Saddle Up! Riding Gravel’s Saddle Round Up- Part Three

Saddle Up! Riding Gravel’s Saddle Round Up- Part Three – by Grannygear

Is there a perfect saddle? Not likely. But there will be winners and losers as in the first post I set the stage for a sampling of various saddles, all with gravel and or adventure potential. From there we have a pile of saddles to work through. That first post is here. Round Two can be seen here.

Specialized sent out two saddles for this review.  Both of them have been hits with me and either could find a place on anyone’s gravel bike, although they are a good bit different.  Here we go.

Phenom Expert: One from the mountain bike side of life

Specialized Phenom Expert side view

From the website: The Phenom Expert is a mountain bike saddle that’s designed for comfort and strength over long days on the trail. It features a carbon-reinforced construction at the shell with outer-edges that conform to your body for a near-custom fit. This version, unlike the Pro, has rugged titanium rails for lightweight durability, and like the Pro, it has our medium density, Level Two Padding for ample support and comfort. Likewise, at the tail, you’ll find the Phenom hallmarks of a rounded, anti-snag design, and throughout the saddle, an expertly tuned construction that provides the ideal degree of both stiffness and efficiency. (SSH) Carbon-reinforced shell with flexible edges adapt to your body for a near-custom fit and all-day comfort.

  • Patented Body Geometry design is lab-tested to assure blood flow to sensitive arteries.
  • Carbon-reinforced shell with flexible Adaptive Edge technology adapts to your body for a custom fit and all-day comfort.
  • Low friction panels on the nose and tail improve pedaling efficiency and mobility while moving on and off the saddle.
  • Lightweight and tough, hollow titanium rails.
  • Lightweight and supportive PU foam for increased comfort on longer rides.
  • Level 2 padding: Medium density foam for bike feel with additional cushioning.
  • SWAT™-compatible mounts molded into the saddle base allow for sleek and integrated storage solutions. • Size 143mm / Weight 248g • Size 155mm / Weight 254g
  • $150.00 retail
Specialized Phenom Expert top view

Oh, this is nice!” 
Those words came from my lips, said out loud, and to no one in particular, as I turned onto the road and headed out for my first ride.  That first impression remained for the time I had it on the Lynskey.  I never even had to adjust saddle position. Even though it is coming from the MTB side of life, the Phenom makes a great case as a gravel bike saddle.  Support is excellent and the level of padding is higher, as you might expect, coming from the off road arena rather than the road.  The padding is a bit firm though, so its not a couch.

The center relief section is very generous.  The rail length and saddle length likewise, unlike the shorter Power saddle line. Nothing rubbed, poked, grated, or annoyed.  Excellent support. Excellent shape. 

Is this my new gravel bike saddle?  Wow.  It sure could be, but if I have a choice I would like just a bit more give to the padding.  On a full suspension MTB that is not an issue. The rear shock and fat tires are taking care of that.  In fact after I took it off the Lynskey, I put it on my Santa Cruz Tall Boy and there it remains, replacing the old Specialized Henge saddle I was using, which had been annoying me lately.

If I could mix the padding level/feel of the Ergon with the shape of the Phenom, I could not ask for more.  Not the winner-winner-chicken-dinner gravel saddle of this test, but man…it’s a good one and I could ride this for hours and miles.

Romin Evo Expert Gel:  The best road saddle I have used.

Specialized Romin Expert Gel side view

From the website: Keep it low and aero without sacrificing comfort. The titanium-railed, lightweight Romin EVO Expert Gel is road saddle contoured to put you in a position for optimal power transfer and comfort as you put pressure on your competition. Its supportive foam and gel inserts increase comfort even while in a competitive, more aerodynamic position, while the Body Geometry channel is designed to maximize blood flow while riding.

  • Patented Body Geometry design is lab-tested to assure blood flow to sensitive arteries.
  • Stiff, carbon-reinforced shell for longevity and all-day riding efficiency
  • Lightweight and supportive PU foam with gel inserts for increased comfort on long rides.
  • Lightweight, durable, and hollow titanium rails.
  • Tough, lightweight, and water-resistant Micromatrix™ cover.
  • Level 2 padding: Medium density foam for bike feel with additional cushioning.
  • SWAT™-compatible mounts molded into the saddle base allow for sleek and integrated storage solutions.
  • Size 143mm / Weight 269g
  • Size 155mm / Weight 277g
  • Size 168mm / Weight 281g
  • NOTE: 1cm shorter than 2015 model.
Specialized Romin Expert Gel top view

I have been on the Romin Evo Expert Gel saddles for years now and have logged thousands of road miles on top of one or the other on my road bikes.  So this saddle was not new to me although it was narrower (143mm) then my personal Romin saddles and I have never used one of these off of paved roads.

I expected two things:

  1. That I would like the shape, but the width would be a gamble or maybe a surprise!
  2. That it might be too firm for me for gravel use.

Both turned out to be true.  I noticed the narrower saddle width, but I discovered I could ride ether width in this saddle.  The 143mm was completely out of the way and made a compelling argument for swapping to this over the 155mm versions I have.  I have heard from several industry wags that a 143mm saddle fits 90% of the male riders out there.  On the 143mm I was more aware of sit bone pressure as that was the primary area of contact. It was not bad, just different. Interesting in a way, as sometimes you have to try a saddle rather than go by the numbers. Width does not always play out the same between models.  In all other saddles I have been a 143mm and that is how I measure on the Retul system.  I still might swap it onto my road bike just to see. You never know.

Now that all said, the center relief, the firm padding and decent shell flex, the length…it is a super saddle really and just misses for me only when the trail gets rougher. Then I wanted more give as sharp ‘hits’ would come up a bit too enthusiastically.  If I were less sensitive to this (younger) or spent more time on smoother dirt, I could easily use the Romin on gravel.

Once again, Specialized shows it knows it’s way around saddles with two standout models.

Note: Specialized sent out these two saddles for test and review at no charge to Riding Gravel. We were not paid nor bribed for this review and we will always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.


Author: Grannygear

Grannygear hails from SoCal and spent most of his cycling days as a mountain biker from the formative years of mountain biking all the way up to the present day. His day job is in the tech sector, but he has spent time writing about off road 4X4’s, 29″ mountain bikes, and cycling in general. Grannygear and Guitar Ted have worked off and on together since 2009 after a chance meeting at Interbike. With gravel cycling on the rise, Grannygear has been exploring how this genre’ works in SoCal and now does guest pieces for in his spare time.

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5 thoughts on “Saddle Up! Riding Gravel’s Saddle Round Up- Part Three

  1. I’m a big fan of the Phenom, too. I’ve never forgotten about my saddle so quickly. The Power saddle is fantastic as well – that’s what’s currently living on my gravel bike and it’s wonderful. No pain, good support for in-the-saddle repositioning.

    1. @Larry Brenize- Grannygear isn’t done just yet. We’ve gotten a few more saddles to try since this shoot-out began.

      Disclaimer- Keep in mind that the results that satisfy Grannygear are his results. They may not reflect anyone else’s at all, or maybe they will. Saddles, as we always strive to say, are very personal choices. Hopefully our shootout helps someone to navigate the bewildering amount of choices out there, but we aren’t saying the saddle Grannygear gets along with is “the one” saddle for all, or even most.

  2. @Larry Brenize…Larry, the ‘winner’ is coming and will be announced out of the fourth and final round. And frankly, no one is more surprised than I as to the #1. And Guitar Ted is correct. Winner, in this case, is a winner for me and hopefully my reasoning and descriptions will help others find a winner for themselves.


  3. Well I have a saddle that works for me. The Brooks Imperial. The kicker is that the leather saddle doesn’t like the rain very well. So yes I guess I am looking for a new saddle.

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