ISM Adamo Podium Saddle
As mentioned in the Cervélo P3 review, we also tested a number of time trial-specific products along with the frame. Possibly the most important of those was the Adamo Podium Saddle from ISM (Ideal Saddle Modification). We were hesitant to move off our beloved Flite even on a time trial bike because it's easier to dial in position with a familiar saddle, and even if there is saddle-related discomfort, we can probably remediate the issue easier when it's a saddle we're already intimate with.
We rationalized that the time trial position we'd be using would be different enough that the change, even on our Flite, would be so dramatic that we might as well try something new. Tempting was the idea to get close to the right position with a Flite, then swap saddles, but we didn't have enough time between the date of the bike's arrival and the time trial we were focused on to make this seem worthwhile.
Saddles that are designed to be kinder to your bottom areas than conventional saddles have been around longer than complaints about saddles causing impotence. The tt bike-specific saddle seemed to come about after the anti-numbnuts saddles came about and each is working on a different idea. The anti-numbnuts design for road riding is, generally speaking, different than anti-numbnuts time trial designs. The former is usually designed to relieve pressure in the middle of the saddle. Time trial saddles are designed to relieve pressure on the nose. There are two general designs for relieving nose pressure. One is to add more soft padding at the nose; the other is to widen the nose. Some saddles do both. ISM does both, sort of.
The saddle is generously padded up front, and the nose is wide. But the nose is split. 50mm wide at the very tip of the nose, moving to 70mm immediately thereafter, and flaring out to 130mm. It is nominally 270mm long, but your not going to sit on the final 50-70mm of saddle. The 270mm length is there for the saddle to basically fit "standard" design conventions and pass muster with equipment minders like the UCI. That the saddle is 200mm long follows a design trend we've seen in the pro ranks where riders have the nose of their favorite saddles cut off so they can still use the seat and put that front edge right at the UCI-mandated 5cm minimum behind the bottom bracket. The chopped design means the width of the saddle nose could well be similar to your saddle 50mm back from the nose.
So here you have a 200mm saddle that helps position you as forward as possible while still allowing your bike to pass equipment inspection for both UCI and USA Cycling events. Triathlon rules are quite a bit more forgiving, so you can run your saddle pretty much however you want, though ITU specifies the saddle must be positioned between 15cm behind the bottom bracket and 5cm in front.
Adamo doesn't specify this saddle for time trials. They see it for people who want better circulation and thus greater comfort to their nether regions. All the same, their calling card is equipping top triathletes with their saddles. Various iterations of the saddle have won 11 IronMan events. It is used by both men and women, without any sex-specific models. They sponsored the Canadian Spider-Tech road team this year and they claim to have snuck underneath some top euro pros when the real saddle sponsors aren't looking.
If you read our review of the Cervélo P3, you know that we endeavored to find a position that was fast and powerful, but still had some relevance to our road position. To this end, we initially kept the saddle height the same while pushing the saddle forward so the nose was barely past the 5cm behind the bottom bracket minimum. This advice on keeping the height the same has been written many places on the web; some suggest raising the saddle a bit. Whether it's a result of the wider saddle taking up space or the lower handlebars rotating your hips and shortening your stroke, we, after suffering through a time trial, firmly believe that the saddle must be lowered. We found a 5mm drop comfortable. We've heard about people needing to drop their saddle height as much as 5cm to find their fast, comfortable, powerful position.
Next, we had to deal with saddle tilt. ISM suggests starting with the saddle rails level to the ground. This will result in a fairly generous nose dip. We found that anything close to level rails resulted in our body sliding down the saddle and having to use our arms to force our body back up. After a fair amount of trial and error, and dropping the saddle, we found the most comfortable saddle angle to be the saddle dipping slightly at the nose, but most of the saddle looking level to the ground, with the tail flared up a a little bit.
Here is a fit video ISM has posted to their site.
Ideal seat position means having 50mm or more of saddle showing when you're sitting on it, and for your junk to be in front of the nose. This is one of the primary pressure-reduction features of the saddle. It's also how, coincidentally or not, many time trialists like to sit on their saddles.
If you take your thumb and press into the Podium, you'll feel a fair amount of cush. There's padding and gel underneath the cover. So much that it almost felt like the saddle we'd find on an exercise bike.
When you first get on the saddle and start riding slowly on the bullhorns, the saddle feels wrong. We noticed the width, we noticed the slight downward tilt, we noticed that we were kind of hanging off the front of the saddle. None of this was particularly enjoyable or comforting or, most importantly, nothing made it feel like the position fit us.
Things started to click when we got into the bars. Even when the saddle was too high, the objections about a soft saddle and feeling like we were hanging off the front went away. It seemed like those very criticisms for riding the bullhorns made it possible for the saddle to feel comfortable in the bars. The body is putting more pressure on the padding, flattening it to the point that it doesn't feel mushy. And when riding hard, just having a small shelf keeping the body in place is ok because you're working so hard, you're barely sitting on the saddle at all.
Initially, as we wrote in our P3 review, we were putting so much pressure on the saddle nose that by the end of some rides, the saddle was tilted downward more than when we started. This is something that seemed to happen gradually. It's only when we noticed that our arms were getting tired that we realized something was up with the saddle.
Once we dropped the saddle, keeping the nose 5cm or a bit more behind the bottom bracket, we didn't find ourselves forcing down the nose of the Adamo anymore. And that was it for comfort issues. Even once we got used to the saddle, it still felt like we were perched on the edge of the wide side of a two-by-four plank. Not sure how it would feel riding this saddle on our road bike, not sure how we'd like it for extended climbing, but for events of any length where we had to hunker down on aero bars for extended periods of time, we can see being comfortable for any length event.