Bent seat rails

Posted by SuperClydesdale on March 25, 2011 under Mountain Bikes, Seats, Surveys | Be the First to Comment

I remember when, during a massive wind storm, a huge tree fell across the road in front of my place.  The wind had been howling all night, and I knew all hell was breaking loose outside.   The following morning, I went outside and saw the tree, with a trunk probably four feet in diameter, resting on top of a very cool old VW station wagon.  The car looked relatively unscathed, other than the fact that it was being pressed down so hard that the body was practically touching the ground.  It was surprising how well the VW held up. It looked like if you lifted the tree off, you could open the door, start it up, and drive away.  I thought “damn, that VW is a strong ass car!”

As the hours passed, I was amazed to see the tree slowly crush the car.  By the middle of the day, the car was horribly disfigured as the weight of the tree steadily bent the metal. I thought, “damn, that tree is heavy!”

I was thinking of that poor VW the other day when I noticed that my bike looked a little odd when I took it out of the car before my last mountain bike ride.

Nothing says “damn you’re heavy” like bent seat rails.  Yes, somehow, my fat ass has managed to bend the damn seat rails.   I’ve been riding road bikes for many years, and never bent a seat rail.   This mountain biking thing is tough on components!

The seat is a  Specialized BG Phenom.  It’s the stock seat that came with the 2010 Stumpjumper.  In going to the Specialized web site, I think I have discovered the design flaw for a big guy seat:  hollow rails.  In an effort to shave off grams, Specialized uses hollow chromium rails.

As for chromium steel, they used chromium steel to contain King Kong.  Look how that worked out.

I think a 240 pounder like me needs solid rails.   Ideally, solid carbon steel.   I don’t care about a few grams.  I need strength and comfort.  I miss my ass hammock, aka the Selle An-Atomica, that I use on the road bike.

My riding is not too extreme.  I’m not a downhiller.  In fact, my mountain biking is comparable to how I played basketball during my “career” – which is to say the amount of air between me and the ground is usually pretty modest.  I was never nicknamed “Air Jack.”  Actually, my nickname was “The Hammer.”   As with soccer, I was a rather talentless hack — pretty good within about 10 feet of the rim, but as my ability to jump was curtailed by knee and ankle injuries, the floor and I became close friends.  We were rarely seen apart from one another.

My  massive weight bearing down over the jostles of the trail have, like that tree, just worn down the poor seat.  That poor seat – meant for someone else – just cannot take the steady beat of 240 pounds of ass on it.    Chromium Steel?  Ha!  I spit on your grave!

Time for a new seat, I’m afraid.

If you are a big dude and have a seat that has held up to your fat ass on a mountain bike, let me know by filling in survey below.  I will post responses when I get enough.

Have a great mountain bike seat recommendation for heavy riders?

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Bike seat for heavy riders – update on the Selle An-Atomica

Posted by SuperClydesdale on November 30, 2009 under Road Bike Components, Seats | 12 Comments to Read

In July, I wrote a piece on a new seat I had purchased for my ultra-distance rides.   It’s made by Selle An-Atomica, and it’s a clydesdale version of the Titanico.

The most comfortable seat ever made

The most comfortable seat ever made

My initial review of the seat was that it was a major improvement over other seats that I had tried.   Many fellow riders have asked me to follow-up after a while to see my thoughts after many months of riding.  Would my views change?   Would the seat wear in, or would my butt get used to the newness of the seat and start hurting in some new way?

So, after months of riding on this seat, with probably at least 1,500 miles on it, I have enough experience with it to really speak more confidently.

The primary point to make about this seat is this:  I don’t even think about my seat any more.   I don’t even feel it.  What more could you want in a seat?  There is simply no pain or discomfort when I ride.

For a big rider, I can’t think of a more important component than the seat.  If you are experiencing numbness in your nether regions, pain, or other discomfort — stop whining and buy the damn seat!   Mine cost me $109 with delivery on eBay.  That included shipping and the conditioner stuff you need to put on it (kind of a pain, but it was really fast and not a big deal given the benefit).

This seat will stretch a bit as you wear it in.   So far, I’ve had to adjust the seat tension one time to compensate.  But, that also means that each person can “tune” the tension in the seat to what works best for them.  It’s kind of like a mattress with a firmness setting.

So, here we are on November 30th.   In Northern California, it’s about to be rainy season.   We get a pretty distinct wet period and I will start using another bike when it’s wet out (my “rain bike”), with a different seat.   I am afraid to that riding in the rain would ruin the now-beloved Selle An-Atomica.   They sell a waterproof version of the seat, and I’ll probably get that and put it on my rain bike.

The bike seat – a heavy riders best friend or worst enemy

Posted by SuperClydesdale on July 18, 2009 under Road Bike Components, Seats | Be the First to Comment

Having 200+ pounds pressing down on your sit bones and soft underparts can really make things… interesting.   Ask your whippet riding buddies to ride with a 50 pound backback, then see how their butt feels after 100 miles.    Better yet, have them stop drafting you on the flats if they are not going to help pull your big butt up the next 9% grade.

My friend Craig, a fellow heavy rider, texted me an emergency message during the Tour of Napa a couple years ago, “my ass has been struck by a meteor.”   Another painful story of the big boned rider on a racing seat designed for a whippet.

2009 was my year of the “California Triple Crown” — a challenge to ride at least three double centuries (200 miles +) in one calendar year.   A double century is quite a challenge on the body and I have been trying out different saddles all year to deal with the numbness that I was experiencing on these really long rides, as well as the training rides prior.    My first two doubles were on a Specialized Body Geometry racing saddle with a gel pad cover on top.   Why a 230 pound rider would use anything that can be described with the word “racing”  is another question — but for shorter rides (say, 60 miles or less), it’s actually a damn comfortable seat — much better than the outrageously expensive Specialized Toupe Gel seat that I just finished making payments on.  While more comfortable on the sit bones, the gel seat cover on the BG in the end contributed to some very long periods of numbness (24-48 hours).   And, it’s probably a good thing that I don’t plan on fathering any more children.

After my second double century, I switched to a Brooks B17, and was pretty happy with it.  The B17 is like a thick leather hammock.   It takes a while to wear in, as the leather needs to be shaped to your butt, which happens naturally over time.   I rode the Brooks over about 700 miles, including the 2009 Davis Double, and it was definitely an improvement over the BG racing seat I had before, but there was still some pain and numbness at times, although I didn’t have the extended numbness that led into the days following the ride like I had with the racing seat and gel pad.

However, a bike seat that may be comfortable on long flat rides may not be so comfortable on long rides that have considerable climbing.  During a training ride for the Death Ride (Tour of the California Alps – 5 mountain passes, 129 miles with 15,000 feet of climbing), I was having a painful day of climbing (and not just my legs).   At the top of Monitor Pass, after the paramedics finished resuscitating me, another rider who had just ascended the front side of Monitor noticed my Brooks saddle and asked if I had heard of the Selle An-Atomica.

A view of the keyhole slot in the top that allows it to flex

A view of the keyhole slot in the top that allows it to flex

He showed me his  saddle.   It looked so comfortable — like a pillow on a stick –and he raved about it.   He looked at me, then added that they made a clydesdale model as well.

I bought the saddle and did a few more hard climbing rides in preparation for the Death Ride, and found the saddle to be considerably more comfortable.   It has the same characteristics of a Brooks — it is so smooth that half the time you think you are riding on a back tire that isn’t fully inflated.   It absorbs a lot of the road chatter and really smooths out the ride.   As a bonus,  it looks pretty damn  sporty, more like a Brooks Team Pro racing saddle, with the large copper rivets, but with a clever crotch massaging slot cut out on top.  It’s really a beautiful seat.   If you want to see the official web site along with some scientific crap and a pretty interesting video of the saddle in action go to their web site.   In the video, they  strapped a camera underneath and show the saddle flexing during a ride, as well as the shock-absorbing aspects of the design:  check out their web site at  http://www.selleanatomica.com/

A side profile of the saddle -- it's shaped like a racing saddle

A side profile of the saddle -- it's shaped like a racing saddle