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Taking Flite: Selle Italia updates saddle range with the Flite Boost

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13 Jul 2020
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The new Flite Boost looks to be yet another step in the right direction for the historic Italian marque

Photography tornanti.cc

With roots dating back to 1897, Selle Italia had already been in business over 120 years when cycling became a professional sport. Consequently it had a huge knowledge base in the fundamentals of saddle design to draw from when the decision was made to focus on producing high-performance racing saddles.

In the 1960s, under the push of the Bigolin family, the company started to invest heavily in research and development, which allowed Selle Italia to create products that catered for the performance side of cycling with new materials and construction techniques.

A close working relationship with Bernard Hinault throughout the 1980s stimulated the creation of Selle Italia’s Turbo design, and due to that focus on R&D it wasn’t long before the company was able to launch another important saddle - the Flite – in 1990.

The design of the Flite was informed by innovative anatomical concepts with the aim of improving the competitive cyclist’s comfort - creating support zones for the ischial bones – while also reducing the weight of the product.

Such understanding was not widespread back then, so thanks to the Flite saddle Selle Italia quickly gained a reputation among pros and amateurs alike for being at the forefront of saddle design - Marco Pantani and Philippe Gilbert both raced using Flite saddles during their time in the pro peloton.

‘I think the Flite was a real milestone for the saddle market,’ says Selle Italia president and owner, Giuseppe Bigolin. ‘On it we worked to dramatically reduce the wings of the saddle which at the time we considered to be a rigid element that compromised flexibility and comfort.

'When it came out its appearance was revolutionary, unlike anything ever seen on the market and the feedback we got was so good it is still part of our range to this day, and many other saddles have clearly been influenced by its design.’

Selle Italia has now launched the next evolution of this design, the Flite Boost. The Flite Boost retains all the hallmarks of the classic Flite shape, but features a truncated nose, meaning the overall saddle length is 248mm. This not only makes the saddle exceptionally light - the Flite Boost Kit Carbonio Superflow version weighs just 157g - but research has shown that snub-nose designs like Selle Italia’s Flite Boost may improve rider comfort too.

This is due to their shape not putting as much pressure on sensitive areas when a performance-orientated riding position is adopted compared to conventional saddle shapes. If race results are anything to go by, this theory has certainly been demonstrated in the real world - Mathieu van der Poel won the 2020 Cyclocross World Championships using the new Flite Boost.

This isn’t to say the Flite Boost technology is limited to the professional level of cycling though - Selle Italia has introduced a complete selection to suit a range of budgets. The saddle is available in three different rail material options - Kit Carbonio carbon fibre, TI316 Rail or TM manganese - to help the saddle hit different price points.

The anatomic shaping and purported performance benefits of Selle Italia’s saddles would account for little if they were not suited to the rider however, so Selle Italia developed its ‘idmatch’ fitting system. The Flite Boost occupies four fits within that system (idmatch size: S1/L1 and S3/L3), with 135mm and 145mm widths available both in ‘Fill’ (solid) and ‘Superflow’ (cut-out) versions.

‘For us it is imperative we keep innovating on the basis of research,’ says Bigolin. ‘The market is evolving faster than in the past so it is essential to work towards finding new concepts and new ideas that result in continuous improvement.’

With that in mind, the new Flite Boost looks to be yet another step in the right direction for the historic Italian marque.

Discover more about the new Flite Boost saddle at selleitalia.com