The new Bontrager Inform saddle has been getting a lot of attention in the cycling press lately. Guest poster Jeff Hemmel has been riding one for awhile now, and provides this look.
There’s a lot of research behind the design of the inForm saddle, far too much to go into here. I’d encourage anyone interested to check out the data at bontrager.com/features/saddles. The basic conclusion, however, is that most riders don’t actually sit on their so-called “sit bones,” but instead their pubic arch. The more evenly you support that pubic arch, the less chance of compressing the pudendal nerve and artery, and the greater chance you prevent numbness and pain.
Getting sized for the proper saddle requires a visit to a bike shop that carries the inForm line. As Bontrager reps explain, getting fit is essential, as saddles are sized according to pelvic structure, not the size of your derriere. Evidently, some big arse guys have small pelvises…and vice versa.
At the shop, I sat down on the “saddle sizer,” a simple bench with a gel-filled top pad that records pressure-point impressions. Once I sat for a few seconds I hopped off and the salesman adjusted a built-in slider on the pad until corresponding colors lined up under the two impressions left by my buttisimo. I measured out to be a medium in the inForm line (saddles come in 128, 143, and 150mm widths), which is a notch up from what I measured in the Specialized line. I have heard this comment from others, however, so it may be a common trait. I’m only about 5’ 8”, 155 pounds, but evidently I’ve got a medium-sized pelvis…at least in Bontrager’s opinion.
Once my color (size) was known, I just went to the wall and picked out a saddle with the matching color label. I put the saddle on my bike, adjusted several times to get everything level, and hit the road.
No, it wasn’t the Holy Grail; I still long for that perfect saddle that will “disappear” beneath me on long rides like some riders promise. But overall, the shape seemed to work for me. The top cover was also slippery enough to allow me to slide back when I wanted, or scoot forward, without undue effort.
One quirk? The saddle’s plastic base has two pronounced ridges under the nose. I found my cycling shorts occasionally brushed against them as I rode, never enough to snag the fabric or cause a tear, but enough to be noticeable. With time I’ve gotten used to it, and haven’t found it to be a problem.
End of story? Not quite. While I can’t say I ever loved the inForm, I liked it enough to stick with it. About two months ago, however, I suddenly began to develop the very numbness that Bontrager claimed to prevent. For a guy who never really had any problem with numbness in the past, it was a little disconcerting to reach down there to make an adjustment and, well, touch something before the body part in question noticed it was being touched.
The sudden change makes no sense to me. My body position hasn’t changed. Most of my rides the past few months, however, have been quite windy. Perhaps my position changes fighting the wind, and I’m placing pressure on different areas of the saddle. I asked Bontrager reps about the problem, and they seem as puzzled as I am. I guess I’ll continue to experiment slightly with positioning to see if I can solve the problem. I recently had a bike fitting, and the fitter changed the position of my saddle. But while I didn’t notice any numbness during the fitting, it returned again once I hit the road. I’m living with the problem currently – I periodically get up out of the seat to restore some blood flow — but I don’t like it.
That makes it hard to draw a definitive conclusion. My initial reaction was quite favorable. I liked the saddle’s support, it didn’t cause numbness, end of story. Recent problems, however, have me questioning how long the saddle will last. Still, I’d suggest trying one out. Bontrager offers a generous 90-day unconditional comfort guarantee, so you can try it for several months and return it if you don’t like the ride.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find some of that chamois cream with the cooling sensation. I’m hoping a little party in my pants will keep my privates awake until I can figure out what went wrong.
Blows my mind – I am going through the same numbness issue, BUT, I did NOT change the saddle, or its position. 7000 miles of happiness and out of the blue a pain in the you know what? Good luck in your search for the holy seat!
I’m sticking with my Fizik Arione. I occasionally get slight numbness, but only if I don’t get out of the saddle for a few pedal strokes every 30 minutes or so.
Sometimes I think we cyclists want the ultimate in comfort. Perhaps it doesn’t exist?
Funny you should say that, Jeff. I’ve decided to stick with the Selle San Marco Ponza I reviewed about a month ago. Ain’t perfect, but it’s pretty good for me.
I am sticking with my Brooks saddle. Most of the time I don’t even realize is there. Some days I do feel some soreness, but nothing that getting out of the seat can not easily remedy. I am starting to break it in now, or is the saddle breaking-in parts of my anatomy? 😀
zack gaston says
I have noticed with the R and RL that after break in time and a little use (1000 miles +) the pad becomes to soft causing the numbness. The RXL I have only has 2500 miles on it but seems to be holding up. I hope it last, if not as long as i get 4500 miles out if it I’ll happily buy anohter.
I recently tried the one of these saddles, in an attempt to improve upon the stock Bontrager saddle on a Trek 1.5.
Despite being correctly sized, I found this saddle significantly less comfortable than the affinity with which the bike was supplied. This is suprising when, according to the Bontrager “butt-o-meter”, the stock saddle is quite clearly too narrow for me.
Thank goodness Bontrager were offering a 90 day “comfort or your money back” guarantee, on this item.
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