Inside Selle San Marco - Handmade in Italy

Jan 28, 2014
by Matt Wragg  

























Inside Selle SanMarco
Handmade in Italy

WORDS & PHOTOS: Matt Wragg

In the road cycling world Selle San Marco are one of the biggest names in saddles. They have been handmaking saddles in the foothills of the Dolomite mountains in Northern Italy since 1935. They were one of the first companies to introduce plastic hulls to their saddles, which may not seem like a big deal now, but at the time it marked a seismic shift and meant saddles no longer solely relied on padding for comfort. Victory is a theme throughout that history, the winners of 12 Tour De Frances, 11 Giri Di Italia’s, 9 Paris Roubaix and 11 World Championships rode with Selle San Marco saddles. In more recent years they are more famous for pros running de-badged versions of their models against their sponsors' wishes. In recent years they have expanded into mountain biking too, with their Selle San Marco products for cross-country and their new Dirty lineup for downhill, enduro and the other gravity disciplines.

We stopped by their factory in the small village of Bassano del Grappa to see how such a tiny company with such a big international reputation makes their saddles. It's worth noting that they couldn't alter their production schedules just for us, so we saw various models from their range as we followed the process, but the way they are made is the same, regardless of whether the saddle is going to a sit up and beg shopping bike, or to Cedric Gracia or a Tour de France contender.

Selle San Marco have been here on this quiet side road in a small village since they opened their doors in 1935.
  Selle San Marco have been based here, on this quiet side road in a small village, since Luigi Girardi opened their doors in 1935. Today the business remains in the family, with Luigi's grandson, Giovanni Girardi, the current CEO.

The welcoming committee at Selle San Marco.
  The welcoming committee at Selle San Marco.

In this relatively small factory space with relatively few people and a handful of machines all of Selle San Marco s handmade saddles are made.
  In this relatively small factory space, with relatively few people and a handful of machines all of Selle San Marco's handmade saddles are made.

Every saddle starts like this - foam padding glued onto a simple one-piece composite base.
  Every saddle starts like this - foam padding glued onto a simple, one-piece composite base.

When you have your base you need to decide what it s going to be covered with. In their stores they have every kind of material you can think of from high-tech space age plastics through to good old-fashioned leather.
  When you have your base, you need to decide what it's going to be covered with. In their stores they have every kind of material you can think of, from high-tech space age plastics, through to good, old-fashioned leather.

To cut the material they use cutters that look a lot like bigger more complicated cake cutters to ensure a perfect cut each time.
  To cut the material they use cutters that look a lot like bigger, more complicated cake cutters to ensure a perfect cut each time.

Once the fabric is cut to size the adhesive is applied. Both the base and the material and fabric are coated then they are put on a carousel round to the next step which also gives the adhesive time to set ready for mounting.
  Once the fabric is cut to size the adhesive is applied. Both the base and the material and fabric are coated, then they are put on a carousel round to the next step, which also gives the adhesive time to set ready for mounting.

Watching the ladies mount the fabric onto the base is where you can appreciate the skill and precision that goes into this. The speed they work at is impressive and in a matter of seconds not even minutes they take the two elements and leave them looking a lot like a recognisable saddle.
  Watching the ladies mount the fabric onto the base is where you can appreciate the skill and precision that goes into this. The speed they work at is impressive and in a matter of seconds, not even minutes, they take the two elements and leave them looking a lot like a recognisable saddle.

With carbon-railed saddles you can t just pop the rails in they need preparing with glue first.
  With carbon-railed saddles you can't just pop the rails in, they need preparing with glue first.

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  Seating the rails is the final step and is surprisingly simple - they use a press to pop them into place.

Job done.
  Job done.

This small group of women and XXXX who preferred to not be photographed are responsible for making all of Selle San Marco s saddles.
  This small group of women (and Orfeo, who preferred to not be photographed) are responsible for making all of Selle San Marco's saddles.

www.sellesanmarco.it / www.dirtysm.com

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29 Comments

  • + 9
 my team (Bombproof Factory) were sponsored by Selle San Marco in the early to mid 1990s, you can see one of their saddles on my team bike:

www.pinkbike.com/photo/5488175

we used to get all kinds of cool stuff sent over for us to try, from some real classics to some space age stuff (one saddle did not have "rails", but the plastic base was rolled over to form clamping rails for the seatpost)

great company to work with (they always appreciated our feedback) and great to see this article about their ongoing success
  • + 2
 I have one on my road bike! Selle San Marco Integra MSA! No rails it weight s 130g leather covered. 1995...found it on ebay 2 years ago new in the box
  • + 7
 Good use of gif! I love watching hand manufacturing. I knew some Bolivian t-shirt makers once. Real craftspeople at work are so cool.
  • + 4
 I once knew a Lithuanian who made fishing poles.
  • + 2
 I know a dude who makes violins. Yay. Let's continue sharing these stories about craftsmen we know!
  • + 6
 Wow, actually lol'd at t-shirt guy. He's got a tale to tell. Anyways I actually did know a sandwich artist once. Worked at subway.
  • + 5
 Italian saddles are always work of art. Had a San Marco Concor on a old roadie. One of the comfiest saddles ever.
  • + 3
 for some reason i read this and thought it said "Italian LADIES are always a work of art."
  • + 2
 That is just simply amazing that 8 women make all those saddles. No wonder they are so expensive. But now, I can appreciate why the price is so high.
  • + 4
 PinkBike at my birthplace...awesome Big Grin
  • + 1
 fantastic job ladies! I've always wanted to try one of thier saddles. I better anti upSmile they are lovely.
  • + 1
 Got one of these on my Road Bike so much more comfortable than my MTB Saddle excited for their new DH Saddles!
  • + 2
 Very cool. Love articles like this!
  • + 1
 Great article, I'm about 20 minutes from Bassano and i've always wonder what the inside of the shop looked like! Thanks!
  • + 1
 'Tour de Frances' is equivalent to saying 'lap of Nürburgrings'. 'Giri d'Italias' is even worse: 'laps of Monzas'.
  • + 2
 Seven Italian Ladies to keep the equipment working.
  • + 1
 comfortable saddle = happy butt
  • + 1
 Thanks for this article Matt! Love seeing stuff like this. Keep it up.
  • + 1
 Now I won't feel as bad spending $200+ on a seat.
  • + 1
 Great pics, the ladies make some nice stuff.
  • + 1
 Thanks mom.
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