Bringing new life to Evolution.
I'm not about to jump up and start fixing everythign on the Earth for all sorts of folks, but once in a while you hear about something that sounds like a pretty good deal and just intrigues you to a point that you can't resist. Aside from time and expense associated with repairing fiber parts, there's a lot of liability and unknowns. When it comes down to it there really aren't that many things I've considered touching. Frames and wheels, out of the question. Cranks, no way. Aero bars... the only ones I know of are mine and a few other unique sets. Saddles though... that's a different story.
I've been a big fan of carbon fiber saddles for a long time. Some people dream of Italain steel bikes, others 12 spoke wheels, I don't dream of carbon saddles, but I think they're pretty darned cool. The unfortunate reality has been that when they're readily and easily available from a major brand- Selle Italia, my life has been in the wrong order to acquire them. I own one Flite Evolution that resides on my ultralight bike that I happened upon in the showcase of unwanted and orphaned exotic goodies of an old bike shop I used to frequent, Tony's Cyclery. Nobody wants it, the price is high, you offer to take it off the manager's hands... you get the picture. They're rare, btu they're loved. The people that still have them never give them up. The people that don't have them and speak of the devils work when they come up in conversation have no doubt never seen the pleasure of riding them.
Back to the story, through some general conversation on www.cyclingforum.com I came across a fellow in New Jersey, Dr Sandiway Fong, that was also a great fan of these objects but had befallen some significant misery. Two saddles, destroyed, and living life in a dark, musty box. The most recent death, a Flite Evolution, was goign ot be "mended" by the local bike shop. I was intrigued in the thought of getting these things back in usable form and offered my services. He agreed to send me one. In the meantime, the shop repaired the other one with some thin layers of fiberglass and a liberal coating of paint. Before the other was shipped this was ridden and failed, broken in half across the nose again. I got a box with two broken saddles after about a week.
I got the box, it was a Selle Italia Flite Evolution and Evolution 2. Two of the
lightest saddles ever made and also two of the most expensive with original retail prices
between $150 and $250 depending on where you shop. Both discontinued. The Evo2
was cracked but still held together, it promised to be a quick and easy job. The
Evo, however, was being held together with duct tape and fragmented fiberglass. It
was covered with paint and I found myself spending nearly an hour stripping just the paint
and tape residue off it with a handy bottle of acetone and an old sock. I spent some
time clearing the fiberglass layers from the top of the shell with a file and was able to
coax some of it away from the inside.
Both saddles had the outer shell wet sanded fine with 400 grit paper to remove most of the smooth outer layer of resin that protects the saddles. I was going to reapply this layer when complete and also needed a good surface to bond to. The inside was roughed with 320 grit paper, after all sanding was complete the mating edges were cleaned and cleared of random material and the saddles washed.
The actual repair was pretty easy adn straight forward. I taped the saddles together in the shape they'd need across their insides and applied a single ply of carbon fiber to the outside of each along the nose and back into the front of the seat portion. The Evo 2 was getting "upgraded" as well, it was described as too soft and needed to be firmed up so I carried this piece further back. After cureing, I trimmed and cleaned the new material and proceeded to the inside. To each one I added three internal layers, a narrow one across the breaks, a wider one for distribution, and an even wider piece similar to the first on the outside for blending the structures. I figured this was about right considering the saddle I built for my tiem trial bike was only three layers of fiber, itself... I could always add mroe later. The first time I mixed a bad pot of resin and ended up peeling about an hours worth of work right off. Second shot was fine and again everything was trimmed, cleaned, and edges smoothed. The fiber on top was belnded into the shell with a file and everything washed.
For each saddle I rode it to work for a couple days. I got about 2.5 hours of hard saddle time on them inlcuding my weekday seated sprint workouts, some construction zones, and they felt great. Would have been more than happy to keep them for myself. Both had the shells cleaned and received a fresh layer of resin to smooth them out and protect the materials. Considering I have virtually no way to control the envronment and free flowing materials, there ended up being some minor superficial blemishes and drips, but life's life. Drips were cleaned up and filed smooth, saddles packed and handed over to USPS.
Looking at the work, I'm highly satisfied. It was an experiment that I asked to take on and some exotics are now back on the road and even more exotic. They may no longer be the lightest out there, but they're pretty darn close. The repair, as large as the fiber sections are, are not very heavy. Light weight is only one of the attributes that make these saddels desirable. The support of the solid unpadded surface is unmatched and the damping characteristics are wonderful. This they retain. Maybe not quite as good as they were when they were new [except the "upgraded" Evo 2"], but definitely not nearly as bad as when they were old.