Q:

Is there a bike seat to counter numb-butt syndrome?

I recently saw The Seat from ERGO, LLC advertised. The makers claim that this seat does away with numb-butt syndrome and sexual dysfunction (real important). Can you confirm or deny these assertions? Dennis Hilton, New York

Sep 18, 2003
Outside
Outside Magazine
A: The Seat ($20 to $40, depending on the model) is an effort to completely rethink the venerable horn-shaped bicycle saddle. It came out about a year ago, designed by an engineer named Tom White, who worked for Rubbermaid and then Boeing.

In design, The Seat looks a little like a short, padded bench, with a vestigial "horn" that sort of droops down the front of the thing (hmmmmB). Its intent is to let you sit largely as you would on a regular chair, by placing your body weight on the ischial or "sit" bones. This is instead of supporting your weight fore and aft on soft body tissue, as is the case with a conventional bike saddle. The Seat's design is intended to be far more comfortable than a regular saddle, and aims to reduce the chances of sexual dysfunction that may be caused by pinched nerves, although White makes no definitive claim that The Seat will solve problem X or Y.

I haven't used The Seat, but the concept seems completely sound and its inventor is no crackpot. And certainly regular bike saddles have a number of inherent ergonomic flaws. I mean, if a regular bike saddle is so comfortable, I'd be sitting on one as I write, rather than on my nice padded office chair. For relative novices in particular, a conventional bike saddle is about as appealing as pouring broken glass into your shoes before hiking up Pike's Peak.

That said, I don't see The Seat as a saddle for anyone but a recreational bicyclist, or a cyclist for whom conventional saddles cause real problems. The rationale behind the conventional saddle is that it supports a cyclist's body weight but also allows your hips a clear vertical shot at driving your legs through the pedal cycle. The Seat tries to accommodate that need, but still puts you in a position that's slightly less stable than a regular bike seat. That would be a particular issue for mountain biking, where you might find yourself literally sliding off the thing on rough terrain. And I can't help but think that it will interfere a little with the motion of the femur, making it more difficult to pedal efficiently (not having used one, this is only an opinion). On a road bike, meanwhile, it takes away one of the best techniques for stabilizing a bike at high speeds—clamping the saddle horn between your thighs.

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