SOMA OKAMI LITE SADDLE
275g white (as tested) $53.99 (£39.18 at time of writing)
A stylish design making a brassy pass at the retro market, Soma’s Okapi saddle has been around for a while. The latest take maintains the rivets and the stylish persona, but has shed around 100g. It has looked good on the minimalist single-speed and topped-off the Eroica bike very tidily. Even better it has given many miles of happy riding.
Pros: Stylish, well-made and surprisingly easy to maintain, at a decent price.
Cons: There are more authentic retro options, no saddle-bag loops.
Materials and design
Fundamentally, the Okami Lite is a road-inspired retro-styled saddle. Ours was pristine white, but practical black is also available. It has been on a diet and lost around 100g, according to Soma, by cutting away some of the shell around the nose. Obviously this will appeal to any weight-conscious or Eroica warrior aiming at the longer distances. Soma suggest that it also increases comfort.
Eroica readiness caused a little debate at Seven Day Towers. It is not, of course period specific, while Eroica rules encourage use of original saddles. The Okami Lite bears a sneaking resemblance to some older Cinelli models, and is closer kin to a number of less illustrious marques. We drew the conclusion that, though not original seventies gear, it more than passes muster. That seems to fit with the Eroica ethos.
The strong plastic shell sits on CroMoly rails. A layer of mid-weight padding and a faux leather cover completes the picture, except for the line of copper rivets that add a bit of sparkle and complete its retro-credentials. Some will miss saddle-bag loops.
If you have ever been criticised during a retro ride for the apparently saggy - though doubtless comfortable - state of one’s leather saddle, you’ll be pleased to note that the Oakmi Lite will offer no such opportunities for rudeness. Solidly rigid, this may have a leather-look, but is very much in the tradition of stiff, light, Italian racing style. At 150x272mm, its dimensions are likely to be best suited to the faster, mile-eater aboard a handsome bike.
It should fit any seat clamp.
Fitting and adjustment
Tugging out the seat post and attaching to the original 1940’s, slightly rusted clamp, on the mongrel mystery single-speed, took but a few moments and smartened things up immediately. Likewise the Eroica bike. Try it on the tourer? No. For me, it won’t replace real leather.
Taking a bit of time on adjustment is well-worth it. This is not especially narrow or short saddle, but those coming from a Brooks B17 or Bobbin leather touring saddle, like me, should get things right to avoid plonking the ischial tuberousities right on the rivets and half on the padding. A lot will depend on your bike fit and the padding in your shorts. Riders used to road-racing saddles will, probably, not have any issue, but may notice greater depth.
Once I’d sussed out the best position, it was time to hit the road properly and I’ve racked up some two hundred miles on it. There’s not a lot of give, so it proved ideal for pushing a good cadence on a decent surface. Granted, it took a while to get used to a more aggressive position, but that is, in fairness, to be expected. In any case, contact points can be very personal things.
Given the state of some of our roads, which aren’t much better than retro-beloved “strada bianci”, the ride is firm, but no rougher than most saddles; frame and tyres will have a lot to say here, too. Shame on you if you try to stick a thudbuster on your beautiful Eroica-ready machine, but put some miles in to acclimatise before hitting the big ride.
Tenure in merino blend shorts is very good, and there have been no scary moments when wearing modern-day Lycra.
Pristine white looks dandy, but have a mechanical to fix and keeping things clean becomes awkward. I took latex gloves (careful if you have an allergy) to keep things clean. Even so, grimy, greasy streaks proved pusillanimous against a bit of mild detergent or wipe delivered with moderate elbow grease. Sans mudguards, a quick wipe, even after a dry’s ride, kept things tidy - and check underneath as well.
In fairness, this is a decent enough saddle in its own right. However, much of its attraction will be a mixture of desire for style and price. Cheaper than real leather, it is also easier to maintain. Purists may turn a volcanic red, but whilst this may not be the first choice saddle for day to day riding, disciplines where weight is vital or touring, it is a real competitor in the retro field and perfect for that gentle race to the cafe.