During my four years on a road bike, the second most popular question offered to me by non-riders, right after “How do you wear those tights?” is “How can you stand riding for hours on those uncomfortable looking seats.”
Both are legitimate questions, though I tend to not give much thought to the first one, choosing instead to respond with “No, I don’t wear tights. I wear the required uniform,” the great quote from Emilio Estevez’s character in The Breakfast Club.
Spend a few miles, or a few hours, on a road bike and you will quickly realize that serious attention needs to be paid to the comfort of your bum. The wrong saddle can ruin the shortest ride, while the right one lets the miles easily roll by.
The choices, I have learned, are tremendous, with saddles in all shapes and sizes promising comfort and performance. The guys and ladies I ride with often regularly chat up different saddles, and I have found that there are few bike components more often tinkered with or swapped around than where one rests one’s backside.
I wanted to find something a bit more comfortable for my bike, so I am spending some time working my way through a series of saddles. I am putting each saddle through the wringer, with each one under me during my regular routine of long rides, short rides, and trainer sessions. My quest for coziness began with a PL 1.1 by ISM, which I have been riding for the last number of months.
ISM saddles found their origin back in 1997, when Florida-based cyclist Steve Toll returned home after another trying time in the saddle. Like all cyclists, Toll was in search of more comfort on the bike, and his sketches for what would become an ISM saddle were revolutionary. The design featured a less is more theory, with the nose of the saddle – which often puts the most pressure on a rider’s nether region – missing.
Best case scenario for finding a bike saddle is taking your bike to a shop, having a proper fit, and testing out bunches of saddles until you find just the right one. For me, that wasn’t an option. Time in my schedule and a lack of bike shops in my area precluded that. With ISM, I was able to narrow down my choices by considering usage and firmness, along with some help from the folks at the company. While not a perfect or exact science, it worked pretty well, as the PL 1.1 fit me just fine.
For me, the look was the hook. The stock saddle on my Specialized was traditional in form and function. My first look at an ISM saddle blew me away. The cavity in the saddle and the absent front end looked like it had to be more comfortable than anything I had ridden to that point. And it was. I have spent many, many hours on this saddle, both on the road and on the trainer.
I have spent a couple thousand miles on my ISM saddle and it is very, very comfortable, particularly when I am out on the road. It is just firm enough for my liking and the design is perfect for relieving pressure exactly where I don’t want there to be pressure. Trainer time is a slightly different story, as I tend to feel more of a rub on the inside of my thighs while I am spinning, but that certainly was no deal breaker when it came to using this saddle. My longest ride of the year, a 52-mile race back in the fall, was a breeze, with no discomfort downstairs, even as I was climbing to the finish line.
If you are looking for saddle comfort, whether you are out for an easy cruise or are planning on long rides, I highly suggest you check out these ISM saddles. These guys are proving that flouting convention works. Your backside will thank you.
For a look at the full product line from ISM, along with reviews and testimonials, be sure to check out their website.