It's not often that I get really excited about a test item, but this Pearl Rivet saddle deserves a bit of enthusiasm. It's the best saddle I've ridden, ever.
Pearl is a new company based in Sacramento, California. It was started by Debra Banks, a serious long distance Paris-Brest-Paris veteran, as a way of finding the perfect saddle.
To my mind (and backside) she has succeeded because the Pearl offers all the best features you might find in the Brooks range but in a single saddle. It has similar dimensions to a B17 (5mm narrower and 5mm shorter) but has the cutout of an Imperial, the tension plate of a Swallow and the titanium rails of Brooks' ultra high-end saddles. It's like a greatest hits of leather saddles.
I tested the titanium version, which retails at £190 from importers Carradice (and they know a thing or two about long distance cycling). That may sound like a lot of money, but if you want a Brooks B17 with titanium rails that will set you back by £225 and a Swallow (which has the tension plate that the B17 lacks) will cost £290.
I've owned any number of Brooks saddles and while I remain a fan, the Rivet is better finished and even more comfortable. It almost feels disloyal to say such things but I'm not going lie, even for the benefit of an old friend.
The leather used on Rivet saddles comes from the Midwest, is very thick and comes with a bonded underlayer. Rivet claims that the leather is treated during the tanning process to make it waterproof.
I still felt obliged to slap on a layer of Proofide and given that the UK is pretty moist I always put a cover on if it's likely to be exposed for any length of time. That said, it's reassuring to know that the leather has its own chemical raincoat. The finish is very good, with nice crisp edges.
First impressions are that the Rivet feels firm but with a bit of give. Thanks to the cutout it doesn't have the plank-like feeling of a regular fresh, out of the box leather saddle. The Pearl felt comfy straight away, with the promise of even more comfort once it had been ridden in.
Anyone who has blanched at the (much exaggerated) horror of breaking in a Brooks would do well to try a Pearl. That includes female riders by the way. The Rivet website doesn't pull any punches when it describes female specific saddles as 'marketing hype'.
I don't know if that is strictly true, but Rivet markets its saddles as being unisex. The key measurement for Rivet is that between the sit bones (the bottom of your pelvis). According to Rivet 'On average, men's sit bone width ranges between 100mm – 140mm (give or take a few mm to round), and women's range between 110mm – 150mm.'
I'm not wholly convinced, as female saddles are usually shorter as well as wider, but I'm not going to start an argument with the female creator of the most comfy saddle I've ever sat on. There is a whole load of information on the Rivet website so go look for yourself.
Normally on a long ride (say 100 miles or more) I'd start to feel a bit of discomfort. Nothing too serious and nothing that couldn't be relieved by a few moments out of the saddle, but with the Pearl I found myself having to do this much less frequently. In fact I found that I had to remind myself to get up because the saddle was so comfortable. I'm riding London-Edinburgh-London this year and the Pearl is 99 percent certain to be on my bike.
The only reason it's not 100 percent is because I'm about to start testing another saddle - the Rivet Independence, so there is a slim possibility that it may usurp the Pearl in my affections.
I was hugely impressed by the Pearl. You can tell that it's been designed by someone who really knows what they want from a saddle and the quality is excellent. If you fancy a leather saddle, try one.
Superb long haul saddle and better value than a high-end Brooks.
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Make and model: Rivet Pearl saddle
Size tested: Titanium
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?
Blurb - "Whether you are riding your first century or your 50th double century, the Pearl will provide long distance comfort and support. Named after Pearl Pass in the Rocky Mountains, when you're riding on the Pearl, you scarcely know it's there, but you're glad that it is."
Actually, that's not just hype. The Pearl really is that comfy.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Very well made - beautifully finished.
The best saddle I've ridden.
Some early Pearls suffered from failure of the front plate (the bit that the leather and nose-bolt attach to) but that has been rectified now. Other than that I can't see any reason why the Pearl won't be fetching hipster style prices on E-Bay in 2050.
460g is reasonably light for a leather saddle this size, but really, if you care that much about weight, why would you even be looking at a Pearl?
THE most comfy saddle I've ridden. Really, really great.
Ok, so it's £190 but that's still cheaper than any equivalent Brooks and if you ride all day you can't put a price on saddle comfort. It's better finished than a Brooks too.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
A truly superb saddle. Well worth considering as a Brooks alternative.
Age: 42 Height: 5' 8 Weight: er....85kg
I usually ride: Kona Dew Drop, Dawes Century SE, Carlton Corsa My best bike is: Guess SC1 scandium
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Audax and long distance solo rides