I’m on a one-way ticket to Hell…AND BACK!

Yes, the title of this post is a reference to the 2005 song from British glam-rock band The Darkness. And it was too good not to use given the subject matter of my post today. (Unlike the song, this won’t be about cocaine use.)

It was renamed the “Well” in 2016, which is still weird. Ahh, those crazy Italians.

In 2015 I bought my very first Selle SMP saddle, the Hell. Unfortunate name aside, it was fantastic. The wavy profile and strange eagle-beak design were (and still are) unusual, but it all coalesced into a saddle I could just keep riding and riding. I rode my maiden (and only) audax ride on it, and it’s arguably one of the largest reasons why 2015 is still my record year for distance pedaled in a year.

The Hell-ish bliss lasted just over a year.

As great as it was, the Hell started living up to its namesake when its top cover material began cracking and splitting, and it did so exactly where I perched my ass onto it. It was so bad, I had to hurriedly source a replacement just to continue riding. I’ve had a number of saddles since, with various levels of success, as with most other personal-fit items. Apart from my second SMP, the more expensive Drakon, no other saddle has gotten quite as close to matching the Hell.

That cracked thing had since lay dormant in my spare parts bin for six years. At the back of my mind, I always wished I could get it repaired or restored, but I did not think the chances were that good…until I saw longtime member of the Road Bike Pilipinas Facebook group Hans Juan post a for-sale ad.

He was selling a refurbished Selle SMP saddle – in this case, I think it was a Forma model, from the same “Professional” lineup as the Drakon I was riding. The photos looked pretty damn good. I wondered – who did the refurb for him?

I sent him a message and that sparked the conversation that made this post possible. Hans told me that he had had his Forma refurbished by a sneaker restoration specialist called RGSkills, based in Quezon City. He also said that he had a couple other SMP saddles sent his way for similar restorations, and that he had tried contacting other places for restoring them, but got turned down due to the complexity and uniqueness of the saddles’ general shape being a little too much to handle.

This was just about all I needed. I decided to give RGSkills’…er, skills a try. I put the worn saddle in a shoe box and had it sent it off to Quezon City, not knowing what to expect.

PhP1200 and a month and a half later, the Hell arrived back in my hands.

At first glance, this was amazing work. Remember, the Hell/Well was sold under Selle SMP’s “Tourisme” lineup, one tier down from the “Professional” range, and none of those feature leather top covers. Yet here my Hell was, having received a materials upgrade, now sporting a black leather top cover where there once was faded and cracked white “SVT” material.

I was curious about the cushioning material. Hans’ Forma saddle is one of SMP’s models that deliberately has no padding, so a top cover replacement on that, I felt, was a little more straightforward. The Hell, by contrast, has a bit of foam. I asked RGSkills, if possible, to preserve the original foam cushioning, but he replied that it was too far gone to be salvageable, so I half-expected the refurbished Hell to have no cushioning. That said, poking and prodding at it, there was definite rebound where I put divots into it with my finger, so it appears RGSkills added foam material of his own underneath his leather. It felt very close to what my Drakon had, too – I’d say 90% there.

There was no way of telling how the saddle would feel under my taint with just static inspection and impressions, though. I swapped out the Drakon, installed the refurbed Hell, and went on an indoor trainer ride.

In profile, the Hell/Well is shorter from flanks to nose.
The Drakon in profile, for comparison. There is more height in its flanks.

Five minutes into the ride, I remembered what I had forgotten all these years. The Hell’s shape is still the best out of all the saddles I’ve ridden – yes, even compared to the Drakon. On initial inspection these two SMP saddles have a lot of similarities, but there are many tiny differences that add up to a larger, more distinct whole when riding. I think the main one is most obvious when looking at the two saddles in profile. The Drakon has taller sides, while the Hell is daintier overall. Since this difference is vertical, it seems to directly affect how the two saddles ride. The beefier Drakon feels a little stiffer, and potentially more fatiguing to ride long stints with, while the Hell has a bit more give and compliance in its structure.

I see why Hans (a huge thanks to you, good man!) had three of his saddles sent over to RGSkills. The man is good at this, and he’s done a stellar job resurrecting my Hell where other similar restorers would be discouraged. Selle SMP saddles are not cheap, especially these days when bike parts in general are hard to source, but the Italian brand has many fans. With folks like RGSkills around doing quality refurbishment work, we can breathe new life into these saddles and keep them roadworthy (and cost-effective) for a little while longer.

2 thoughts on “I’m on a one-way ticket to Hell…AND BACK!

  1. Interesting post – I tried the Hell/Well originally but found it far too large, as my thighs swept against it when pedalling. Later on I tried the Drakon and also the Forma (for my randonneur bike and racing bike respectively) and absolutely love them, and they don’t restrict my thighs. How do you find the comparison?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had the opposite experience. It was the Drakon I experienced some thigh rub with, at least initially.

    It also feels a little more substantial in its shell, as I mentioned seemingly evident in the height of the flanks. There were rides where the Drakon felt like I was sitting on something unyielding. The Hell is a little more pliant and “rounded” by comparison.

    Liked by 1 person

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