by Craig Lepkowski, PCI #1180/EMSCI #272
Lake Forest (IL) Police Department
Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to stop by the Innovative Saddlemaker (ISM) booth at the IPMBA Conference and chat about seats with Laura Toll. Laura explained how she and her husband, Steve (a former Tampa Police Department bike officer), began the company in 1997 with the goal of designing a bike saddle that would reduce or eliminate rider discomfort. By 1999, they had patented the saddle design concept, making a significant improvement in saddle design. From that first design, ISM has developed a comprehensive line of saddles for men and women, improving biking comfort along the way.
Never one to shrink away from comfort and innovative products, I got a saddle for myself and one for my wife. We are both avid recreational bicyclists, and I patrol and instruct on a bike whenever I can get out of the office.
There are a lot of different saddles available on the market. Everyone seems to have slightly different ideas on shape and stuffing, size and angle. There are solid saddles and cutout saddles. Companies offer narrow seats, wide seats, firm plastic seats and soft plush seats. There are seats filled with foam or gel, seats of hard plastic and less-forgiving rubber. None seem to have combined all the best attributes in the perfect harmony that ISM seats provide. The Peak* saddle I have isn’t a traditional cutout – it’s really more of a short-nosed saddle that is split down the middle.
The saddle was a little cumbersome to place on the seat post and find the correct angle. Luckily, it comes with an appropriate amount of rails to allow for differing angles and distances from the handlebars. After a few rides and some small adjustments, I found my comfort zone. In fact, once I got it properly positioned, it turned out to be one of the most comfortable saddles I have tried. I am able to ride long distances or long durations with little to no numbness or soreness. I haven’t heard any complaints from my wife in regards to her comfort on her Typhoon saddle, either.
Over the many times I’ve ridden and through all kinds of weather, the saddle has held up admirably. I’ve packed my bike in my SUV, stored it in my tool shed, ridden on- and off-road, left it out in the sun and rain, and flipped it upside down for maintenance. Despite all that use (and some might say misuse), the saddle shows very little wear and tear and the color has not faded at all.
One of the wonderful aspects of ISM is the number of saddle options they produce. The company creates, and has for sale on its website, 26 different versions of saddles. There are options that vary in width and comfort level, harder seats and seats with more cushion. They have saddles they recommend for specific activities and others for general riding.
The ISM saddles do a very good job of accommodating as many different body types and riding styles as possible. The seat rails allow for adequate options for moving the saddle forward or back and adjusting the angle dependent on personal preference. Only a very particular and individually fuzzy rider would not be able to find a comfortable setting for the saddle they choose. The saddles do take some time to get used because of the different pressure points, but after a few rides, I found the saddle taking most of my discomfort away and minimizing any numbness after a long ride.
The website also has a ton of information about the saddles, such as proper positioning for different bikes, body types, and activities. There is a set-up guide which explains, in detail, all the options and reasons for the different positions, including fore/aft position, saddle height, and saddle angle. This section contains videos demonstrating the proper set-up for triathlon, road, mountain, hybrid or fitness, cruiser or casual, and city or commuter bikes. For those who aren’t fully satisfied by all that information, the company offers a number of “medical images – how to sit on ISM saddles” links.
In summary, biking is never going to be a pain-free endeavor – we must rest our body weight somewhere – but ISM does an impressive job of transferring the weight to a rider’s sit bones and taking the pressure off other important parts of the anatomy.
ISM saddles cause the rider to sit centered on the bike and balance their weight better – redistributing the weight off the perineum area. This takes a little time to adjust to, but once I learned how to balance myself and even out my pedaling, I was quite comfortable taking longer rides. I’ve been very happy with my ISM saddle and I would recommend trying out their saddles to see which one fits your needs and comfort level.
- Reduces/nearly eliminates numbness
- Offers many saddle options for different rider preferences
- Cost is appropriate for the quality
- Customer service is quite impressive and responsive
- Does not interfere with trunk bags
- Sleek and clean design/appearance
- A Product Purchase Program Member (offering 50% off + free shipping), Corporate Member, and IPMBA Conference Exhibitor
- The variety of the saddles creates a need to try before you buy, which makes on-line ordering a challenge; however, they provide dealers with a demo kit of six options for shoppers to try.
- The shorter (or missing) nose is not conducive to the stair carry skills taught to IPMBA students. (It doesn’t make the skill impossible, just a little more precise and difficult.)
- Some chafing is possible when shorts/seams line up with the outer edges of the saddle.
Visit www.ismseat.com for more information and/or to purchase. Be sure to identify yourself as an IPMBA member to take advantage of the discount. And if you get overwhelmed by all the information, don’t hesitate to give Laura a call. She’ll be happy to help.
*The updated version of the Peak is the PM 2.0.
Craig has enjoyed riding at his department for many years and was honored to assist with the development of the department’s bike unit. Impressed with the IPMBA Course he attended in 2009, he attended the Instructor Course in 2010 and has enjoyed teaching bike skills ever since. Never one to say “no”, Craig was elected to the IPMBA Board in 2013 and is currently serving as Secretary. He looks forward to helping maintain IPMBA’s position as the top-notch provider of public safety bicycling instruction. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2016 IPMBA. This review appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of IPMBA News.