specialized S-Works Power Mirror, which is to say it’s outrageously expensive at US$450 / AU$TBC / £390 / €450. But hey, this is basically stuff we could have only imagined in sci-fi shows like Star Trek not all that long ago, right?
I’m totally with you in saying that this thing is just so insanely, stupid expensive. It’s fifty bucks shy of five hundred dollars, or nine times the cost of that brilliant Selle Italia Model X Green Superflow saddle I reviewed last month.
But here’s the thing: It’s frustratingly good.
Just as with the S-Works Power Mirror, there’s far more padding than you’d normally expect out of a saddle this light. In fact, Specialized even curved the base of the shell under the sit bones so they could squeeze more padding in there. In fact, there’s nearly 20 mm of squishiness there by my measure. On typical tarmac, it’s what I imagine sitting on a cloud would be like. And with so much padding in reserve, it also takes the sting out of bigger bumps you aren’t expecting, so much so that you question how much air pressure is in your back tire.
Despite all that cushioning thickness, there’s no sense of vagueness and still heaps of support that stays comfortable hour after hour, unlike thickly padded saddles with conventional soft foams or gels that invariably leave you feeling numb. Specialized has done a good job of tweaking the padding softness up front, too. As mentioned earlier, it’s nowhere near as firm as the area underneath the sit bones, but still firm enough to keep you from sinking too deep. I always found the nose of the standard Romin Evo to be a pretty comfy place to be for a little while, but this thing is just ridiculous.
Shape-wise, it’s purely a matter of personal preference (as is always the case with saddles). If you tend to plant yourself in a single spot for hour after hour — and especially if that position is quite aggressive — something like the Power is still probably the way to go. But if you like to move around a lot, there are definitely more places to settle in and more room to migrate. Just keep in mind, however, that the unusual texture of the Mirror top is a little grippier than most synthetic leathers, so while there’s more real estate to play with here, it’s not always the easiest to access depending on what shorts you’re wearing.
Aside from the reality-twisting price tag, I still wonder how well this Mirror stuff will hold up in a crash. I didn’t test that aspect (sorry, folks), but it actually seems like it’ll hold up ok, particularly considering there isn’t a traditional cover to tear open. But won’t all this open area fill up with grunge and dirt? It’s not the easiest to clean, no, and you certainly aren’t going to be using a conventional brush to get mud out of the interior. But as it turns out, a pressure washer seems to work pretty well.
I also have questions about how well this padding will feel under a rider that’s substantially heavier or lighter than my 71 kg (157 lb) weight. Will the padding feel too firm or too soft? How long will it take to sag out? Specialized has hinted at offering custom versions of these things in the past. That hasn’t happened just yet, but especially at this ultra-premium end of the market, that’s something that would really make me excited, and help to justify the price at least a little bit. At the very least, I’d love to see additional versions tuned not just for width, but rider mass, too.
So that leaves my one primary complaint: this saddle is just so damned expensive. And I can’t afford it, let alone one for every drop-bar bike I have. Sorry, I love poking holes in product, but there genuinely aren’t any major functional issues here that I can see — plus, Specialized has already poked plenty of holes in this saddle already.
I hate how much I like this thing.
Hey, Specialized, how about slapping this fancy 3D-printed top on to a less-fancy reinforced nylon shell and hollow chromoly rails, and maybe cutting the price in half or something? Pretty please? Because while pairing this level of comfort with such a low weight is a very neat trick, I dare say there are plenty of riders who really want the comfort, but don’t need — and aren’t willing to pay for — the fancier bits.
For more information, visit www.specialized.com.Read More