The Essax Singel is a comfortable racing/sportive saddle that's light and well-constructed for the £75 price tag. It makes great play of its unique AF-Net technology which claims to improve rider performance by 4%; that's a difficult (impossible) thing to measure outside of a controlled conditions lab, but if you're looking for a firm but fairly deeply padded saddle with a generous middle channel, that's not too heavy and not too expensive, you should consider this one.
Essax came to prominence because of their Shark saddle that has a protruding fin to keep you in just the right position for optimum mechanical efficiency. That's a pretty niche product but the Singel is much more mainstream with a fairly deep padded section sandwiched between a carbon-fibre-reinforced nylon base and a microfiber cover. The wings are fairly rounded at the rear and there's a channel running the length of the centre of the Singel to relieve pressure on your vitals (Essax market the Singel as unisex). The rails are hollow chromoly.
So what's AF-Net? I hear you ask. Well, it's a lattice pattern on the base, which Essax claim improves all sorts of things. It's 38% more rigid, 63% more rigid to the sitting impact and 70% more resistant to dynamic fatigue, they claim. More importantly, they're saying that it's worth 4% in power over a standard saddle. How? Well, here's the word of mouth from Essax themselves:
In the independent test Caja Rural rider Garcia Raul Alarcon was asked to hold 200, 300 & 400W for 15 minute periods with a 10 minute rest period between each set at 150W. The test was held over 3 days, testing saddles in different orders and every time the riders heart rate was lower using the Essax saddle to maintain the wattage output. So in short the rider was having to work less to output the same power and when he worked at the same heart rate his power output was greater hence providing a performance gain through Af-Net technology.
The test showed a 2.5% perforamce gain with an Essax saddle against a Fizik Arione saddle and in all tests an average of 4% has been found.
Quite aside from the fact that holding 400W for 15 mins is a feat most of us will forever aspire to, rather than achieve, the research is interesting rather than in any way conclusive. For a start, the only way to isolate the benefit of the AF-Net tech would be to test exactly the same saddle with and without it, in lab conditions.
For all the apparent rigour of the testing process, any benefit may just boil down to the fact that Alarcon's behind was better suited to the Singel than the other saddles he sat on. That wouldn't surprise me, because it's a comfy one. The padding and the shell are both firm but that doesn't translate into a saddle that beats you up. It's firm but accommodating, and gets better the longer you ride. Don't forget: comfort is a performance benefit.
I looked at my times on the bike using the Singel compared to rides on the same bike with other saddles, and unsurprisingly there's no pattern. There are too many variables out on the roads (and in my legs and head) that have a far greater effect on my performance than the matrix on the bottom of my saddle does. That's not to say it can't be a benefit; all I'm saying is that the research that Essax have done doesn't clinch it for me.
If you're looking for tiny percentage gains and you're a good (and consistent) enough rider for them to make a measurable difference, you may well want to give the Singel a go for that reason.
If you're a normal mortal, like me, you mostly care that a saddle is comfy, well put together and decent value, which the Singel is. It'd be a good choice for your sportive bike and it's comfy enough over longer distances if you're doing big rides. It's light enough to go on your race bike too.
Comfortable, well made saddle that's light and decent value
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Essax Singel saddle
Size tested: n/a
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?
The Singel is a saddle developed by bike fitting studios.
It has a large central channel running from the end to the tip of the saddle
especially designed to relieve pressure in the perineal and genital area.
This promotes blood circulation & oxygenation of this part of the body.
Thanks to its ergonomic design it prevents discomfort & other problems
and pains in the perineal genital area such as numbness, loss of sensation
because of the lack of proper blood irrigation.
The design is also perfect for female cyclists and ergonomics.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Extra Foam for high comfort
100% free from genital / perineal pressure.
Valid for Triathlon
Valid for long rides such as Tours, Gran Fondo's & Sportives
Perfect design for female cyclists
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfy, fairly light, not too expensive.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing really, it's a good saddle.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
I'm not sold on the science that says it'll make you faster, but everyone knows comfort is a performance benefit.
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 190cm Weight: 100kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.