The Gilles Berthoud Galibier Saddle is a leather saddle. According to the manufacturer it is suitable for racing bicycles and other bicycle with a somewhat ”aggressive” riding position.
I’ll be honest, I have never reviewed a saddle before. I wondered what on earth I would say about the Berthoud Galibier. But now that I have sat on it for a few rides I feel far more comfortable (pun intended) about putting fingers to keyboard and telling the world of my experience.
Before going further, it might be worth saying that the saddle is not as light as some would like. But the point is, this saddle is not designed with that person in mind. If winning KOM’s up hills is your thing, then the 356g this saddle weighs would be heavier than you would want and you can stop reading at this point. But if like me, you regard extra weight as a reason to work harder and you appreciate hand crafted artistry, then you need to talk to the people over at Gilles Berthoud.
While we’re on downsides, it’s worth noting that leather and water don’t get on that well. If you ride regularly in the rain and don’t have mudguards then you’d be better off with a synthetic alternative. If you’re transporting your bike on a car rack and rain is likely then you’re well advised to either cover or move the saddle post inside your (hopefully) nice dry car.
The extra care needed does balance out. This saddle is exceptionally well made with high quality materials and a level of finish that would be difficult to surpass. It combines tradition with modern technology and is highly unusual. Not many people are going to have one of these saddles on their bike.
This brings me on to why it is appropriate to my bike. No one has a bike like mine. The frame is a Handsling Bike but the paintjob is hand done and personal to me. The special nature of my bike was the very reason Simon, at Handsling said, you can’t have any old saddle on this bike. He was correct, the Galibier feels every bit as one off and special as my bike.
My initial rides were unsettling. Lycra and waxed leather work well together if the object of the exercise is never to keep your backside in one place for longer than a few seconds. Not only was the saddle slippery but dare I say, it was also uncomfortable. I haven’t a lot of flesh on my bones and in truth, staying seated for any length of time has always been a challenge. Some saddles have been better than others but none have truly been a pleasure to position my posterior on.
When I said at the start of this article that I had no idea how I would review the saddle, I really was telling the truth. I haven’t got huge experience, and I haven’t sat on many different saddles. So I didn’t rush to write anything. I used the excuse that I needed time to see what I thought. I probably did 5-6 rides from 50km to 120km, never felt especially comfortable but wanted to give it a fair chance.
Then on Sunday I made a ‘pilgrimage’ to Glastonbury on a route that was not just a long series of hills but because I had plotted the route very late the night before, I found myself on roads that turned into gritty tracks at best and cratered paths at worst on a number of occasions. As I got off the bike at the end of the journey, unlike Saul on the road to Damascus I have no plans to change my name but I did have my own epiphany and knew exactly what I would say in my review.
After riding for nearly 10 hours and 250km I was still comfortable, my backside felt fine and I didn’t feel the constant need to stand up and relieve the pressure. That is quite something. A friend had told me that leather saddles take time but I never expected the difference to be so clear. In my opinion, that says everything you need to know about this saddle. The combination of the old and new really works. With the injection moulded ‘chariot’ and titanium rails supporting the leather there’s enough flexibility and shock absorption without compromising strength where you need it.
Compare prices and buy components from:
|Hargroves Cycles||Chain Reaction||Wiggle||Merlin Cycles|
|Evans Cycles||ProBikeKit||Cyclestore||Rutland Cycling|
|Ribble Cycles||AW Cycles||Biketart||Leisure Lakes Bikes|