The new Fizik Arione R1 Versus Evo is a lightweight saddle that provides comfort and a pressure relief channel down the centre while still feeling stable enough to allow you to transfer power efficiently to the pedals.
I reviewed the Fizik Arione R1 saddle earlier in the year, and a lot of what I said there holds true here too.
First of all, you need to decide which of Fizik's three road saddle shapes is right for you – Arione, Aliante or Antares – based on your spine flexibility. The simplest way to do this is by using Fizik's app.
Then you input your bodyweight and your average speed on a flat road (it doesn't say over what distance) and the app gives you a suggested saddle size (regular or large). I'll assume you've done all that and that the app has told you that you need an Arione.
What's new here is the Versus Evo pressure relief channel down the centre. Previously, Fizik offered Versus (VS for short) saddles with what you might call a valley – a depression in the padding – running from the nose to the tail.
With the Versus Evo, the padding and the cover on one side of the saddle are entirely separate from the padding and cover on the other side with just the carbon composite-reinforced nylon shell providing the continuity down the middle. It's a completely new design that requires a new manufacturing process. The padding and the shell aren't bonded together here, it's just the Microtex cover and the shell that are attached to one another. Plus, while I'm going on about such things, the cover doesn't extend over the edges of the shell, it's simply fixed to the top.
In use, you certainly notice that channel because there's no pressure at all down the middle. Personally, I like the Versus Evo but the smooth-topped Arione R1, with a more even distribution of pressure, works better for me. We're all different, though, and I can certainly imagine that the Versus Evo will suit many people who struggle with a more traditional saddle shape.
Fizik's Comfort Core foam provides progressive cushioning. It manages to feel reasonably soft but supportive at the same time, if that's not too much of a contradiction in terms.
Two ribs run front to rear over the entire length of the shell, providing some structure in that direction to stop the saddle sagging like a hammock, while the wings – the sections between the nose and the widest part of the saddle – are specifically designed to flex as you pedal, and they definitely do that. I find the amount of flex and cushioning provided by the Arione R1 Versus Evo to be pretty much ideal – comfortable with enough give to soften any hard hits that might come your way, but solid enough that there's no bouncing around when you increase the power.
The rails are carbon braided, measuring 7 x 9mm in profile, so just check that your seatpost will take them. If not, or if you want to save some money, the Arione R3 Versus Evo (£139.99) comes with 7mm round kium (Fizik's tubular steel) rails.
The Fizik Arione R1 Versus Evo saddle is £31 more expensive than either the Arione R1 or the Arione R1 Open, which has a hole (rather than just a channel) in the centre designed to relieve pressure, so you're paying quite a lot extra for this particular design.
There are, of course, far cheaper options if the main feature you're after is a pressure relief channel. Fabric's Line Elite Shallow, which we reviewed a couple of years ago, for instance, is priced at just £54.99. The Arione R1 Versus Evo is made from different materials, though, and it's a lot lighter, ours hitting the scales at just 170g, quite a bit below Fizik's published weight of 185g (doesn't Fizik know that the bike industry's official practice when coming up with a published weight is to put stuff on the scales and then deduct 10%?).
Overall, the Fizik Arione R1 Versus Evo is a high-end option for riders with plenty of flexibility who like a flat saddle. If normal saddles leave you feeling uncomfortable and numb, the valley down the middle might provide the pressure relief you need.
A well-cushioned saddle with an effective pressure relief channel and plenty of stability
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Fizik Arione R1 Versus Evo saddle
Size tested: 299 x 132mm
Tell us what the product is for
Fizik says this:
"With full-channel comfort and advanced technology, materials and craft, Arione R1 Versus Evo is a leading performance road saddle for riders who want a flat saddle profile and a pressure relief channel.
Made for Snake riders with high body flexibility and no pelvic rotation while pedaling, the Arione is longer than any other fi'zi:k road saddle, flat from nose to tail and with a narrow nose, so you can move around to find your power spot. The Regular model is the narrower of our two options.
Arione R1 Versus Evo features a composite Carbon-reinforced nylon shell – with Wing Flex technology which enables flexibility where your thighs meet the saddle – and a light, strong, Braided Carbon rail. A Comfort Core foam layer beneath the neat, durable Microtex cover provides comfort, and is enhanced by the full-length comfort channel which reduces pressure on the rider's sensitive soft tissue and ensures that all weight is correctly supported across the whole surface of the saddle.
Like all performance fi'zi:k road saddles, Arione R1 Versus Evo is light, flexible and agile. It's designed for pros, with pros and raced by pros.With full-channel comfort and advanced technology, materials and craft, Arione R1 Versus Evo is a leading performance road saddle for riders who want a flat saddle profile and a pressure relief channel."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Fizik lists these features:
Versus Pressure Relief Channel
Shell: Carbon-reinforced nylon
Rail: 7x9mm Carbon Braided
Cover: Light Microtex
Padding: Comfort Core foam
Integrated Clip System compatible
According to our scales, it's almost as light as the standard Fizik Arione R1.
It's very comfortable, although I actually find the standard Fizik Arione R1 suits me marginally better.
You are paying quite a bit more than for one of Fizik's other Arione R1 saddles. Fizik says this is largely down to an entirely different production process.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I find that this saddle provides enough flex and cushioning while still being firm enough for stability when you increase your power.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The level of comfort provided here.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
£210 is obviously a lot to spend on a saddle.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a high-end saddle made from very good materials. It performs exceptionally well, but you have to pay a lot for it. All that adds up to an 8.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.