Specialized has re-vamped their market changing Power Saddle
Words and Images - James Raison
"The Big S" made a splash when they rolled out their snub-nosed, deep-channelled saddle back in the heady days of 2015. Riders and bike fitters rejoiced. You could have comfort and an aggressive position with the same saddle. Now in 2018 we have a new one: the Power Arc Expert.
Model: Specialized Power Arc Expert
Rails: hollow titanium
Price: $170 AUD
Fitted to: Curve Belgie Spirit
POWER SADDLE VS POWER ARC
The original Power Saddle is a fantastic perch. Originally intended to be a womens’ saddle, the Specialized testers of all genders soon fell in love with it. The rear platform supports and elevates your sit bones while the wide cut-out channel reduces pressure on the perineum, allowing for better blood flow and greater comfort. The snub nose then allows a forward, more aggressive position.
I’ve clocked up thousands of kilometers on my own original Power Saddle. I chose it for my foray into endurance cycling for its comfort slid forward using aero bars, and sat back in a standard upright position. I was impressed to find the saddle comfortable after multiple consecutive days of 10+ hours in the saddle.
As much as I liked it, there was no escaping the severity of its ridges, particularly at the nose. I favored a specific chamois shape with thick padding under the perineum when riding that saddle to combat the ridges. For example, MAAP’s Team 2.0 or Gore’s Power knicks are perfect for the Power saddle. Cheaper brands tend to use chamois with thinner perennium padding and thus had to be avoided. Aggressive ridges were my major complaint with the original Power Saddle.
Fast forward and Specialized has got out the chisel and sandpaper to set about shaving down the Power Saddle. Overall length is the same but the padding and shell have been re-designed. The channel is narrower, shorter, and starts further back. It's now more curvy as it slopes down to from the crown down to the edges. The result is the Power Arc. It’s visually smoother with rounded edges and less pronounced ridges.
So is the Power Arc a step forward?
Before we get into that, let’s talk briefly about fitting the saddle. Specialized recommend you compensate for the chopped nose by adding 3cm to the measurement from stem to saddle. I have to set and reset bike positions quite often with all the bikes that pass through my house so it didn’t take long for me to find my position. 3cm seems about right. I also like to angle the nose down a couple of degrees.
Simply put; yes, the Power Arc is a step forward. It feels immediately familiar and superior to the old Power saddle.
On the road, it’s still a fantastically versatile seat. Sitting upright to climb offers a comfortable platform for your sit bones. I was originally sceptical of the Power Saddle’s width. I’d always used 135mm saddles, never feeling comfortable on wider options. The increased curvature from the crown, down to the wings make it more comfortable than the original saddle which was slightly flatter than the Arc. It's not a big difference, but it's notable.
Comfort when seated at the front of the saddle has improved too. The cut-out channel now starts further rearward and the drop from the side padding into the channel has reduced. My testing both with and without aero bars has found the Power Arc a solid step forwards for comfort. Once I dialled the position in, I slid forwards into a much more aggressive posture than the SQlab 611 saddle it replaced.
My one criticism is the rigidity of the saddle. This is a personal preference of mine; I just love saddles with some flex in them. The higher end Power Saddles have carbon rails which would give more than the hollow titanium at this level.
The Power Arc saddle is a refinement of an already excellent product.
If you found the first generation caused too much pressure, the smoothed off Power Arc could be just right. It’s not a radical difference between the two, so if you found the original unusable then the changes won't make a difference.
Anyone choosing between original Power and Power Arc to grab the latter. Having side-by-side testing them both, the Arc is the superior saddle. But hey, if you want a slightly less comfortable saddle for about the same price, you can buy the original.
Specialized continues to impress me with the quality of their contact points. The Power Arc is a top-notch saddle.