I did some shopping around with saddles this year during all that training for RTL. I started out with an air seat with Roach cover and carbon base, that was originally made up by Chris Reeder. I’ve had it on there for years and it was great, except for really long rides. And flats.
It only went flat once on me, but it had really bad timing. It went flat the night before the longest ride I’ve ever done (Lake Tahoe; 72 miles). I started the ride not realizing the problem (I thought I chose the wrong pair of shorts), and during the ride I couldn’t find the leak! I ended up riding about 40 miles on an innertube and a tiny triangle of foam. This is the downside of an air seat. Even if you have a patch, it’s hard to fix if you can’t find the leak.
The other downside of air seats is that they spread even pressure everywhere. This is good for the pressure points that usually get abused, but bad for general circulation and cooling. I think a foam saddle lets a little more air get in there to keep the temps under control.
Then I tried the Fusion Freeride, which didn’t impress me. I think it’s the right idea, with a flatter surface and center channel, but it didn’t seem to agree with my own crotch. It lasted slightly less time than my air seat before getting uncomfortable (though it might work better on super-long rides).
Then I tried the KH Fusion Freeride air. I was very disappointed to learn that it’s nothing but an innertube inside an air pillow, and nothing else in there. I thought it was some innovative mixture of foam and air, but it’s not. If flat it would be even less comfortable than my old Reeder/Roach combo. I should have read the description more carefully, but I guess I focused on the “considered the most comfortable seat by most riders!” part. I’m not most riders. It as lopsided and I was unable to even it out without taking it all apart. To be fair though, I should experiment with various air pressures. While some air seats are best with really low pressure, some seem to work better when a little more firm.
Then I tried the Nimbus Gel. This is my saddle of choice for the moment. It’s a little heavier, but my crotch seems to last a little longer on it. It’s what I used on my Coker for RTL. Mind you, all saddles start to suck equally if you ride too many miles without stopping. I had this notion reinforced for me at the Unicon Marathon, which many of us did nonstop. OUCH!!!
Let’s not forget to mention the plain-old KH seat. Originally I replaced the Fusion Freeride (on my borrowed Nimbus 36 with Schlumpf hub) with the old KH seat off my 29er. This is like a 2nd-generation KH seat, from before there were multiple variations of it. It works great for me! As does the Coker-branded Velo/KH saddle on my new Coker V2. I’ve gone on long rides with both, and they’ve been just fine. I think the equivalent of the old KH seat would be today’s Nimbus Hi-Top ($39 from UDC).
The best way to be kind to your crotch on long road rides is to stop every once in a while. Some people call this a circulation break or crotch break. Even a few seconds of being off the saddle can make a world of difference. Handlebars can help with this too. If you can ride out of the saddle for a minute or so, it’s almost as good as stopping for a minute.
I know Scot Cooper did this for a while on one of his older Cokers, but now he’s riding a different setup and I think he’s back to using unicycle seats. For the bike seat to work there are two basic requirements:
- You need a handlebar system you can really put your weight on. If you’re just holding onto it, rather than leaning on it, there won’t be enough support for you to ride a narrow bike seat and not keep sliding off the front. And you won’t want to angle the bike seat up, because then it starts pressuring sensitive parts again. It has to be a balance between seat and handlebars.
- You need to hold your handlebars all the time for it to work well. If you have multiple handlebar positions, such as a stretched out and a more upright one, it still has to provide that balance in either position, or one or the other won’t be comfortable.
But I think bike seats can definitely work for road unicycles with the proper setup.