Fizik Volta R1 Saddle Reviewed
by Mark V on Dec 10, 2014 at 8:53 AM
The Volta saddle is perhaps the most striking saddle in Fizik’s lineup, at once familiar and stunningly different. It’s deep flanks harken back to the days of the Selle San Marco Supercorsa or Selle Italia Turbo, yet the Volta’s visual lines are brutishly simple and sharp, as if Fizik had extracted and purified the essence of cycling in the 1980s.
Fizik is a brand that appeared less than two decades ago under parent company Relle Royal; the new flagship brand fuzed the latest technology and materials with innovative style, and promptly joined companies like Selle Italia and Selle San Marco as a marquee name in the high-end of the market. Fizik models such as the Alliante became trendsetters, while the Arione is destined to be a Fizik signature for decades to come. Fizik rode to success with modern designs that all fully embraced the aesthetic of lightweight and low-profile shell as displayed by the Selle Italia’s slightly earlier saddle Flite, a smash success in its own right. But not every rider has found a happy perch atop these low profile, ultra-modern seats like a Doritos chip dusted with foam padding. Is there something about the ergonomics of those older designs? Or have the 1980s finally become a stylistic touchstone for cycling, a Golden Age of Cycling for the millennials? Yet while Selle San Marco and Selle Italia are restarting production on the revered favourites from the past, newcomer Fizik had to invent their own retro “classic”. And thus became the Volta.
While consciously echoing the aesthetic of another era’s saddles, the Volta R1 is thoroughly modern in construction. The carbon composite shell straddles Fizik’s proprietary “Mobius” rail, formed by one uninterrupted loop of carbon that is riveted to the shell (the 2015 Volta R3 has “kium” metal rails). The shell has a relieved central section where a more pliable plastic takes the place of the carbon, to reduce pressure in the perineum area without relying on bulky padding. The microtex (a microfibre material) takes the place of leather, covering a thin layer of dense foam. In profile, the vintage saddle that the Volta most closely resembles is the Selle San Marco Rolls, having moderately deep flanks with a virtually flat upper line (no sag along the back nor kick at the tail). Like the Rolls, the Volta is well rounded laterally from the nose all the way back. However the Rolls flares wide from the centerline abruptly midways along the saddle length. In contrast, the straight-lined Volta looks almost a perfect triangle from above; the broad nose leads back to a moderate width at the rear flank. The flexible sides drop down just low enough to obscure the rails from view, but the saddle still weighs a meager 181gr, less than the original Flite that started the low-profile trend.
I’m going to be upfront about my riding impressions of the Volta: I really wanted to like it, I did in fact hate it. When people ask me about looking for a new saddle, I always advise them to pay attention to the characteristics of the saddles they’ve liked in the past. All the saddles I’ve found some success with had the same flat profile as the Volta, but they were more squared off across the top rather than the Volta’s domed shape. At this point all of my bikes have ended up with Arione saddles, which are long, flat, squared off, and have a gentle flare at the flanks. This shape allows me to scoot around on the saddle rather than being limited to one distinct “sweet spot” along the length of shell. But atop the Volta, rather than feeling that I could comfortably move fore or aft to alter how I was pedaling or change my upper body position, it just felt like I was sitting on a traffic cone that I had mounted sideways on the seatpost. Sliding back on the saddle just wedged more material between my thighs rather than better supporting my “sit bones”. And despite what other reviewers have written, I did not feel like the Volta offered anything at the back to push against. Maybe if the Volta was a little more flared at the flank or perhaps swept up at the back, then I would not have felt like I was going to slide off the back edge of the saddle. Sitting on this saddle was like being lost on an open plain: I never knew where I was and never was any place where I wanted to be.
This isn’t to say that the Volta doesn’t deliver on its promise to fit like those classic saddles of yesterday. If I reveal the fact there are no classic saddles that suit me either, one could argue that my displeasure with the Volta implies that this saddle actually may suit riders who can’t find what they want in the low profile saddles of today. However, I will caution that there is much more to the shape of a saddle than whether or not the shell obscures the rails from view. This is most definitely not an Arione with shorter tail and deeper flanks. At $300 with the Mobius carbon rail ($200 for the R3’s kium rail), the Volta R1 would be a costly experiment in style for most riders. It also seems like an odd duck within the Fizik saddle line because it does not easily slot into their “Spine Concept”, in which saddles are marketed to three categories of riders, differentiated by their posture and riding style.
Saddle preference is a distinctly personal thing, arrived at with experience and long miles. It is good to experiment a lot if you are unsatisfied with your current perch. And if what you discover at the end of your search is something that looks beautiful atop your bicycle, then so much the better. The Volta R1 was not that saddle for me.
Issue 19: Super Green
by Byron on Dec 09, 2014 at 2:41 PM
Issue 19 dropped last week and includes the return of Mark V with a story about his new Super Green bike….
Two years ago, Bike Hugger collaborated with Seattle’s Davidson Custom Bicycles on a titanium cyclocross that could be easily switched from singlespeed to multispeed “modes.” Sure, just about any multispeed bike can replace the rear derailleur with a chain tensioner, but the idea was to eliminate such items since like derailleurs they can foul with mud, grass, or ice. Also, one would want to have two alternate handlebars, one connected to only to brakes and one with derailleurs as well, and be able to swap them with minimal cable replacement and/or tuning. The bike that came to be known as the Davidson D-Plus has seen plenty of racing, geared and singled, and has actually gotten tons of road riding in these Northwest winters. But like all prototypes, there was room for improvement.
To read what improvements Mark made in the latest iteration of the D-Plus and the rest of the story, please subscribe on iTunes or the Web. Annual subscriptions are $16; individual issues are $4. Your money directly supports authors like Mark who contribute to Bike Hugger.
In the Wasatch Mountains
by Byron on Dec 08, 2014 at 6:56 PM
Before heading back to Seattle today, we hiked above Guardsman Pass, and at the the top of Empire Pass, to shoot this view of the Wasatch Mountains. Will share the rest of the Park City story soon, about the biking we did, gear we used, and the Scott Foil.
Hiked with a Thule camera bag full of gear
Rode up Marsac
Fat Biking Slopestyle
by Byron on Dec 07, 2014 at 7:00 AM
While we’re riding fatbikes on ski slopes in Deer Valley, Mark V is racing. Matt Hill writes about the importance of the races in Issue 19. I’ll share the Fatbike Slopestyle next week. For now, here’s a photo and video.
Issue 19 Give
by Byron on Dec 05, 2014 at 10:15 AM
For the holidays, Issue 19 is about giving to the community; also how bikes change lives, and contribute with projects like Bike Works here in Seattle. There’s an article about the UCI race this weekend and donating to Waves for Water.
Mark V returns in the issue too with a bike to talk about and we tip our hats to Urban Velo who published their last issue, as we created our 19th.
It’ll drop later today on iTunes and the Web and is published independently without ads. Annual subscriptions are $16; individual issues are $4. Subscription revenues directly supports the authors, photographers, and editors who contribute to Bike Hugger.
DIY Ventilated Insoles
by Mark V on Dec 04, 2014 at 11:59 PM
In the minds of many cyclists, Sidi shoes are the gold standard by which all others are measured. Yet in stark contrast to the quality of the rest of the shoe, Sidi’s insoles are frankly subpar even when compared to shoes that cost half as much. Sidi has made some strides lately to bring the insoles to a level more befitting of such a premium shoe, but even in their flagship road shoe Wire, the effort is hardly remarkable. One of the better insole/footbed systems available is the Giro SuperNatural ($49.95), which has three sets of modular arch support that allows the rider to select the amount that serves the interface between foot and shoe. One problem in fitting an aftermarket insole into a Sidi Wire is that the sole of the shoe has holes in it feeding air through channeled vents. The stock insole has holes aligned with those in the shoe’s sole; Giro’s aftermarket insole does not. But I shall have my cake and eat it too.
To put vent holes into the Giro insole, I first laid the stock insole over the Giro model, then marked the location of the holes into the new insole with a pen poked through the stock insole. Then I opened up a hole at each mark using a 1/8” drill bit on a small drill to bore through the Giro insole. The SuperNatural insole is primarily a firm, flexible foam pad that stretches around the bit rather than cutting into a smooth 1/8” hole. The X-Static fiber on the top surface of the insole also also ends of fraying a bit. So the next step is to make the hole bigger and seal the frays in the X-Static. The best way to seal frays in synthetic fibers is usually to singe them quickly. Heat can also be used to widen the holes in the foam without actually removing material from the insole; high heat just melts the foam a bit, which collapses away and leaves the hole bigger. I suppose a small tip soldering iron would have been a great idea, but I don’t own one. The tediously slow, primitive, yet effect way is to use some roundish steel pokey thing and heat with a candle. I used a Torx wrench that was surplus in my tool box. It’s so slow because I had to reheat the tip of the wrench in between each application to an individual hole, but it worked like a charm! Be aware that you’ll have to pause occasionally and let the whole wrench cool, because the portion of the wrench you’re grabbing eventually gets too hot to hold.
The tactic I used was to concentrate heating about 1cm from the tip of the wrench so that the hottest part didn’t touch the insole first. Then I pushed it into the pre-drilled holes from the top of the insole, so that the X-Static melted frays of X-Static get pushed into the hole, not up at the foot. Then I hold the tool in there for about 5-10sec, letting the heat be absorbed by the foam. Then I pull the wrench out, giving a twisting motion. You may have to adjust technique and the amount of heat for a given insole’s construction.
Taken Sometime in 1897: Wrecked
by Byron on Dec 04, 2014 at 2:05 PM
Found in the Huron County Museum collection of Flickr and taken by Reuben R. Sallows. Also see the Start
While some old timey fun, that looks like a bike race or two I’ve been in.
X01 10sp downhill derailleur for cyclocross
by Mark V on Dec 02, 2014 at 8:17 PM
Cyclocross drivetrains with single chainrings (either 1x10 or 1x11) are certainly trending, and earlier this year SRAM delivered their CX-1 line as a single ring gruppo-in-box. The crucial elements of the CX-1 group are the narrow-wide chainring tooth design (which a multitude of boutique brands have copied in the last 9 months) and the non-slanting parallelogram rear derailleur, which optimizes shifting performance and manages chain tension. That CX-1 derailleur is heavily influenced by SRAM’s mtb designs. Or to be more accurate, the CX-1 derailleur is exactly identical to the 10sp version of the X01 DH (downhill) derailleur except for the cable routing. The CX-1 derailleur has a bolt-on interface for a barrel adjuster like other traditional road derailleurs, while the X01 DH/10sp has front entry for the cable and a bolted-on pulley assembly. I use the X01 DH derailleur because the more direct cable run leaves a less housing to catch mud, grass, or some else’s QR skewer. To tune the shiftering in the absence of a derailleur-mounted barrel adjuster, I’ve installed a Jagwire inline barrel adjuster on the housing between the handlebar and frame. Many frame designs have some sort of barrel adjuster where the housing joins near the head tube anyways. Normally SRAM road derailleurs work best with a fairly generous loop of housing, so using the X01 DH unit really cleans up that area on my Redline Conquest carbon. If you’re piecing together a cyclocross bike with a SRAM 1x drivetrain, this might be a good idea.
Before you drop the money on an X01 DH derailleur, there are a few things you should know first. Obviously, you can only use SRAM DoubleTap shifters (technically you could use the SRAM bar end shifters too, Mr Retro). It does not matter if you’re using 10 or 11sp DoubleTap levers, but you must choose the 10sp DH version of the X01 derailleur, not the 7sp DH version nor the 11sp standard version. This is because SRAM’s mtb drivetrains use different cable-pull ratios for 10 and 11sp, while SRAM’s road rear derailleurs, both 10 and 11sp, use the same ratio as the mtb 10sp. The 7sp DH derailleur is merely a short cage version of the 11sp standard X01 meant to work on a reduced range cassette with the same cog-to-cog spacing as the enormous 10-42tooth 11sp mtn cassette. The final issue is that not all cyclocross frames have a cable path for the rear derailleur that can line-up with mtb-style derailleurs. On my Redline, the path is almost perfect coming sideways out of the chainstay, but on Byron’s Specialized Crux the housing exits from behind the dropout, as is common for many bikes that are Di2 compatible.
Merckx Ickx The Race
by Byron on Dec 02, 2014 at 4:19 PM
Ickx and Merckx. Merckx and Ickx.
Two great people. Two heroes. Two icons.
Two champions. Both with an impressive track record, both holders of multiple honorary titles. Both excelled in very different categories within their sport.
Two champions. Year after year.
As the site for Merckx Ickx The Race says,
First across the finish line 525 times, Eddy Merckx is the most successful cycle racer of all time. Jacky Ickx’s career is one of the richest and longest in the history of motorsport. His list of achievements is unrivaled in its variety. In 2015, Eddy Merckx and Jacky Ickx both celebrate their 70th birthday, as well as their long friendship. So it’s high time for the first major exhibition about this pair of Belgian sporting legends.
Follow along on and celebrate these two legends on Twitter, Facebook.
Mark V Holiday Gift Suggestions
by Mark V on Dec 01, 2014 at 11:22 AM
Bike Hugger HydroFlo water bottle by Purist ($15)
A cyclist can probably never have too many water bottles, but that doesn’t mean one can’t tell a good bottle from a bad bottle. A bad bottle ends up in the back of the cupboard, repurposed as a pen cup, or left at a race venue and only remembered a week later. A good water bottle is the one reflexively reached for. When you reach for the Bike Hugger Hydroflo water bottle by Purist, you grab onto a pliant case with a subtle, three-side cross section that fits the hand well and is easy to squeeze. The valve provides a high flow rate yet virtually eliminates inadvertent dribble. Oh, and it has that classy Bike Hugger logo, too.
Giro Supernatural Footbed Kit ($49.95)
One of the best features of Giro shoes is that they come with the company’s SuperNatural Footbed Kit (insole) that allows a rider to adjust the amount of arch support with 3 pairs of modular arch wedges. You can even tweak the fore-aft position of the arch support to a small degree. But even if someone has a different brand of shoe, the footbed kit is available separately so you can fine tune the fit of your own shoe. It’s a really nice idea as a gift because neither you nor the person receiving the gift needs to know exactly how much support is needed beforehand. The Giro SuperNatural kit is a cycling specific insole, unlike many others marketed to a wide variety of activities such as running and hiking; thus it takes up minimal volume in the shoe compared to most insoles. The top layer uses an X-Static anti-microbial treatment.
Personally, I find that these insoles work nicely in Sidi shoes, which despite being the gold standard for cycling footwear, invariably come stock with crap insoles.
Light & Urban 800 Fast Charge ($180)
The Urban series of commuter headlights from Light & are my personal favourites, and the sweet little Urban 800 Fast Charge is just a bit sweeter still. Throughout the 2014-2015 line, all the Urban headlights have a new charge port access that seals better against water ingress. This is nice if you like to hang the light upside-down on the handlebar leaving the bar tops less cluttered but giving water invasion a helping hand due to gravity. The new seal makes the current Urban lights waterproof at 1M for 30min.
Next, the latest LED tech and firmware allow L&M to squeeze even more output and burn times from these dainty lights. The Urban 800 is actually kicking out 800 lumens on high for 1.5hrs, 400 lumens for 3hrs, and a very practical 200 lumens for 6hrs.
Finally, the Fast Charge version of the Urban 800 only takes 2.5hrs to charge, as opposed to 6hrs for the standard Urban 800. Some riders would suggest that modern bikes are an exercise in planned obsolescence, that the bicycle was basically perfected by the 1970s, but today’s headlights beat the pants off of lights even ten years ago in EVERY parameter.
Rene Herse: The Bikes The Builder The Riders by Jan Heine ($86)
When I was eight years old, I liked Garfield cartoons. I had a grandmother who ever after gifted me a Garfield book ever year at Christmas, straight on till my college years. Don’t be like Gran; if you’re gonna give a book, give them something wonderous and timeless. I suggest the Rene Herse book from Bicycle Quarterly Press.
The Frenchman Rene Herse became one of the most revered names in cycling, and this book is a story about the man, the bikes he built, and the people who rode them. More than that, it is a journey to a Europe of a bygone era, from the interwar years through the decades immediately following WWII, into what most would call the Golden Age of Cycling. It is a book so lavishly illustrated with photographs and anecdotes that you can almost feel the breeze and the sun on your face and smell the French countryside as you spin the pedals alongside those riders. If you put this book on a coffee table, I suggest it be laid out alongside a baguette with jambon de pays and gruyere.
Fizik Performance Classic bar tape ($24-28)
My favourite bar tape is the Fizik Perfomance Classic. It has the Fizik’s durable Microtex (microfibre) backed by a layer of dense foam padding. It is embossed and stitched asymmetrically, so depending on how you wrap your bars you can have more or less texture. It’ll survive many scrapes and it washes up well too. The tape comes in seven colours, but I recommend you do NOT get the “Soft Touch” white. Sure it feels like suede, but it gets dirty like suede too; plus it doesn’t hold up like the white Microtex version of Performance tape. Fizik Performance Classic enhances anyone’s road bike.
Sugoi Zap Helmet Cover ($28-30)
This is kinda a no-brainer, especially if your cyclist lives in one of the cold, wet parts of the world, and especially if he or she has a really nice helmet. Today’s premium helmets are festooned with holes for ventilation, which isn’t actually desirable in a cold, wind-driven rain. Sugoi’s Zap helmet cover stretches over most helmets (sans visor) to give wind and water protection; you can easily stow it in a pocket or commute bag when not needed. It comes in two colours, black and hi-vis yellow. Both have reflective accents.
Abus Lock-Chain 585/75 ($40)
The 575/85 Lock-Chain from German company Abus is lightweight and a handy size. The fabric covered chain and elastomer encased lock head protect the bike’s finish, while the 5mm square-section punches above its weight against cutting devices. While the 575/85 is not the ultimate in bicycle security, it is exceedingly convenient to carry and use, while thoroughly outperforming the majority of cable locks. Available in a variety of colours. For heavier duty, see the Abus Lock-Chain 880 “Steel-O-Chain” or burly 1060/85.
Icebreaker Blast Vest ($260)
Merino wool is awesome because of its ability to provide warmth without excess bulk in a wide temperature range, but synthetic technical fabrics usually win when it comes to wind resistance. Icebreaker’s Blast Vest puts a lightweight 150 merino layer against the body and then adds a polyurethane middle layer for wind resistance and a outer polyester layer to ward off rain. If you’re looking for a more casual piece that works well as a mid-layer, I’d recommend the Sierra Vest ($140) made with 200 merino without the layers. A soft, cozy vest with hand pocket, the Sierra Vest is great for hiking, hanging out, or working on bikes.
Hugga Tool Roll ($40)
My phone, my keys, and my Hugga Tool Roll…things I don’t leave home without. The waxed canvas is water resistant and durable without bulk, and the integrated strap allows you cinch the roll down so it’ll slide into a jersey pocket easily. Drop it into you backpack or pannier when you commute. Snug all you little bike-fix-it trinkets and a tube together and then unroll it before you when you need to work on your bike. I actually wrap the roll around a mini-pump for road rides, or I tuck a CO2-inflator in for mtb rides.
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