ISM Adamo Podium saddle

A seat to beat numbness

Adamo’s Podium is an excellent saddle for time trialing. It supports the sit bones extremely well and relieves all pressure on the soft tissue down there, so there’s nary a hint of numbness.

The problem is that the Podium is built and marketed for road bike use. After an initial week of constant tweaking and a second try at the end of the test period, we still could not find a comfortable position for it on a road bike.

We did notice, however, that the lower one’s torso and the closer the torso-to-leg angle to 90 degrees, the more bearable the saddle became. This is why we went ahead and switched it to a time trial bike where the design seems to excel.

The negative experience we had on the road bike centres on the width of the nose, which chafed our inner thighs, and the way the saddle’s design relieves pressure in the centre but focuses it directly on your sit bones, which we found quite uncomfortable.

For context, our favourite road seats have a traditional shape that bows in the centre and keeps you in the sweet spot, like Fizik's Aliante, Prologo’s Scratch and the now discontinued Selle San Marco Strada.

Design and construction

The Podium is the newest addition to Adamo’s line of ‘medically superior seats’ and was designed by Steve Toll, an avid cyclist and swimmer. His ISM technology (Ideal Saddle Modification) was developed in 1997.

“I was sitting in my bathroom reading and I thought, 'I’m more comfortable here than on the bike',” said Toll of the inspiration for his design. He also said that because it supports the rider in a drastically different manner, some people would take longer to adjust to sitting on the saddle.

Toll patented the design in 1999 and it benefited from the results of a 2004 blood flow test by Dr Frank Sommer at the University of Cologne in Germany which found that, unlike some other perches, ISM saddles do not significantly reduce or obstruct blood flow in the perineal area. They are now marketed to those who have fit or comfort issues with standard saddles, and men worried that their bike seats may cause impotence.

The Podium model is the raciest in Adamo’s line, designed with feedback from Tour de France riders. Perceptive fans will note that an Adamo ISM Racing saddle appeared on Lance Armstrong’s Trek Speed Concept time trial bike this January.

The Podium is longer and narrower than the model Armstrong picked or any of the brand’s other saddles, and it’s also the most minimally padded. It measures 27cm long and 13cm wide, features titanium rails and weighs 319g.

The saddle’s construction is on par with most mid to high level saddles; nothing separates it negatively or exceptionally, which does make the US$199.95 price (UK price TBC) seem slightly high. During our testing, we had no issue with its durability.

Final thoughts

In our experience, the ISM technology works as advertise. That’s why we like the saddle so much on the time trial bike and also why it didn’t perform well on the road. It clearly redistributes your weight away from the perineal area, but that redistribution places weight elsewhere and seemingly more sharply. Then there's the issue of the wide nose.

“I feel that I have a responsibility not to go narrower with the saddle, because I personally will go numb if its even 10mm narrower and if I do, then I know others will too,” said Toll in response to our criticism of the saddle’s wide nose.

Saddle shapes always divide opinion. Our final recommendation mirrors the advice we would give for any saddle – try before you buy. If you’ve had trouble with numbness and finding comfort on a traditional seat, it might be worth moving the Podium to the top of your list of saddles to try.

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