Background on ISM:
Steve Toll, ISM’s founder, first conceptualized the Adamo seat in 1997 and received a patent for the design in 1999. Though the design is a bit complex, the idea is simple: Steve experienced quite a bit of discomfort using standard seats because the nose of the seat hits most people in the perineal area, that is, soft tissue. The ISM Adamo seats get rid of the nose and allow your body to rest on your sit bones.
It seems that ISM is really becoming popular: according to ISM, in 2008 alone 11 IM winners, 2 Olympic Silver Medals, 1 World Duathlon Champ and 1 Lifetime Fitness Series Overall winner used the ISM seats.
Background on the Seat Design:
There are several studies that have linked the use of standard bike saddles to numbness, UTIs and yeast infections, prostate inflammation and impotence. After testing by an expert in arterial occlusion, that is, restriction of blood flow, it was found that the ISM seat design allowed 100% of standard blood flow, a rare achievement.
Installing the ISM Seat:
One of the first things you’ll notice about the seat is that it’s significantly shorter than your standard seat. After you realize how much shorter this saddle is, you’ll also notice that the seat has a much different angle when installed on your seat post. Because of the radically different design of the ISM Century seat, you will have to scratch everything you know about how your seat fits and start from scratch.
Once we installed the seat, we hooked our test bike into a fluid trainer and started trying to dial in the seat settings. The installation instructions for the ISM Century suggest that you might not be able to get the proper fit from a stationary fitting, but we figured it was a good way to dial in the basics of height and fore and aft positioning of the seat.
Once we felt we had a good idea of the proper height, we worked on the rotation of the seat from side to side, that is, how far to the right or left of the centerline of the bike we position the seat. This is one of the most overlooked parts of bike fitting: no one is perfectly symmetrical and no one sits perfectly on a centered saddle. Even on a standard saddle, you should adjust for the rotation.
With the ISM Century, it’s much easier to feel when you get the rotation just right, you’ll just “fall into place” so to speak.
Our First Ride:
Since getting dialed into this new seat is crucial to a comfortable fit, we decided to do our first ride alone so we could stop frequently to adjust and refine our position. Good decision for us. No matter well we thought we had dialed in on the fluid trainer, we needed a bit of adjustment once we got out on the road.
Thankfully, we had the height basically correct from the start, eventually we did lift our seat just a touch, but that was much later in the review process. On the first ride, we stopped every 10 minutes or so and moved, shifted, or rotated the seat trying to find that perfect fit. Just when we thought we’d done everything properly, we dropped into the aero position and realized that we were still not exactly where we needed to be.
As we mentioned above, this seat is so different from what most people are used to that it’s best to just start fresh with the seat adjustments. We’re thankful we hit the ‘reset’ button for our seat position and decided to start fresh and invest the time is getting dialed in exactly. By the end of our first ride, we felt that we were well on our way to a great fit, but still not perfect.
The Second Ride:
It seems that the second time might be a charm. After the first ride of about 35 miles, we felt pretty comfortable with our settings, but we were starting to get a little sore from the new saddle and so we packed it up for the first day. It takes some getting used to when you make such a radical change in your seating and we didn’t want to push too far on the first day.
The adjustments we made the second day were mostly fine tuning. Turns out our slight soreness on the first day kept us from realizing that we were pretty close in the adjustments. The second day, we rotated the seat just a bit to the right and everything fell into place.
Well, it’s certainly a brand new type of saddle. We’re not complaining about the installation and tuning process, far from it really, but it is a serious process and one that is absolutely essential if you want to get a comfortable ride. Seems a bit similar to going to the eye doctor: “Can you see better now, or now? Lens A or Lens B…A or B?”
Anyway, we’re glad we started over with our seat adjustments and didn’t try to just slap on the new saddle without some serious adjustments. After the first few rides, our sit bones have adjusted to the new seat and we’ve gotten used to the new pressure. The discomfort and slight soreness of our first ride disappeared and hasn’t resurfaced. We highly recommend spending the extra time getting all the details and settings worked out for this seat. Your body will thank you.
Overall, the ISM Adamo Century is a really comfortable seat. The vastly different design takes some getting used to, but it seems to be worth it. Since installing the seat, we’ve noticed less discomfort, pressure and soreness from our perineal area. We’ve ridden about a hundred miles total with this new seat and are pleased with what we’ve seen so far. We’ll provide an update in about a month with our further thoughts and discoveries.