Review: Velo Orange Model 5 Saddle

Saddle comfort is undoubtedly the most subjective area of bike ergonomics; an area where no hard and fast rules apply. What is comfortable for one person, in a particular position, doing a particular type of riding, is uncomfortable for the next person. It is with this caveat that I recommend the Velo Orange Model 5.

Velo Orange is a US based company that designs and markets parts and frames for the cyclotouriste and urban cycling markets, producing beautiful retro frames and components which give a generous nod to the French constructeur aesthetic.

A few years ago the company began to market leather saddles in the style of Brooks’ esteemed offerings, made by Taiwanese company Gyes and addressing some long standing gripes with the West Midlands based company’s more famous offerings.

The Model 5 is a sprung saddle with very similar shape and dimensions as
the B17. Indeed Brooks fans will recognise it as a close copy of the Flyer – effectively a B17 with a sprung frame suitable for micro adjust seat pillars.

My need for a sprung saddle came from my Ridgeback’s ultra stiff frame and it’s tendency to kick the rider in the backside over rough roads. The supplied saddle was a narrow plastic model made by Velo (no relation) which, as standard race oriented saddles go, was pretty bearable. But a saddle should be more than bearable shouldn’t it?

The Model 5’s price is similar to the Flyer, at around £65.00 but it terms of spec it’s similar to the much more expensive Flyer Special or indeed Select. The VO saddle has a thick Australian hide top, much thicker and less liable to premature stretch than Brooks current standard line (an issue they’ve addresses with the Select line). The VO 5 also features skived apron edges, a feature only found on Brooks’ higher spec perches, along with a punched and tied apron to further address the dreaded spectre of saddle sag, which normally forebodes the death of one’s Brooks.

The rails are chromed steel, more pleasing to my eye than Brooks’ standard black powdercoat and the rails themselves allow much more fore and aft movement than Brooks, addressing a vestigial design hangover from an era of very different frame geometries which means that many riders mounting Brooks saddles on modern frames with more upright angles will struggle to get the saddle back far enough.

After a week of riding, first impressions are very positive. The saddle shape is perfect for me, being a B17 user for so many years however this comes as no surprise. What is surprising is the out of the box comfort. Although rock hard and allegedly requiring a break in period, I find it perfect from the get go, doing exactly what a saddle should do – supporting the sit bones without putting pressure on the perineum or chafing the inner thighs while pedalling.

I’m not even going to mention saddle weight. Those considering a springy leather saddle are wise to the folly of counting ounces over comfort. Suffice to say that a saddle as comfortable as this will do more for your ability to ride all day than a lighter less comfortable one. I’ve had more rides cut short or ruined by saddle soreness than carrying an extra few hundred grams do I’m not cracking out the digital scales anytime soon.

The Model 5 comes in three colours: black, brown and honey and has a satin finish with a dimpled top, with a tasteful, embossed VO logo on the flank. Mine is the brown model and very fine it is too.

The saddle had loops too, meaning those using saddlebags will be happy. My favourite touch is the black moleskin drawstring bag that the saddle came in. A lovely touch.

I’m hoping that the saddle’s thick hide and laced aprons will result in many years of happy riding. I used to think I was a lifelong Brooks advocate but now a bit of much needed competition in the leather saddle market has shaken things up.

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One thought on “Review: Velo Orange Model 5 Saddle

  1. Lux Pacifica

    At the risk of violating your first-sentence assertion, let’s consider why you might, or might not, need a sprung saddle, and then look at some design concerns regarding the VO5.

    Racing saddles are designed on the premise that the bars will be somewhat lower than the saddle and a significant portion of the rider’s weight will thereby be carried by the pedals and the handlebars. Needing to serve as only one vertex in the weight-distribution triangle, such a saddle will be unsprung and typically 150-165 mm wide. “Sport saddles” like the B17 envision a slightly more erect posture that performance-oriented cyclists who are not terribly concerned about minimizing air resistance will probably find more comfortable. They are typically about 165-175mm wide as they need to accommodate a bit more of the weight distribution. Apart from the weight penalty, a sprung saddle simply wouldn’t work properly with these ergonomic postures. The springs actually REQUIRE significant vertical mass bearing down on them in order to work as designed.

    A sprung saddle is designed on the premise that the rider will be in a much more upright riding position and the saddle will, therefore, have to carry a higher proportion of the rider’s weight. Since the contact footprint…err…”butt-print”…becomes wider as increased weight spreads the rider’s tissue, sprung saddles have traditionally been 180-210mm wide for men and even wider for women. The same rationale that makes springs plausible also calls for wider leather. Longer saddle noses become increasingly pointless with more erect riding positions as well.

    The problem with Taiwanese models such as the VO mod. 5 (170mm wide) is that they have some characteristics that pertain to both sprung and unsprung saddles…kind of like an aerodynamic carbon fiber wheelset with 700c x 35mm touring tires on it. Is this because Taiwanese makers are keen innovators who are seizing on a missed opportunity? Or is it simply that the lack of a domestic tradition of leather saddle use in Taiwan hasn’t made the design principles clear? Remember: the designers in Asia are only guessing at what British, North American, and Australian consumers might want. There’s no local trial-and-error testing to clarify why things should be the way that they should be.

    The VO5 saddle needs to be at least 10mm wider and at least 20mm shorter than it actually is.

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