Redoing an Italian job

One of my absolute favorite saddles was the Selle SMP Hell, now renamed the Well.

The Hell/Well was designed with input from SMP’s main Professional saddle lineup, but made to a lower price point to become the top model of the one-step-down Tourism range. I ran one on my cross bike Hyro back in 2015. The strange drooped-nose shape and full-length cutout may have raised eyebrows, but the folks at SMP clearly knew what they were doing. It was comfortable enough to do a 210 km audax ride on, with barely any groin numbness afterward.

As great as the Hell was to ride, it became literal hell to sit on when the microfiber top cover developed cracking and started to separate from the rest of the saddle’s construction. The design was excellent; the execution, not as much.

So started my dalliance with other saddles, looking for the same kind of comfort, but built hardier. The Specialized Power came closest to the bar the Hell/Well had set, and it was certainly built tough, even surviving a bad crash relatively unscathed, but it wasn’t quite the same. Even after completing the finicky setup procedure, for me, the Power had delivered 85% of the Hell/Well’s comfort at best. It couldn’t eliminate numb nuts the same way SMP did; as short and as snub-nosed as it was, its nose still got in the way and compressed groins in aggressive riding positions. The rather severe ramp-down from the tail of the saddle to its truncated nose also proved annoying, which had the effect of always pushing me forward along its length as I rode.

I ended up getting another SMP.

The spiffier, more flamboyant packaging gives away that this new saddle was not plucked from the Tourism lineup the Hell/Well was from. In a bid for better durability, I got something from the Professional range; after all, ultra-endurance cyclist Marc Beaumont completed his 80-day ride around the world in 2017 mashing his pedals on a Selle SMP Pro.

Pulling apart the two halves of the box reveals this saddle as a Selle SMP Drakon, in black, with the steel rails.

  • AISI 304 stainless steel rails, 7.1 mm diameter, 8 cm clamping length
  • 276 mm length x 138 mm width
  • Carbon reinforced nylon 12 body shell
  • Foamed elastomer padding, “standard” level
  • “Primo fiore” real leather top cover for black versions
  • Rated weight: 315 g

As great as SMP is at designing its saddles, admittedly, trying to make full sense of its range is a fool’s errand. Things aren’t helped by the ridiculously non-descriptive model names (and I thought the old “Hell” name was chuckle-inducing already). The Drakon is the Goldilocks option, at least as far as padding is concerned, in a three-saddle mini-range of one basic design, book-ended by the Lite 209 and Dynamic models. Contrary to what the name might imply, SMP says the Lite 209 has the most padding of the three…but I digress.

So, why the Drakon? A brand-new Well would set you back about PhP7,500 from local retailers these days, and a Dynamic about PhP17,000 as a representative of the Professional SMP lineup. After some sleuthing, I spotted a good deal on Amazon for a black Drakon that would cost about PhP9,000. It helps that the Drakon is shaped a lot like a Well, just with better materials and – fingers crossed – hardier construction.

On SMP saddles, the wings are only as wide as they need to be.
The Power’s wings tend to get in the way.

When ordered in black, all of SMP’s Professional saddles have “primo fiore” leather top covers – even retaining a faint leather smell when taken out of the box. It also has less of the Hell’s embarrassingly garish printed graphics. The Drakon’s top cover is dominated by huge embroidered SMP logos on either side and the “drakon” model name on the outboard sides of the nose. While not understated, at least these graphics don’t look childish, and their embroidery won’t snag on clothing either.

Saddle rails from my old Selle SMP Hell. The Drakon’s rails are largely similar.

For better or for worse, the Drakon shares SMP’s unique saddle rail system. These rails are very long lengthwise, spanning a whopping 8 cm fore and aft, so adjustment has a huge range. However, they are also very wide at the rear. If you have saddlebags or other accessories that mount via a saddle rail clamp, most of those will not work.

Dialing in the Drakon’s position was very easy compared to the Power. I also like that it’s not as wide at the rear “wings”, allowing my thighs to move more freely. Lastly, in profile, the wavy SMP saddle shape allows me to settle in one optimum pedaling position; I don’t have to fight the Power’s tendency to dump me on its unyielding nose from time to time.

Due to the longer reach of my Shimano ST-RS685 hydraulic STI levers, I needed to run the Drakon almost as far forward as it will go. Even then, it still has about 0.5 cm of rail left.

Testament to how well this saddle works for me is how it disappears underneath me while I pedal away. I have its position mostly dialed in, save perhaps for a smidge of downward angle at the nose from level. As good as the Power was, it had its ways of reminding you that it’s there, and ultimately that’s not the best.

I am looking forward to more long rides on Hyro aboard the Selle SMP Drakon.


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