Bontrager Hilo XXX Carbon Tri Saddle – Review

The Bontrager Hilo XXX Carbon Tri Saddle has been a loyal companion here at AeroGeeks HQ. We first received it back in the summer of 2014 and, at the time, we mated it with the Litespeed C1 Race we were testing. Then in 2015 the XXX found its home on a Fuji Transonic we were reviewing. So while the XXX has been with us for quite some time, it wasn’t until just a few months ago that we realized we’d never given this faithful companion its time to shine. Bontrager had mentioned they had an update to the XXX based on a request by the Trek Factory team that was proven and then implemented in the 2016 model. They  wanted to know if we wanted to try it, which made us realize that it was definitely time to give the Hilo XXX it’s time in the sun.

The Bontrager Hilo XXX Carbon Tri Saddle

The Hilo XXX is the lightest of the Hilo family of triathlon saddles from Bontrager. Long-time readers may remember we reviewed the Hilo RXL Speed Dial back in  2013. At the time, we said “This is a very good (though slightly heavy) saddle for those looking to move to a split-nose saddle.” It would seem that Bontrager agrees since the XXX weighs 150g less than the Speed Dial (185g versus 335g). In order to drop those grams, the XXX trades the adjustability of the Speed Dial for featherweight carbon fiber construction.

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2016

The Hilo XXX features oversized carbon rails and a carbon-reinforced shell to make it the lightest tri/TT saddle Bontrager has ever created.

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2015

The original Hilo XXX featured a proprietary Smart Cover that delivers targeted zones of support for sustained comfort. In a WiR we said: “One of our favorite features is the use of different materials that help to keep you from sliding around.” It would seem that the guys from the Trek Factory Racing team demanded more. The requested a change in cover material gives riders more consistent support and the ability to stay in aggressive positions when riding on the front of the nose – and thus the 2016 model was born.

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2015

As is common with the majority of triathlon \ TT saddles today, the XXX features a full-length cutaway to eliminate pressure on soft tissue areas. We measured the channel to be 20mm wide. The saddle itself was 50mm wide at the nose, 140mm wide at the rear, and runs 250mm long.

Our Thoughts

While the majority of our testing of the Hilo was on our road bikes, it also spent a bit of time on our Trek Speed Concept. And most importantly, we never grew tired of the XXX throughout the entirety of our testing. While the shape looks much more road than TT, the center channel does much to relieve pressure. At the same time, the saddle is wide enough to comfortably support the pubic rami bones when in an aero position.

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2016

For those unfamiliar with the specific needs of a TT rider, Greg Kopecky of ISM helped explain it back when we reviewed the ISM PN 1.1:

“I wanted to touch on is the issue of sit bones.  This subject gets talked about a lot, but the reality is that – especially on TT/Tri bikes – the rider does not sit on the sit bones (ischial tuberosities).  As the rider’s pelvis rotates forward, the sit bones lose contact and pressure with the seat.  With traditional seats, the weight shifts to the soft tissue area; with ISM seats, the weight shifts to the pubic rami bones.  When a rider is very upright – such as on a hybrid bike – the weight is definitely on the ischial tuberosities.  The more forward you rotate, the less your weight is on the ischial tuberosities.”

And that was one of the reasons we so enjoyed our (significant) time with the XXX. We were just as comfortable riding upright on our road bike protected in the peloton as we were deep in the aero position on our Speed Concept. The shape of the saddle allowed us to easily rotate forward onto the pubic rami or sit back on our sit bones. We often talk about the issues when compromises go wrong, but in the XXX’s case, you truly get a “best of both worlds” saddle.

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2015

Bontrager fitted the XXX with Multi-zone density padding that is strategically placed for optimal comfort and performance. The multi-zone padding really helped as the padding up front serves a different purpose than that found at the rear, and regardless of where we sat, it worked for us.  We found the padding to be firm but not too hard throughout the saddle. And the saddle found was comfortable with both standard road bibs and tri shorts. Though it’s worth mentioning that we tend to prefer our bibs with minimal padding to begin with.

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2016

The 2016 updates to the Hilo XXX brought a new cover meant to keep Trek Factory Racing’s riders on the nose of the saddle. And while we never found the current saddle’s material lacking (in fact, we found it kept us in place quite well), the new material provides a more consistent hold over the full length of the saddle.

 

White (2016)  - Black (2015)

White (2016) – Black (2015)

Our one challenge with the Hilo XXX is that the oversized carbon rails are oval, not circular, which made clamping them to certain frames a challenge. Additionally, not all of the hydration accessories out there may work with it (if they are expecting a standard round rail). Therefore you may want to ensure your frame and seat clamp have no issues before purchasing.

Wrapping Up

At $279.99 the Hilo XXX is priced where we would expect it to be for a top-tier saddle. And to be honest, a price we would be willing to pay for a saddle that we were this happy to ride with. As with all saddles, the final choice will be based on your own individual anatomy. But if you are looking for a tri \ TT saddle, we highly recommend giving the Hilo XXX a shot – your pubic rami bones AND your sit bones will thank you.

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