It's quite common for us to be sent £200 saddles for testing, and this Astute Sky Lite VT 3.0 is up against some tough opposition. It's impressively comfortable once the upper has bedded in, and the overall quality and finish is second to none. There is a lot going on in its construction too.
While many saddle makers stick to the tried and tested formula of rails, a main body in whatever material, covered with a bit of padding and a top cover, Italian brand Astute has gone for a little more creative construction.
On the Sky Lite you start off with a set of full carbon fibre rails, which have a 7mm x 9mm profile so should match most seatpost clamping systems. Then, rather than one main body, you get a soft-touch nylon external shell, plus an internal shell made from 15% carbon fibre-reinforced nylon. On top you get memory foam padding and a microfibre cover.
It's very neat: the cover wraps around the padding and upper shell and then the lower shell hides the leftover material. (You can see a diagram of it here.)
In between the lower shell and the rails you get what Astute calls 'SPAS', twin pads inserted to damp vibration – claimed to reduce it by 20 per cent.
Other than ripping the saddle apart and removing the pads, it's a tough claim to disprove, but I will say this: the Sky Lite is a very comfortable saddle, while remaining very firm for performance riding.
I'd say a lot of the comfort and firmness is down to the memory foam padding. It's firm right from the start and remains that way, but once you've done a hundred or so miles it really starts to mould to your shape and fits nicely.
The firmness is a good thing too. As you can see, the Sky Lite has a central cutout – that's what the VT stands for, 'verta' or 'open'. Some cutout saddles with soft padding can squidge over into the gap and you lose the comfort, or some makers introduce firmer padding and stitching around the opening which adds pressure points. The Astute is spot on.
The ribs of the lower shell that bridge the cutout have a fair amount of flex and this offers a bit of give to the saddle to absorb some road buzz, but you don't feel like you are bouncing about when you really put the power down.
The great thing about using twin shells is that the microfibre upper can be sandwiched between the two for a smooth and clean look. This really is an excellently finished saddle.
So, £200 then...
In my opinion, a perfect saddle is worth pretty much any outlay, especially if you spend a lot of time on it.
Some will find this in a seat that's much, much cheaper. Something like the Fabric Line Titanium saddle, for instance, which costs less than half the Astute (£69.99) and I was very impressed with.
The Astute will save you about 40g, if that's important to you, and as a longterm investment it's hard to fault. Once the padding had moulded to me it was absolutely bliss to ride.
Against others in this price range it is a little bit heavier. The Fizik Antares R1 Versus Evo is 168g for its carbon build and £189.99 price tag. On my best bike I'm still running the Prologo Dimension Nack, which also costs £199.99. It's a stubby saddle, which is why the weight is only 157g, but I'd say the Astute is a touch more comfortable, so I can see a change on the cards.
The Sky Lite 3.0 also comes in a range of colours top and bottom, so you should be able to find a match for your bike without too much trouble.
A very comfortable, supportive saddle for the racer, with an excellent build quality
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Astute Sky Lite 3.0 saddle
Size tested: 135mm wide
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?
Astute says, "Innovation. High technology. Italian craftsmanship. Unique design. Sky is the first high-tech smart saddle on the market, the result of an exclusive project developed by Astute Labs to provide the highest level of safety, comfort and performance for the most demanding riders. Flat design for on-road endurance riding and long training or racing sessions.
SKY LITE VT 3.0 features an anti-vibration self-supporting twin shell. Designed to significantly reduce vibrations and reinforce the construction with the Spas System Technology (SPAS): 2 pads between the carbon rail and the shells dampen and reduce vibrations by 20%. The inner shell is made of 15% carbon-fibre reinforced nylon, while the outer shell is made of nylon with Soft Touch finish. Both of them come in an open U shape. An innovative construction enhances the saddle's look while maintaining a clean silhouette and improving performance, as it significantly increases the padding space while preserving the same volume and, as a result, reduces pressures in the perineal area and ensures ultimate comfort. This compact, high performance saddle is 135mm wide and 275mm long.
Full-carbon rail with 3K Carbon Rail 7X9 technology for reduced weight. A racing combination designed by Astute. Lightweight, ultimate performance and comfort, even under high-strain conditions.
VT seat (from "verta", i.e. "open" in Venetian dialect), designed with a central cut-out to eliminate pressure peaks in the pelvic area. The 'tension arc' is created with a perfectly balanced weight distribution for smooth, comfortable riding. Ultimate comfort, lightweight and high performance.
Features three-density progressive Memory Foam padding to provide better comfort in the perineal area - firmer in the back to support the sit bones, and softer on the front.
SKY LITE VT 3.0 is protected by three international patents and is exclusively handmade in Italy according to strict local regulations."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Flat shape Sky 3.0
Flat and streamlined. High technology. Features a self-supporting anti-vibration twin-shell with Spas System (SPAS) technology: 2 pads between the carbon rail and the shells dampen and reduce vibrations by up to 20%. High-performance saddle focus for competitive challenge.
Full-carbon rail with 3K Carbon Rail 7X9 technology for reduced weight. The best rail for racing. Lightweight, ultimate performance and comfort, even under high-strain conditions.
Traditional width of 13.5 cm. Created for athletes with regular sit bones seeking ultimate performance and comfort. Designed with a special shape to provide the highest level of comfort.
COVER - MICROFIBER
PAD - TRI DENSITY PROGRESSIVE MEMORY FOAM
INTERNAL SHELL - NYLON 85% / CARBON 15%
EXTERNAL SHELL - NYLON SOFT TOUCH
RAILS - CARBON 7x9 with S.P.A.S
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It has just the right balance of comfort versus stiffness for a race saddle.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Memory foam padding once bedded in.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Some will find the price excessive...
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Fizik Antares R1 Versus Evo is £189.99, the Prologo Dimension Nack also costs £199.99. For the level of build quality, materials used and the overall finish, the Astute sits comfortably (no pun intended) against the opposition.
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
It's a very comfortable saddle once bedded in, with excellent build quality.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!