Review – ISM Adamo Prologue Bicycle Seat

 

If you plan on riding your bike only once in a while and not very far, then what seat you use may not be that important.

seat comparisons adamo and kona

Seat comparisons – Adamo (left) and stock conventional style seat from Kona (right).

But anything more than ‘occasional’ and you probably find yourself wanting a good seat, possibly better than what came stock on your bike.

My favorite seat so far has been the Planet Bike 5020 Men’s Anatomic Relief gel bike seat (see my quick mention of it in this blog post), with the Velo Wide: Channel M Bicycle Seat (see my blog review here) coming in second in choices.

But the gel in my Planet Bike A.R.S. saddle is getting a bit compressed I believe – after many thousands of miles.  With my new Kona Esatto road bike (see my review here) I thought that I would get a new seat and keep my other seats on their respective bikes.

Don’t get me wrong; the saddle that came on the Kona is just fine, and in fact is a rather nice high quality seat, but still not suitable for long distances I believe; at least according to my rear-end.

For several years I have wanted to try ISM’s Adamo series (or maybe some other noseless seat) along these same design lines (here’s a help page on choosing the right ISM saddles).  So with the new bike I figured it was as good a time as any to give one a try.

After careful and thorough research I picked the ISM Adamo Prologue.  I want to mention here that these seats are not gender-specific, because of the split design there doesn’t seem to be any differences in fitting and adjusting the seat for men versus women.

And no – the name has nothing whatsoever to do with Battlestar Galactica but it does look kinda like a skinny Millennium Falcon.  Kinda.

The reason I went with the Prologue version over some of the more aggressive versions is that it has a bit more padding and is slightly wider and longer than, say, the ISM Adamo RaceSaddle.  The length, by the way, gives you some room to move around a bit – though for normal use you are supposed to be up on the nose-pieces; but occasionally moving back for climbing or something is fine of course.  I’ll get to this in a bit.

bike anatomical seat

Example of more conventional anatomic relief seat with center channel/cut-out- the Planet Bike 5020 Men’s Anatomic Relief gel bike seat.

The principle here is that the split design on the front provides relief from weight being put on the Perineal Nerve (which is  a branch of the sciatic nerve which supplies movement and feeling to the lower leg, foot and toes) and arteries while you are biking, with your sit bones being the only weight you are putting on the seat, at least in theory.  You can find out more about the technology and science that goes into this on ISM’s website.  The basic principle is the same but it is carried out differently than a more conventional anatomical relief seat which looks similar to a ‘regular’ bike seat; except it has a channel or hollow down the middle of it.  The difference here is that with a regular anatomical relief seat you are sitting on it normally otherwise but with the Adamo series you sit only on the two ‘noses’ with your sit bones.

And as you can imagine one of the biggest mistakes people make with riding on this kind of seat is sitting too far back, as if they were on a conventional seat.  Which is not going to do you any good, and in fact is probably going to put pressure in the exact place that you are trying to rid pressure of.

So one of the biggest issues with this seat is learning to ride forward on those little noses and not back on the seat itself.  At first, this just seems unnatural and maybe uncomfortable.  If you are climbing a hill or going down a hill, or just want a little bit of a rear-rest temporarily you can certainly slide back there but it is not what the seat is made for long-term.

And that’s why one of the important things when putting this seat on is that you watch Adamo’s videos and read their seat fitting directions, and if you are having trouble perhaps give their customer support line a call.  The company recommends the seat be lowered about a quarter-inch or5 millimeters, be leveled in reference to the rails and be positioned 1 to 3 inches back from your regular seat position BECAUSE you are sitting more forward.  This stuff is important if you are getting one of these seats – don’t just bolt the seat on and think that it’s correct.

nose adamoAnd this is where one of the issues that people have with this seat comes into play – including me.  Depending on your bike and configuration you may find that no matter what you do to place the seat 1 to 3 inches farther back than your old seat (which I presume had been previously positioned correctly for you or by you) – you still can not get the seat back far enough.  Remember; you are sitting around the middle position on your old seat but with the Adamo Prologue you are going to be sitting farther ahead on the twin nose pieces.  I want to re-iterate here – this MAY affect you, likely it won’t.

But if it does there are some solutions; including replacing your seat post with a more rearward-offset seatpost (as suggested by ISM) or replacing your stem with a longer stem, and perhaps getting a new bike fitting to see what might need to be adjusted to get the seat to work.  The problem with both of these is that then they may throw your bike’s geometry off as you sit on the bike – you may be TOO far back, you may be too far forward.  You may feel that your bike now is not sized correctly even.

But I don’t want to discourage anyone from using this seat; this is just an issue that may affect some people and as you can see above there may be some solutions for some of those who have these problems with it.

John_V, a member of the excellent biking forum TwoSpoke, had some great advice and thoughts on this saddle – including the suggestion of a longer stem and a bike fitting.  And since I am mentioning John here and his advice; he also mentions that perhaps those with wider sit bones might not be as comfortable on this seat (there is a device that is commonly referred to as an assometer that can help you determine sit bone width – and no, I am not kidding).  And from reading some of the postings on various forums this seems like it may be the case.  Perhaps in the other direction some people with narrow sit bones may find it uncomfortable too.  Some go so far as to clamp the front rails closer together to bring the ‘nose’ pieces closer together – which works fine for some riders it seems.

So as you can imagine; as with any seat and especially those ‘out of the ordinary’ designs- it may not be for everyone.  But those who like it (like John_V) – they also absolutely love it.  If you peruse biking forums you will find the same thoughts everywhere; you either love it or hate it, but the most important thing to evaluate it is to get it fit properly and to give it a good number of miles and time for your rear to acclimate to it, and so you can make a real informed opinion.  Don’t go on one or two rides and say you hate it, take a bunch of rides, and take along your tools (don’t you anyway?) and tweak it as you ride.

On to fitting…  Because getting the seat level (at least initially) is important John_V gives this advice; “Since it’s difficult to get any kind of a leveling device on the rails, this is what I do to make sure the saddle is mounted level. I use the level that comes with my cell phone because it actually gives the angle. When you get your saddle, find a level place, like a counter top or level table. Place the saddle on the level surface and then put your phone on the saddle from the front end of either prong toward the rear of the saddle. Whatever number is displayed on your level app (mine is -8º) is what you are going to set your saddle to when you place it on the bike. The bike also has to be level in order to do this.”

20160405_100738

Reference photo – rails are level; seat has proper slope.

I found this to be great advice, though my Android phone did not come with a level app.  I did find an excellent one; one of many, called Clinometer (Android version here and IOS version here).  I used my tablet instead since it is physically longer than my phone, and I very carefully took note of a reference point on the prong/nose as well as the rear position of the seat that the tablet/phone is sitting on so that there would not be any discrepancies in my re-positioning the tablet/phone once it was back on the bike.  John’s advice worked great, and once I had the seat level using the above method I also double-checked by holding the tablet’s top edge along the bottom of the rail on one side and checking that the app showed it as level down there, as well as the angle adjustment from putting it across the top of the seat

Even though it is supposed to be leveled some people may find that they want to tilt it slightly (according to what I have seen on various forums).

Seats are so, well, ultimately personal in two major aspects – a person’s physicality in the nether regions as well as personal preference – that any tweak, even by a professional bike fitting, is subject to a person’s own preferences and how it feels.  I think this contributes partially to the love-it or hate- it aspect of the ISM Adamo Prologue and similar seats.

Despite perfect fitting and lots of riding it still may not fit you; but again; you HAVE to give it a chance and get it fitted the way it should be before you make that decision.  Perhaps your LBS has loaners of similar seats that you can try before buying.  But give it a chance first; just like any new seat you put on – no matter what kind.

bottom adamoA bit about the seat itself – you are paying for not only the design but also some good quality here.  The stitching is very nice, professional and evenly stitched, and the material feels like vinyl of a good quality.  Likely fairly weatherproof as most seats go.  The padding seems just right – not too hard and not overly soft by any measure.  The description mentions ‘plush’ for this seat but it is by no account ‘plush’ in my book.  ‘Plush’ to me means overly padded and that you do not want; as your rear will move around way too much, and maybe even cause chafing.  This is just about in the middle I believe.

The rails are Chromoly and have measured graduations on one side with a maximum forward and rearward label.  A peek at the underside shows more fairly good quality construction, with a plastic shell and formed braces for the holding rails, conventional staples holding the vinyl cover on.  Logos are on the side, rear, and top-rear.  They look real nice, and seem to be of a superior quality and because you are supposed to be riding fairly forward there’s little chance that there is going to be much wear of the logos if that concerns you.

Overall the construction seems very nice to an unpracticed eye.  You ARE going to get lots of questions and comments when you put this on your bike, BTW.

On a side note – an odd thing I notice is that depending on which side I am standing at there’s an optical illusion that one prong or nosepiece is higher than the other.  Many times now have I stepped to the other side of the bike and back again to verify that indeed they are both leveled.

Riding on it takes getting used to.  Lots of getting used to, and you may have to constantly remind yourself how to sit in the proper position.  Even though I knew I was supposed to ride more forward than a conventional seat I still rode sitting too far back during my first ride.  I got a little numb until I realized exactly what I was doing and slid forward.  Immediately it felt better and all pressure was taken off those sensitive bits of my anatomy.

Yet I felt like I was TOO far ahead in reference to the bike’s geometry – I felt a bit scrunched up and too forward, and I felt like I might be developing a hitch in my knee, despite some more subsequent adjustments to the seat.  I even moved the rails farther back than the maximum mark on the rails – as far back as I could get it and it still didn’t seem right.

I gave it some more rides and some more time for a good evaluation.  Despite feeling okay on it with the seat back too far, it just was not feeling exactly right.

adamo view 2Sure, I could change the geometry of the bike by getting a seat post that was even further set back, and/or maybe a handlebar stem that was longer; letting the handlebar be more forward.  Maybe I could try a refitting at a LBS, or just try riding longer with the configuration as is.

But at some point I had to ask myself; am I making the bike better for me to ride or am I changing the bike to make the seat fit?  It seemed at that point that it was the latter.

Sadly, I had to give up on it.

After some more evaluation I moved on to another anatomical relief seat, back to a more conventional design, like this one.  After a few tweaks to the angles and position I found this seat to be excellent, after only a few rides – further confirming that the Adamo wasn’t for me.

A cyclist on Craiglist was happy to acquire the Adamo for a discounted price and I hope that he will be happier with it than I.

I am guessing he might be.  I definitely don’t want to discourage anyone from giving the Adamo Prologue a try if they can borrow one from a LBS or friend perhaps, or if they have tried other similar seats and liked them.

It is certainly a quality piece of engineering, and a lot of thought and research and science seems to have went into the design of the saddle.  The company does a great job at trying to help people (with videos, instructions, and customer support); but you must give it a good chance and the proper adjustments.  And even then, perhaps like me; you may not find it quite to your liking.  Others, though, love it as I have seen on a number of forums.

Bike seats – not only do they affect you in a most personal place, but people’s opinion about them are probably going to be just as diverse as the differences in those personal places.

adamo view