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Components - Bontrager Paradigm XXX Carbon Saddle Review
Thursday, October 1st, 2015

 

Bontrager Paradigm XXX Carbon Saddle Review

 

Josh Ross

 

A Review of the Bontrager Paradigm XXX Carbon Saddle

 

Earlier in the year, I talked about the Serfas CRB­RS2 saddle. It’s a fantastic saddle. Super light at 155 grams and very inexpensive, for what you get, at $170. In fact, it’s so good that I wanted to revisit the topic of saddles and explore what you get when you take a look at some of the more premium options in the market. I’ll be looking at the Bontrager Paradigm XXX Carbon and the Sella San Marco Aspide Carbon FX Open and talking about the differences between Serfas and the established premium brands in market.

 

The Bontrager Paradigm XXX Carbon is a top flight, no expense spared saddle

The Bontrager Paradigm XXX Carbon is a top flight, no expense spared saddle

 

The first brand I want to take a look at is Bontrager and the Paradigm XXX Carbon. Bontrager is a part of the Trek cycles business, and it takes it’s name from a man who got his start building mountain bike frames out of his garage in Northern California. Trek, looking to start building their own in-house bike components, caught sight of Bontrager in 1995 and incorporated his company into the fold. At the time, many worried the spirit of Keith Bontrager would be lost in the corporate culture of a large bike brand, but thankfully, it never was.

 

Keith was always a man interested in using the right materials for the right job and optimizing everything as much as possible. It’s something you can still see on display in the Bontrager brand, and while Bontrager certainly isn’t the only one using carbon to build beautiful bike saddles, they are definitely among the best.

 

The Contour Relief Zone Plus channel on the Bontrager, for a more comfortable ride

The Contour Relief Zone Plus channel on the Bontrager, for a more comfortable ride

 

The Paradigm XXX is their range topper, and it’s without a doubt, built with the utmost attention to detail. It’s not just the build quality of the Paradigm XXX that contributes to its quality, though. When you purchase a Bontrager saddle, you aren’t just ordering a saddle off a website. The place to start is your local Trek dealer. It’s here that you’ll have your fit measured. You will sit on a piece of wood with a gel material on the top. Do your best to mimic your posture on a bike. The idea is that your sit bones will leave an indentation that corresponds to a colour. That colour represents the suggested width—128mm, 138mm, or 148mm—of a saddle.

 

In my case, I landed just about perfectly on the line between 128mm and 138mm. Unsure of what to do, I discussed it with Trek, and it was suggested by the saddle engineers that when falling in between, it’s best to go for the larger size. I have a feeling it actually matters less than a lot of people, both on the manufacturing and on the consumer side, seem to think. In fact, the process of measuring is hardly an exact science. If you don’t do a good job of mimicking your on bike position while sitting on a bench, you’ll likely get slightly different results.

 

Oversize carbon rails mean you will need a compatible seat post

Oversize carbon rails mean you will need a compatible seat post

 

It’s okay, though. Like I said, it’s not just the top notch construction you are paying for, you are also paying for the after sales support. If you end up with a saddle that’s not quite right, just bring it back to your Trek dealer, and they’ll get you sorted out. In my case, I was happy with the 138mm size that was suggested.

 

When comparing a $250 saddle to the $170 Serfas option, the first place I really notice a difference is the build quality. The Serfas is really nice, but when compared to the Bontrager, it’s not really even close. Every seam and every gap is perfect on the Bontrager, not so much on the Serfas. The Bontrager is also substantially stiffer. The Serfas has a lot of flex, and while I don’t think that’s always a terrible thing in a saddle, it’s clear that the Bontrager is a much more stable platform from which to get down to the business of going fast on a bike.

 

Multi-Density padding and a carbon  reinforced shell all add up to a lightweight, comfortable perch

Multi-Density padding and a carbon reinforced shell all add up to a lightweight, comfortable perch

 

The really big thing you are paying for, though, are the choices and the support that goes along with a Trek product. You won’t just be buying a standard size you never touch before your order. You will have three sizing choices and a local Trek dealer to chat with both before (and after) you purchase.

 

The bottom line is if you want the very best quality and a substantial dealer network to back it up, then the Bontrager Paradigm RXXXL is worth taking a look at. I’d have no problem recommending this as a great option. I love the quality and the feel of it. Plus, I find the plastic surround to be potential extra insurance that might help if your bike were to fall over, but I’m not actually willing to test that theory. This is an item that is likely to last for a lot of years, and you won’t be making a mistake to pick one up.

 

Bontrager Paradigm XXX Carbon

 

 

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