Its innovative design certainly raises eyebrows, and Essax are making some big claims about its performance benefits, but does this play out on the road?
The Essax Shark saddle created quite a stir when we first reported that the Spanish brand would be entering the UK market. Some of you were, to say the least, not convinced, and many of the Facebook and Twitter comments can’t be repeated here. However what our testers discovered was a saddle that defied appearances to offer a fairly comfortable ride and a decent level of performance.
We’ll start by addressing the elephant in the room: that fin. According to the Essax Shark’s designer, Jon Iriberri, the fin should distribute weight evenly between the rider’s sit bones by achieving better alignment of the knees, preventing rocking and rotation when pedaling, therefore increasing the efficiency of the pedal stroke and preventing injury.
This certainly gave this saddle a level of comfort that was unexpected given the unique design. Essax recommend a professional fitting, but we didn’t have any problems after simply setting the Essax Shark in the same position as our usual saddle. While riding, the 115mm fin on our test saddle is definitely noticeable, especially when sitting back in the seat while climbing, it is never a discomfort. However if you’re worried about this, Essax also offer versions with 105mm and 80mm fins which may appeal for those who are in and out of the saddle or are prone to shifting around.
Essax supplied us with a mid-range model for review, which came equipped with chrome/nickel rails (steel and titanium rails are also available). The rails don’t transmit too much road buzz, but considering you can pick up saddles with titanium or even carbon rails for a similar price if you shop around a bit, you can probably find a smoother ride for your buck.
Aside from the fin, the other technology that has gone into the Essax Shark saddle is the ‘AF-Net Matrix’. This technology is applied to the shell of the saddle, with Essax claiming this makes the saddle 4.7% more efficient, 37% more rigid and 70% more resistant to dynamic fatigue compared to identical models without the AF-Net technology.
Unfortunately the Cycling Weekly laboratory is still a work in progress, so we weren’t able to fully test these claims, but out on the road the performance of the Essax Shark saddle seemed largely comparable to similarly-priced perches from bigger name brands: good, but nothing to write home about. However the relative lack of flex in the shell is impressive given the weight and price of the saddle, hitting the scales at only a smidgen over 200g.
Our only real concern with the Essax Shark is the durability of the material. After only a couple of weeks of riding the covering had developed a number of sizeable wrinkles, particularly where the fin meets the main body of the saddle. This didn’t affect the ride during our time with the Shark saddle, but could become an issue over time.
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The Essax Shark saddle is an interesting concept and certainly makes you concentrate more on keeping your hips straight in the saddle. The ride is nowhere near as uncomfortable as you’d expect, and performance good. We were also impressed by the light weight, especially given the chrome/nickel rail and the price.