OXFORD CONTOUR FLOW MEN'S SADDLE
The Oxford Contour Flow Men’s Saddle is a gel and foam infused cutaway design. It's aimed at those making the transition, from recreational to more intense riding. For the most part, it meets this design brief very well, and has proven surprisingly comfortable, over longer distances. That said; it faces stiff competition, from established and store branded models, offering higher spec, for less money.
Pros: Well designed, good build quality and surprisingly comfortable.
Cons: Spec lower than some at this price point.
Nothing particularly exotic but made to a high standard. Beneath the waterproof vinyl top layer, we have a mixture of sensibly proportioned foam and gel.
Talking of proportions 275x143x 270mm is a suitably racy setup, so worth measuring the distance between your sit bones, first. Then of course, we have the gender specific cut-out to ease pressure, and provide cooling airflow to the crotch area.
There are also Unisex and Women’s specific versions.
Flip it over, and no sneaky staples, or similar corner cutting unsightliness here. Mind you, I was a little disappointed by the solid high tensile steel rails. Many competitors offer hollow Cro-Moly, but the paint job's decent, they're neatly slotted into the base and measurements means setup/adjustments are a cinch. Round the back, there’s also a retro-reflective Oxford logo, for some additional presence at night.
My tubby tourer might sound an odd choice, on some levels. However, I was keen to see how it compared, with my Univega's Selle Italia Nouvous Boost TM Superflow Saddle. It was also a good test of its durability. As with any new contact point, I start with a few 20mile blasts and then progressively tack on the miles. 35, 50, 75 etc.
Given the build's more upright position, I was surprised to find a comparatively narrow design, supportive and moreover, comfortable, even on longer, mixed terrain escapes.
The longest outing was a day ride, of 75 miles involving a mix of B roads, singletrack lanes and dirt roads.
Support has been uniformly good throughout, with no hint of chafing, or similar discomfort. This suggests that Oxford have the padding and gel densities bang-on. This song remained consistent, alternating between Funkier Force Pro Bib Shorts, Ribble Nuovo Mens Bib Shorts and the Tenn Global Eurosport GC Bib Shorts .
Most manufacturers seem to have cutaways sussed these days too. Or, at least, I've not found many that disagree with me. The Contour Flow's certainly relieved pressure and ultimately numbness around my crotch, while providing some cooling airflow into the bargain. As with all cutaways, bargain on a damp crotch, if you forgo mudguards along wet roads.
Talking of which, the waterproof, leatherette fabric seems genuinely impervious. It's a bit stickier than most saddles, which took a little adapting to. Though it wasn't like being sat atop the proverbial sheet of flypaper, and infinitely preferable to "surfing"; shifting position required a definite movement.
Something that proved mildly irritating, say, on long, steady road rides, or when tackling winding, changeable dirt roads, alternating between sat and standing.
Materials aren't exotic but build quality is reassuringly good. I've leaned ours up against the usual suspects (rendered/exposed brickwork, stone, concrete etc) with no hint of chafing/scuffing, or similar calling cards. Vinyl covers require very little maintenance, although a quick lick of Crankalicious Leather Lacquer or similar product every so often, wouldn’t hurt.
The rails show no hint of wear either, despite my seat post clamp bolt working loose, on a couple of occasions, during the first 100 miles.
Being picky, some scuff bumpers around the back, would be welcomed (although two layers of good quality electrical/duct tape will do the job nicely, especially on a working bike).
There's a lot of competition, even at this price point. In the top-trumps sense, it's er, trumped by some store brands offering hollow Chromoly rails. Indeed, B’TWIN 900 Light Sport Saddle gives change from £20 and reputedly weighs 260g
Then of course, we have the Charge Spoon £26.99, which also features hollow Chromoly rails, 3M reflective rear panelling and a wealth of colour/design options.
Nonetheless, this is all tempered by the Oxford's solid construction and for me at least, decent levels of comfort. In practical terms, this latter consideration, should trump specification/exotica.
The Oxford Contour Flow meets its design brief very well and is worth looking at, if you can't get along with an OEM perch. Indeed, those extra grams and less exotic rails may pale into insignificance, if it hits the comfort notes every time. Nonetheless, models such as the Charge Spoon and B’TWIN 900 Light Sport will give it a seriously good run for your money.