September 28, 2020

In The Field: fi'zi:k's Tempo Argo R1 Short Nose Saddle

By Martin Sanders

When it comes to the fi’zi:k Tempo Argo R1, its most eye-catching feature is the sum of its parts. Coming from a product design and development background, I was immediately drawn to the well-balanced surface design and choice of materials used. Pair that with a distinctive short-nose, a design format that has proven to be popular in recent years, and the end result is a saddle that works.

I tested fi’zi:k’s 160mm option which is much wider than my usual 142mm – so I was initially concerned it would feel like a whole lot of saddle, despite still appearing very sleek and compact. I was also intrigued by the slight upward curve at the nose of the saddle. Typically, saddles will curve away and down, the rationale being that as you move forward, less saddle needs to be there.

I like to mix up my riding, whether it’s racing criteriums, recreational road, grinding gravel, or even sweating-it-out indoors on Zwift. Somehow, it’s still a secret that Los Angeles has some of the best and most varied cycling terrain to choose from (shhh!  #lasucksforcycling), and since this saddle was introduced an endurance model, I wanted to put it through its paces on the local dirt trails.

Sullivan Canyon, a venerable trail that has been a go-to proving ground since mountain bikes first came on the scene in the 1980s, is mainly a loose gravel and sand-covered fire road, but it is spiced up with enough rough rocks and steep sections to keep a rider entertained with plenty of opportunity to test a broad range of riding styles and positions.

As we all know, saddle comfort is very personal, and I’ve accepted that each new saddle takes a certain amount of time before it feels just right. Yet, my first reaction with the Argo R1 was how easy it was to find the ‘comfort zone’ – that place where everything feels supported and nothing is getting squashed or pinched in ways it shouldn’t. The fi’zi:k Tempo Argo R1 bypasses all that and goes straight to a great fit. I was pleasantly surprised.

Sullivan Canyon begins with some steady grades (around 4-5%) and this is where the wider section really worked well for me. I found that applying power and pushing on the pedals didn’t move me back in the saddle too much. This made the transfer of power feel direct and very connected, providing a great sense of increased efficiency while tapping out steady watts up and over the inclines.

Climbing steeper stuff, I generally lean down and move forward into an aggressive position on the nose of the saddle. This is where that slight upward curve and wider nose section came into play as this position is also quite common when adopting an aero position on the flats, whether smashing on the front of a group or getting low on a heroic breakaway. The Argo would excel in those circumstances.

Descending steep sections, I typically move back off the saddle - almost to the point where only the back of a thigh touches the saddle. Many people don’t realize just how much steering and control over the bike comes from the saddle. Applying pressure to different parts of the saddle to affect the bike direction and handling is essential- and vitally important when descending gravel where sudden movements of your handlebars can cause the front end to wash out. 

The wider curved section at the back really allows you to comfortably move from side to side. Fast descending on other saddles has me getting up and crouching out of the saddle, but with the Tempo I found I was sitting for longer – due to the comfortable but firm flex in the carbon rails over bumps and ruts. Side note: I set a PR descending Nike to Westridge (a local Strava segment) without even pushing. Those comfortable seated moments felt smooth and in control.

I would recommend the fi’zi:k Tempo Argo R1 for gravel and long days over technical terrain. I took on the Belgian Waffle Ride this year and already this saddle has me planning my kit choice for next year. I’m quite confident that I’ll be heading out from San Marcos over the 134 miles of mixed terrain on the Tempo Argo R1. It ticks all the boxes for the type of riding that BWR throws at you (basically everything) – smooth roads, deep sand, gnarly rocks, and steep climbs.   

In short: The Tempo Argo R1 is a great all-rounder that provides enough versatility to handle most riding conditions. Should one of our easy café rides evolve into a scorching full epic gravel day (it often does!), I would feel very confident to have the Tempo Argo R1 with me.

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