Not only bike (… there’s also the saddle …)

The NOB BMC – Selle Italia team, the MTB International team with UCI affiliation competing in the Cross Country World Cup trials, can count on many excellent riders  and promising young talents, such as Italian Olympian Andrea Tiberi, the Italian Under 23 champion Gioele Bertolini, or Cristian Cominelli, Team Relay world champion and Italian XCO and cyclocross multi-winner.

Sports Director Massimo Tabarelli also gives some interesting insider knowledge about the mountain bike world … beyond the importance of a good saddle.

 

What traits must an MTB rider have compared to a road cyclist?

Like road racing, mountain biking requires athletic abilities but also more highly developed technical skills. Balance and explosive power are the defining characteristics, the pillars that a rider builds and grows on. Then there are other MTB disciplines, such as circuit racing and mass-start racing. Distances also vary, as do as elevation profiles and technical difficulty. Modern MTB is producing more and more specialised riders, but the past and present tell us that there are real star performers that can compete and sometimes excel in all disciplines.

 

 

How many hours a day do you spend in the saddle?

Training varies greatly not just from rider to rider, but also from discipline to discipline. On average, each rider spends around 2 or 3 hours a day on the bike but the ones who needs to prepare for longer races will put in sessions of over 4 or 5 hours, to get used to the prolonged effort. Everyone uses their training sessions to refine their technique but they also concentrate on strength building activities, which can be done on the bike or in the gym, with exercises specifically designed to improve explosiveness and balance.

 

What does MTB training specifically involve?

As I said, a lot depends on the rider’s own characteristics, but also on the preparation they need for the races and the specialist areas they participate in. Unlike a road race specialist, MTB bikers not only use the MTB, but alternate it with the use of the road bike. These sessions are intended improve athletic movement by relaxing the muscles of the upper body and limbs, which get very stressed with off-road cycling.

 

How much does the saddle affect performance?

The saddle is the primary point of contact between rider and bicycle. On the road it is crucial to ensure that the many hours of activity go to lighten the work done by the lower limbs. This is also the case in MTB, for in-line and long distance races, but especially in off-road races where the technical demands change continuously; the saddle also becomes a sort of “rudder” for the biker, who uses it as a balancing aid and to control the centre of gravity. In cross country, where they often have to ride with all the weight shifted behind the saddle to prevent somersaulting, the saddle becomes very important because when you can position it between the thighs or in some cases even on the belly, it allows the rider to reach the limits in terms of overcoming obstacles and defying the laws of gravity.

 

What are the ideal features of an MTB seat?

Comfort, of course, because as we’ve said it’s one of the most important points of contact between rider and machine. In circuit races, where power and agility are required, you need a saddle that keeps weight down, with nice clean, slender lines to help fast body movements. In long distance races, although weight is important, it is often is overshadowed by the requirement of more comfort, not only because of the long racing or training hours but also because the rider is continuously subject to vibration and stresses from rough terrain.

 

Are there any differences between training and racing saddles?

In most cases, riders initially prefer to use the same saddle for training and competition. This to really hone the feel of the saddle and have the same feel in both situations. It’s more common that a rider will use different saddles on road and mountain bikes, although even in this case many riders prefer to have just one model so they don’t have to change their habits.

 

Your team has chosen to use Selle Italia saddles. Which model is most appreciated and used by your riders?

The saddles supplied to the team are the SLR Carbon Team Edition. Some athletes have opted for the Flow version for their personal needs and for the added comfort and flexibility of the structure of the saddle.

Overall, the SLR Carbon is the best compromise between weight and comfort; we can’t of course ignore the aesthetic aspect, featuring clean and very “racing” lines. Maximum strength and reliability, reduced weight and an ideal seating arrangement, while also ensuring great comfort and pedalling efficiency.

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