Can you get a good saddle for less than ten bucks? That was the question I was asking myself when I saw the Saddle Vader VD-103 on ebay for 8 dollars and free shipping. That’s kind of unbelievable. If I sold a used saddle on ebay it would probably charge about 8 dollars for the shipping alone. I could use a new saddle for a mountain bike and I couldn’t resist trying this thing out even though I don’t expect much. Now that I’ve got the VD-103 in my hands and have ridden it a bit I can give my initial impressions.
The VD-103 is of course made in China, like most everything else, but it’s a knock off of a popular mainstream saddle design. It looks alot like a Selle Italia Gel Flow, but since there are like 2 million versions of Selle Italia bike saddles I have no idea what model this is copied from. This saddle is available on ebay and tmart.com along with many other Vader saddles of various design.
So when I first took the Vader out of the plastic bag it shipped in I was surprised by the weight, even with plain ol’ steel rails its not heavy. It weighs in around 320 grams, probably around 100 grams heavier then a typical hundred dollar Selle Italia saddle. For years I rode a Brooks B17 so saddle weight isn’t something I stress about.
Obviously the next thing is to start pushing into the padding all over the saddle. The padding isn’t thick nor is it thin, I’d say its just right. While getting a feel for the saddle I noticed the rails sit the saddle a bit on the high side and the center of the saddle shell has alot of flex. Well revisit this flex in a moment, but its worth noting that the saddle comes with high end features like a marks on the rails and a rubber band to help dial in fit. Pretty sweet.
Examining the under carriage reveals lots of staples and a pretty conventional front and rear retainment system for the cover that uses plastic plates and screws. The staples don’t look so great, many saddles are glued down here but corners had to be cut somewhere. I could possibly see a uncomfortable situation if a staple came loose and worked its way to the top, so I’ll be checking under the saddle every now and again. The Cover its self is not leather and really doesn’t even feel like fake leather, more of a plasticy rubbery covering.
Really who cares about the build quality of a 8 dollar saddle. If it holds up for 6 months I’d be happy. I could buy a box of these for less than most saddles, you can’t even get a crappy saddle at Wal-Mart for 8 bucks. Lets talk about the ride.
The VD-103 is supposed to measure 285mm long and 155mm wide according to the web site, but they are way off. Mine measures about 275mm by 133mm. That’s a huge difference. The length not so much, but the width for sure. 133mm places this saddle in leauge with the “light weight racing saddles for little guys” category. Most of my saddles are in the 140s or even 150s. The only way the measurements of this saddle could be right would be measuring the cover without the curve, actually measuring the surface area of the cover.
I mounted the VD-103 on my CAAD9 which has spent the winter mounted in a trainer. Remember the flex I was talking about in the shell. Well you can definitely feel it when you sit down. I’ve found that saddles with alot of flex to their shells, whether it be from adding elastomers into the shell, or using a flexible material, tend to be very comfortable, at first, but much like an over padded gel saddle a flexible saddle will start to cause problems on longer rides.
Even though the saddle rails sit much higher than the Bontrager that was on my bike I found I didn’t need to adjust the seatpost. The saddle had enough flex to counter for the higher rails. I set the saddle as flat as I could by eyeballing it, and found found I was sinking a bit in the middle of the saddle.
After an hour of riding the trainer and completing a Sufferfest workout I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t feeling bad. An hour is usually enough to reveal if a saddle is going to work or not, and I was starting to feel a little minor discomfort but I don’t think it was any more or less then I’d feel on any saddle.
I never really noticed the substantial cutout which is a good thing and means it’s probably working. The cover is a bit grippier than others, you won’t find yourself sliding all over the place on it. The texture down the middle of the saddle may have something to do with that. Since the saddle sunk down so much in the center I wasn’t doing much moving around on it anyway.
An interesting experiment with this saddle may be jamming a rubber ball underneath the saddle to stop some of its sag, but first I’ve got to take it on some longer rides and see if the sag becomes a problem.
I’ve ridden a few 130ish narrow saddles in the past and didn’t like them, I’ve got to say that while the Vader VD-103 looks small it doesn’t really feel small. As we all know Saddles are a personal thing, that’s probably why there are so many different designs. I’ll have to put some more time on it and see how it wears and feels, but for the price and based on my initial rides it’s hard not to recommend this saddle. In fact I may try out some of the other Vader saddles.
After several more hours of riding I removed the Vader saddle from my bike. It’s very comfortable for awhile, but like every soft or saggy saddle I’ve tried it eventually causes painful sores. I tried supporting the saddle but then you really notice its small width.
Would be a fine saddle for short rides or maybe a much lighter rider.