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Specialized Phenom Expert Review


Bike Saddle

Click to enlarge
Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $130 List
Pros:  Comfortable, lightweight, durable
Cons:  None
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Specialized

Overview

The Specialized Phenom is the winner of our Editors' Choice Award. It received our highest comfort rating, while maintaining a competitive weight of 248g, but it can be difficult to find. If you're looking for a bike saddle immediately, consider our Top Pick, the Fabric Scoop Flat Pro, which outscored the Phenom in the weight category.

Designed as a high performance XC race saddle, it does not disappoint. It provides excellent power transfer, and a multitude of possible positions allow the rider to get into a good position no matter the demands of the trail or road. Universally liked by all of our testers, we could not find a type of bike that did not benefit from an upgrade to the Phenom. With all the praise that the Phenom received from our testers, it also saw a huge amount of use and abuse. Despite countless crashes and lots of riding in the most abusive conditions the Phenom came out of testing virtually unscathed. The Phenom will cost you almost three times as much as our Best Buy winner the WTB Speed, but it out-performs the Speed V in every category. The Phenom is likely to stay firmly clamped on our testers rigs for some time to come. It's hard to find online so if there is not a retailer that carries it near you, the Fizik Monte or WTB High Tail Pro is a great option.

New Version Update - October 2016
The Phenom Expert has a new design! Keep reading for more information.

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Curtis Smith
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Saturday
October 15, 2016

The New Version of the Phenom Expert vs. The Older Version


The Phenom Expert has a new look and is 1cm shorter than the 2014 version and according to Specialized:

"Is now designed with Adaptive Edge base construction, allowing the outer edge to conform to the rider's body for a custom fit. The saddle features low friction panels on the nose and tail to improve pedaling efficiency and mobility. The latest version features a new vacuum form construction allowing for a much cleaner and modern look than the traditional cover wrapped saddle. More robust materials have been applied for the base to improve on durability and a more pronounced groove was extended into the nose forward of the cutout to help make slight improvements for pressure mapping and blood flow testing results; threaded inserts on the bottom of the saddle are also a new addition. There have been slight changes to cover and foam material, but nothing to note significantly."

-Specialized

Though we have not reviewed the new Phenom Expert, we believe our review will still give you a good feel for this bike saddle. The weight remains the same and the hollows are still made of titanium; the list price remains $130. Pictured on the left (below) is the latest model, while the right shows the older version. If you live in the US and you're having a difficult time finding this saddle at retailers, you can use Specialized's dealer locator tool.

Hands-On Review



Comfort


The Phenom is relatively flat from nose to tail, with a very slight rise at the tail. Generous padding, a stiff shell, and a full anatomical cut out make this a very comfortable saddle. At 143mm in width, it is identical in width to the Top Pick Fabric Scoop Flat Pro and falls within the 140mm-145mm range that was well liked by the majority of our testers. The full anatomical cutout is well positioned and offers relief to those who complain of pressure and numbness on long rides. The nose is well padded and offers good support when down in the drops during hard efforts. The padding is not nearly as substantial as some other saddles in our test group, such as the Selle SMP Extra Saddle and the Best Buy WTB Speed, but the shape, and well placed padding combined get our highest overall rating for comfort.

Performance


Specialized designed the Phenom for racing. Power transfer is excellent, and the flat shape and smooth cover allow for easy position changes. The shell is stiff and there is no loss of power during hard seated efforts. We found the Phenom to be an excellent choice for riders who like an aggressive position as well as those who prefer to be more upright. Fabric Scoop offers a similar level of power transfer and performance, but it is designed to be used in a more aggressive low position. While some saddles designed for a more forward reaching aggressive position can leave the upright rider without adequate support we did not have this issue with the Phenom. The Phenom is comfortable, but gives nothing up when it comes to performance.

Durability


While we would stop short at calling the Phenom indestructible, it is one tough saddle. Despite lots of hard use and multiple crashes on the mountain bike, we have been unable to even scuff this saddle. Rubber scuff guards at the tail take the abuse if you lay the bike over, and should the cover impact the ground it is quite tough. The Fizik Monte is another high scoring saddle for durability, but we prefer the plastic scuff guards on the Phenom to the Cordura scuff guards used on the Monte. While Corder is tough it is still prone to abrasion where the plastic scuff guards on the Phenom can withstand more repeated abuse. A carbon fiber reinforced plastic shell prevents sagging even after extended use, and the hollow titanium rails are as tough as they are light.
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Titanium Rails, and a rubber scuff guard on the rear of the saddle add the durability of the Phenom.

Versatility


The Phenom was designed for XC mountain bike racing. It excels at its intended purpose, but we found it to be equally good for cyclocross, and road use. The Phenom scores higher than the Fabric Scoop due to its ability to function well across a range of cycling disciplines. It does have a full cutout, which we would prefer not to see in a cyclocross saddle, due to mud and water issues. Other than the cutout we have no complaints and cannot think of a use we would not recommend the Phenom for.

Weight


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The Editors' Choice Specialized Phenom was not the lightest saddle in our test group, but still tips the scale at a competitive 248g.

Not the lightest saddle in the test group at 241g, but still light enough to satisfy the gram counters. The Top Pick Fabric Scoop Pro weighs just 176g, but lacks some of the features of the Phenom such as the rubber scuff guards. In exchange for a bit more weight you get enhanced durability and comfort.

Best Application


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The Specialized Phenom provides a great platform for hard efforts. Curtis Smith chasing an unknown rider, Sierra Cup XC, Squaw Valley, CA.

The Phenom is truly at home on a XC race bike. If you are looking for a no compromise saddle for XC training and racing this one is for you. That being said, the Phenom is capable and well suited to road and cyclocross as well. Its high marks in comfort also make it well suited to trail riding, and we even like it for touring and commuting. While comfort and durability make it a jack-of-all-trades, high performance make it a winner for the competitive racer as well.

Value


Well constructed and durable, the Phenom should provide many trouble free miles of use. With a price tag of $130 it is a great buy. You get a high performance saddle at a competitive weight, and it can be used on virtually any type of bike you have.

Other Versions


Phenom Pro
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  • Cost - $200 ($70 more than Phenom Expert)
  • Weight - 193g (55g less than Phenom Expert)
  • Sizes - 130mm, 143mm, and 155mm (Same as Phenom Expert)
  • Equipped with carbon rails

Phenom Comp
Click to enlarge
  • Cost - $100 ($30 less than Phenom Expert)
  • Weight - 254g (6g more than Phenom Expert)
  • Sizes - 130mm, 143mm, and 155mm (Same as Phenom Expert)
  • Light and super-durable, hollow Cr-Mo rails

Specialized Power Expert
Click to enlarge
  • Cost - $130
  • Weight - 238 g
  • High performance
  • Unique look and design
Curtis Smith

OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: October 15, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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