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Specialized Phenom Expert Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Bike Saddles

  • Currently 5.0/5
Overall avg rating 5.0 of 5 based on 3 reviews. Most recent review: January 2, 2014
Street Price:   $130
Pros:  Comfortable, Lightweight, Durable
Cons:  None
Best Uses:  Mountain Biking, Road Racing and Training, Cyclocross, Touring
User Rating:     
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  • 5
 (5.0 of 5) based on 2 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (2/2) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Specialized
Review by: Curtis Smith ⋅ April 26, 2013  
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. 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. Our Top Pick saddle the Fizik Antares out scored it in the weight category, but the Phenom prevailed in every other performance metric, and it will cost you less. The Phenom will cost you almost three times as much as our Best Buy winner the WTB Speed V, 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 Antares is a great option.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' 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 142mm in width, it is slightly wider than the Top Pick Fizik Anteres, but it still 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 V, 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. 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. 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.
Credit: Curtis Smith

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. 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.
Credit: Curtis Smith
Not the lightest saddle in the test group at 241g, but still light enough to satisfy the gram counters. The Top Pick Anteres weighs just 201g, 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.
Credit: Cindy Smith
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 $120 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
Our test model, the Phenom Expert is available in three different widths 130mm, 143mm, and 155m to accommodate differences in anatomy. Specialized also offers the Phenom Pro, equipped with carbon rails; it is otherwise identical to the Expert. The Phenom Pro will set you back $200 but shaves a claimed 56g off the weight of the Expert. If you desire a more heavily padded version, Specialized also offers the Phenom Comp Gel, which utilizes gel padding, and comes with steel rails for $100, and a weight increase of 32g. All versions are offered in three widths.

Curtis Smith

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: January 2, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (5.0)

100% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (3)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 2 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Jan 2, 2014 - 07:21am
BruDog · Mountain Biker · Bailey, CO
I currently have three Specialized Phenom Expert saddles on my three best bikes. I bought the first Phenom while training for a metric 100 MTB race. I used this saddle on race day. Although after the race, my arms and legs were shot, my butt felt fine.

I have tried other saddles but the Specialized Phenom is the most comfortable saddle I have ever used. This saddle also provides great pedaling efficiency. Durability is amazing and the scuff pads on the back of the Phenom can take a licking and still look new.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jun 12, 2013 - 07:55am
Woj · Road Biker · Fortuna, California
I have tried virtually every major saddle manufacturers saddle looking for a comfortable saddle. The closest I got was the Fizik Aliante. I would compare any other tested saddle to it. I've sent lots saddles back because they were not better than the Fizik. The Phenom is the first saddle that beat the Fix in the comparison test. So, I'm saying yes to the Phenom! Great saddle for my road bike.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Specialized Phenom
Credit: Specialized
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