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Verdict: 
An easy-to-live-with take on the classic Rolls leather saddle. It looks great and if it fits you, you'll love it
Weight: 
373g
Selle San Marco Classic Rolls Saddle
8 10

The prototype modern racing saddle, the Selle San Marco Rolls is still going strong and is now available in a new, easy-to-live-with fabric cover.

The Rolls first appeared in the pro peloton in the 1980s and was rapidly adopted by top riders such as Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond. Although it wasn't the first, it was the most famous saddle to be constructed this way. The hard plastic shell now seems commonplace, having been adopted almost universally since, but it was a revolutionary step from the all-leather saddles of old. While some devotees claimed the leather-covered Rolls required less breaking in than an all-leather Brooks, in practice it shouldn’t require any breaking in at all – the shape of that plastic hull isn’t going to change. More likely, if your posterior is roughly the right shape it’s simply going to get used to the shape of the Rolls either straight away or fairly quickly soon after you start putting the miles in. (It has to be said that when it comes to all-leather saddles like the Brooks, there is some ‘debate’ as to whether it’s the saddle that moulds to you or you that moulds to the saddle – or a bit of both.) The upshot of all this is that whether this Rolls had a leather top or fabric, the comfort level I've experienced over a month's testing is as good as it's going to get, so sadly it won't be for me.

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I don't think my Mick Jagger-like pelvis is really shaped for the Rolls. While Selle San Marco describes it as a flat saddle, in reality it has a modest dip front-to-middle, rising slightly to the back. Its 282 x 143mm feels massive. Across the width, the rounding is very pronounced. Consequently, despite a fair amount of subtle tweaking of position, I couldn't get rid of the feeling that I was sitting on a tennis ball. After a 50-mile ride I felt a bit sore.

San Marco Classic Rolls Saddle - back.jpg

San Marco Classic Rolls Saddle - back.jpg

There's an online saddle calculator here you can use to match yourself to one of Selle San Marco's saddles, and the Rolls was not the choice that fell out of the algorithm. For the record, it matched me with the Mantra Narrow, which is about as far from the Rolls as you can get.

The shape forced me well back in the saddle (no bad thing as I have a tendency to perch on the nose) so I had to set the rails fairly well forward in the clamp to maintain my leg angle over the pedals. It also combined with the abrasive fabric covering to keep me 'glued' in place. Some riders like this; others prefer something a bit easier to shuffle around on.

San Marco Classic Rolls Saddle - nose.jpg

San Marco Classic Rolls Saddle - nose.jpg

Some potential purchasers may be put off by the weight. Was it noticeable as I lifted the back end of the bike? Yes. Was it noticeable on rides? Of course not. I even picked up a PB on a local hill climb (one Strava tells me I've ridden no fewer than 174 times). I should confess there was a colossal tailwind.

The quality of the materials and build is excellent. The light padding is uniform and supportive; the fabric stretched over and glued neatly around the underside edge of the shell. As with all Rolls saddles, decorative riveted metal adornments also have a practical function in holding the cover in place. On this model, these are fashioned from stainless steel, as are the rails, and they look terrific. Rolls saddles are often seen on retro rebuilds but, once I got used to the chunky profile, I though this looked pretty cool on my stealth-black Cannondale.

San Marco Classic Rolls Saddle - underside.jpg

San Marco Classic Rolls Saddle - underside.jpg

It's practical, too. Although not entirely water resistant, the fabric (which Selle San Marco calls 'woven microfeel') dried within 30 minutes of getting wet, and at the end of the test the cover showed no sign of abrasion or staining. No doubt it would need less looking after than the leather version, but it won't develop that patina either.

> How to find the right saddle for your bottom

For the quality of build I think this represents good value and I would urge you not to be put off by the fact that I didn't find it all that comfortable. Judging by online reviews, there are many, many happy owners who do get on with the Rolls, and they have a reputation for lasting a long time.

Verdict

An easy-to-live-with take on the classic Rolls leather saddle. It looks great and if it fits you, you'll love it

road.cc test report

Make and model: Selle San Marco Classic Rolls Saddle

Size tested: 143x282mm

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Selle San Marco, in slightly strangled translation, says: "A line to which all that has been achieved from years of experience in the bicycle world inspires a selected number of evergreen saddles. A taste of retro meets modern design for the ever-changing life of cycling and the importance of essential details. A selection of Selle San Marco icons that embody the history of cycling. The comfort and guarantee of the traditionally-shaped saddles. The legacy of a masterpiece."

It's a new addition to a classic range of saddles that will appeal to riders with a respect for the sport's history who also appreciate a touch of quality.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Rail: Carbon Steel / silver color

Shell: P.P. Padding: Biofoam

Cover: Woven microfeel

Length / Width : 282x143 mm

Weight : 373 g. (our measurement)

Extra : ACCESSORIES SILVER COLOUR

Color : Black

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
10/10

Probably the first thing you notice when you take it out of the box, apart from the weight, is the neatness of the construction.

Rate the product for performance:
 
7/10

Saddle performance is, like comfort, a personal thing. If you like a saddle that is long and broad and keeps you firmly in place at the back of the perch you will rate the performance higher than I have. I still thought it was good, though.

Rate the product for durability:
 
10/10

Plenty of riders will testify to the longevity of the Rolls saddle. This incarnation, with a tough fabric cover, should be just as hardwearing.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
5/10

Heavy by today's standards, though it will make little difference to the ride.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
6/10

Again, it's a personal thing. I seem to be the opposite of a Rolls rider, so I can only give it 6.

Rate the product for value:
 
9/10

For the quality of materials and attention to detail, plus the fact it should last for years, it's really very good value.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

The Rolls was designed for racing and don't write it off as too old-fashioned for that. If you find it comfortable, you'll finish a long event in better shape than on a lighter but wince-inducing design. Not being a racer, I used it for long winter training rides and short, hard hill-effort sessions and it performed well because it kept me securely in an efficient riding position.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Good looks, excellent build quality and attention to detail. I also like the easy-care nature of the fabric cover.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The length and width were wrong for me.

Did you enjoy using the product? Up to a point.

Would you consider buying the product? Sadly not, though I hanker for a leather one for the '79 Carlton.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

Setting aside my personal issues with the shape, I thought this was a worthy addition to the Rolls range. Purists might insist the only true Rolls is a leather one, but for an alternative that needs no breaking in and is highly resistant to abrasion and weather, this is excellent.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 51  Height: 6'2"  Weight: 73kg and rising

I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking

3 comments

Avatar
Roberj4 [223 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

Price of progress. Used to be able to buy a Rolls saddle for £18 (back in the day). Not a comfy saddle!

Avatar
Freddy56 [243 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

bought one, remember my mum digging around her purse for the rest of the £17 to buy it , to please her yapping son. People kept telling me it will take 500 miles to break it in. 

 

BOLLOX, they were shit. hard and heavy. i love mine but no one should buy these now

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will [653 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

I used to really like the Rolls, suited my posterior.

I also remember them costs less than £20. 

Considering that this Rolls uses an arguably inferior material for the cover, its interesting to see they cost nearly 4x as much these days. 

The leather saddles definitely used to give a bit... by give, I mean the foam under the leather cover would break down and in doing so, customise the fit.