Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Prodcut Review -- Allay Racing 2.1 (by Topeak) Saddle

I can't get it out of my head that I am back in 1991, when I was NOT one of the cool kids with Air Jordan Pumps, or even the equivalent Reeboks. You know the kind, with the pump on the tongue?

Topeak has decided to give that route a go, but for saddles, instead of shoes. They've created the Allay line of air-cushion saddles, which feature normally padded sit-bone aft joined with an air bladder in the middle. Saddle makers try all sorts of things with the goal of relieving pressure on the perineal nerve. Feel free to Google that if you'd like the anatomical details; I won't get too involved with it here.

Yours Truly is in an odd position to review this saddle, as I am not in the position of finding a great deal of discomfort with current offerings. I personally feel that saddle comfort is more an issue of position and fit than it is of saddle material. Also, your muscles support a great deal of your weight while riding, and they get more accustomed to doing so as I put in more miles.

I wasn't surprised to see the idea of an air-cushion saddle for the recreational and comfort market, but the Allay line is weighted towards the sport and racer crowd. How does it stack up?

Allay's Racing is available in a variety of widths along its model range, from 130 to 160mm for men, and a wider 150 to 170mm for women, who tend to have wider sit bones. Dealers are provided with a memory foam cushion upon which the customer sits, and this helps them select the proper saddle width. Caveat lector: Yours Truly picked out the narrower 130mm saddle without this fit step. Still, I think I have a pretty good sense of what saddle size is appropriate for me.

The Racing 2.1 features an integrated, adjustable pump and pressure relief valve to tune the air bladder, while the more affordable 1.1 features an external, removable pump, which is supplied with the saddle. While the integrated valve allows on-the-fly adjustment, I inadvertently depressed the release valve on a number of occasions as I moved my bike out of racks, or carried it up the stairs to my apartment. Not a crippling flaw, but certainly annoying.

As I ride on the Allay, in normal, commuting conditions on my Raleigh Sojourn touring bike, for the most part I don't notice it. No news is definitely good news for a saddle! I will point out that in my long-distance riding position I don't put a whole lot of pressure on my perineal area -- a properly fitted bike and saddle places the "wings" of the rear of the saddle directly below the riders' sit bones. Still, the Allay is well shaped and comfortable for general riding.

As I slid forward into a more aggressive position, I nearly fell off my bike. It felt like going from walking on solid ground to a floating dock on a lake -- while I didn't feel pressure or discomfort, I felt uncertain feedback beneath me. If you've ever watched a cyclist riding a time trial, they slide far forward onto the very end of their saddles. It looks terrible, but for shorter distances it's okay, since most of the weight is on one's legs and arms!

The Allay doesn't make this kind of riding easy. Another struggle I had with the Allay was cornering at speed. While I don't do a lot of this with my Sojourn, it's even harder with the Allay. To corner with confidence, you press the inside of your thigh against the nose of your saddle to help transition your weight through the turn -- this is also why those novel "noseless" saddles are a non-starter. With the Allay, I was pressing my thigh against an inflatable bladder, and felt less than confident about the feedback I received.

Finally, during fairly aggressive riding, I noticed myself armed with fewer positions, as I had to be careful to avoid weight on the part of the saddle where the air bladder transitioned into the normal padding -- it didn't have any flex, and was easy to make uncomfortable. This was the only place I felt discomfort or pressure with the Allay.

Overall? I think the Allay "Nomad" saddles, meant for comfort and hybrid bikes, could be a nice thing for day to day riders. I'm not sure why, other than cost, Topeak does not offer a Nomad saddle in anything other than a base model, with a pre-set, non-adjustble cushion, but I think there might be a market there.

Also, if you're a rider that suffers from pereneal discomfort or numbness, and those wretched "cutout" saddles haven't done you any good, you might try the Allay line before giving up the ghost on riding altogether. As for Yours Truly, I'm comfortable with my San Marco Concour Lite Aspide.


  • At 6:43 AM , Anonymous Steve said...

    “To corner with confidence, you press the inside of your thigh against the nose of your saddle to help transition your weight through the turn -- this is also why those novel "noseless" saddles are a non-starter.”

    Cyclists who have traditionally used the nose for steering have successfully used the top tube for this control when using noseless saddles. When you first took off training wheels, steering and balance were issues as well, until you learned to adapt to the change. The same is true for noseless saddles. The health benefits are well worth it.

    You put about 35% of your body weight on the saddle nose, (much more in tops or drops). The strap of the Allay bottoms out and your body is being held on the strap and thus the pressure is still there!

    There is an overwhelming weight of medical evidence that the nose of the saddle causes sexual function in both men and women. It is not controversial and there is not a weight of evidence to contrary. These saddles are not a novelty but a healthy alternative. Sexual function issues are not immediate but develop with time. You may be fine today but…..?

    Published Scientific Research on Bicycle Saddles and the Male Perineum

    1. Bond, R.E. Distance Bicycling May Cause Ischemic Neuropathy of Penis. Physician and Sports Medicine 3:54-56. 1975.

    2. Goodson, J.D. Pudendal Neuritis from Biking. N Engl J Med 304:365. 1981

    3. Kerstien, MD, S.A. Gould, E. French-Sherry, and C. Pirman. Perineal Trauma and Vasculogenic Impotence. J Urol 127:57. 1982.

    4. Solomon, S. and K.G. Cappa. Impotence and Bicycling: a Seldom-reported Connection. Postgrad Med 81:99-102. 1987.

    5. Desai, K.M. and J.C. Gingell. Hazards of Long Distance Cycling. Brit J Med 298:1072-1073. 1989.

    6. Mellion, M.B. Common Cycling Injuries: Management and Prevention. Sports Med 11:52-70. 1991.

    7. Silbert PL, Dunne JW, Edis RH, Stewart-Wynne EG. Bicycling induced pudendal nerve pressure neuropathy. Clin Exp Neurol. 28:191-6. 1991

    8. Groenendijk, MC, HCCM Christiaans, CMJ van Hulten. Sitting Comfort on Bicycles. Contemporary Ergonomics pp 551-557, 1992

    9. Oberpenning, F. S Roth, DB Luesmann, H van Ahlen, and L Hertle. The Alcock Syndrome: Temporary penile Insensitivity Due to Compression of the Pudental Nerve with the Alcock Canal. J Urol 151:423-5. 1994.

    10. Andersen, K.V. and G. Bovim. Impotence and Nerve Entrapment in Long Distance Amateur Cyclists. Acta Neurol Scand 95:233-240. 1997.

    11. LaSalle, MD, C Wen, M Choi, P Salimpour, A Adelstein, S Gholami, RJ Krane, and I Goldstein. “You Don’t Have to Ride in the Tour de France”: Erectile Dysfunction in 81 Consecutive Riders. Abstracts of the American Urological Association. 1999.

    12. Broderick, GA. Bicycle Seats and Penile Blood Flow: Does the Type of Saddle Matter? Abstracts of the American Urological Association. 1999

    13. Schwarzer, U. W. Wiegand, A Bin-Saleh, H Lotzerick, G Kahrmann, T Klotz, and U Engelmann. Genital Numbness and Impotence Rate in Long Distance Cyclists. Abstracts of the American Urological Association. 1999

    14. Nayal W, Schwarzer U, Klotz T, Heidenreich A, Engelmann U. Transcutaneous penile oxygen pressure during bicycling. BJU Int. 83:623-5. 1999.

    15. Ricchiuti, VS, CA Haas, AD Seftel, T Chelimsky, and I Goldstein. Pudental Nerve Injury Associated with Avid Bicycling. J Urol 162:2099-2100. 1999

    16. Sommer, F, D Konig, C Graf, U Schwarzer, C Bertram, T Klotz and U Engelmann. Impotence and Genital Numbness in Cyclists. Int J Sports Med 22:410-413. 2001

    17. Marceau, L., K. Kleinman, I. Goldstein, and J McKinlay. Does Bicycling Contribute to the Risk of Erectile Dysfunction? Results from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS). Int J Impotence Res 18:298-302. 2001.

    18. Sommer, F., U Schwarzer, C Graf, T Klotz, and U Engelman. Changes in penile blood flow during cycling: what precautions should be taken to avoid a decreased profusion? Dtsch Med Wschr 126:939-943. 2001

    19. Schwarzer, U., F. Sommer, T. Klotz, C. Cremer, and U. Engelmann. Cycling and Penile Oxygen Pressure: the Type of Saddle Matters. European Urology 41:139-143. 2002

    20. Jeong, SJ, K Park, JD Moon, and SB Ryu. Bicycle Saddle Shape affects Penile blood flow. International J Impotence Research 14:513-517. 2002.

    21. Keytel, LR and TD Noakes. Effects of a Novel Bicycle Saddle on Symptoms and Comfort in Cyclists. S Afr. Med J 2:295-298. 2002

    22. Grunbaum A, K Rehman, I Kuzmarov, and S. Carrier. The Development of a Model to Investigate the Effect of Bicycling on Sexual Function. International J Impotence Research 14:S50. 2002

    23. Mumarriz, R. A Prospective Study in Men with ED of Cavernosal Artery PSV Values While Lying, Sitting, Straddling/sitting on different Commercially Available Bicycle Saddle and Seat Designs. International J Impotence Research 14:S60. 2002

    24. Taylor, JA. Inherent Variables within Bicycle Riding and Their Relationship to erectile Dysfunction. International J Impotence Research 14:S30. 2002

    25. Sommer, F, A Raible, S Wolter, and U Engelmann. Is there any difference in penile blood flow during cycling in an upright vs. reclining position? Andrologia 34:123-153. 2002

    26. Schrader, S.M., M. J. Breitenstein, J.C. Clark, B. D. Lowe, and T. W. Turner. Nocturnal Penile Tumescence and Rigidity Testing of Bicycling Patrol Officers. Journal of Andrology 23:927-934. 2002.

    27. Mumarriz, R.. Bicycle Riding Associated Erectile Dysfunction: Treatment Outcome of Revascularization Surgery. International J Impotence Research 14:S55. 2002

    28. Southorn, T. Great Balls of Fire and the Vicious Cycle. A Study of the Effects of Cycling on Male Fertility. J Family Planning and Reprod Health Care. 28:211-213. 2002

    29. Spears, IR, NK Cummins, Z Brenchley, C Donohue, C Turnbull, Shona Burton, and G Macho. The Effect of Saddle Design on Stresses in the Perineum During Cycling. Med & Science in Sports & Exercise 35:1620-1625. 2003.

    30. Rando R, R Squadrone, M Sacchi, and A Marzegan. Pressure Distribution on Bicycle Saddles. The Bicycle Saddle Report 2003.Deutsche Sporthochshute. 2003.

    31. Sommer F. Type of Saddle and Sitting Position Influence Penile Oxygen Pressure while Cycling. The Bicycle Saddle Report 2003.Deutsche Sporthochshute. 2003.

    32. Lowe, B., S. Schrader, and M. Breitenstein. Effect of Saddle Design on the Perineal Pressure of the Bicyclist. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 36:1055-1062. 2004

    33. Dettori, JR, TD Koepsell, P Cummins and JM Corman. Erectile Dysfunction after a Long-Distance Cycling Event: Association with Bicycle Characteristics. J Urology 172:637-641. 2004

    34. Taylor, JA, TC Kao, PC Albertson, and R Shabsigh. Bicycling Riding and Its Relationship to the Development of Erectile Dysfunction. J Urology 172:1028-1-31. 2004.

    35. Leibovitch, I and Y Mor. The Vicious Cycling: Bicycling Related Urogenital Disorders. Eur Urology 47:277-287. 2005

    36. Cohen JD, and MT Gross. Effect of Bicycle Racing Saddle Design on Transcutaneous Penile Oxygen Pressure. J Sports Med and Physical Fitness. 45:409-419. 2005.

    37. Huang V, R Munarriz, and I Goldstein. Bicycling Riding and Erectile Dysfunction: An Increase in Interest (and Concern). J Sex Med 2:596-604. 2005

    38. Breda G, N Piazza, V Bernardi, E Lunardon and A Caruso. Development of a New Geometric Bicycle Saddle for the Maintenance of Genital-Perineal Vascular Perfusion. J Sex Med 2:605-611. 2005

    39. Munarriz R, V Huang, J Uberoi, S Maitland, T Payton and I Goldstein. Only the Nose Knows: Penile Hemodynamic Study of the Perineum-Saddle Interface in Men with Erectile Dysfunction Utilizing Bicycle Saddles and Seat with and with Nose Extensions. J Sex Med 2:612-619. 2005.

    40. Schrader, SM. Research on Bicycle Saddles and Sexual Health Comes of Age. J Sex Med. 2:594-595. 2005.

    41. Bressel E, Reeve T, Parker D, Cronin J. Influence of bicycle seat pressure on compression of the perineum: A MRI analysis. J Biomech. 40:198-202. 2007.

    42. Gemery, JM, AK Nangia, AC Mamourian, and SK Reid. Digital three-dimensional modeling of the male pelvis and bicycle seats: impact of rider position and seat design on potential penile hypoxia and erectile dysfunction. B J Urology International 99:135-140. 2007

    43. Wilson C, and TR Bush. Interface forces on the seat during cycling activity. Clin Biomech. 200722:1017-1023. 2007.

    44. Asplund C., T Barkdull, and BD Weiss. Genitourinary Problems in Bicyclists. Current Sports Medicine Reports 6:333-339. 2007

    45. Nanka O, Sedý J, Jarolím L. Sulcus nervi dorsalis penis: site of origin of Alcock's syndrome in bicycle riders? Med Hypotheses. 2007;69(5):1040-5.

    46. Standard bicycle seats can lead to erectile dysfunction. Mayo Clin Health Lett. 25:4. 2007.

    47. Goldstein I, Lurie AL, Lubisich JP. Bicycle riding, perineal trauma, and erectile dysfunction: data and solutions. Curr Urol Rep. 8:491-7. Review. 2007.

    48. Bressel E, Parker D. Effect of Graded Bicycle Seat Pressure on Perineal Compression: An MRI Analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2008

    49. Schrader SM, Breitenstein MJ, Lowe BD. Cutting Off the Nose to Save the Penis. J Sex Med. 5:1932-1940, 2008

    50. Kennedy J. Neurologic injuries in cycling and bike riding. Neurol Clin. 26 :271-9. 2008

    51. Cohen, J. Finding the Perfect Bicycle Seat. 2nd Edition, RBR Publishing Company, South Royalton, VT. 2008.

    52. Goldstein, I. The A, B, C's of The Journal of Sexual Medicine: Awareness, bicycle seats, and choices. J Sex Med 5:1773-1775, 2008.

    53. Goldstein, I, M Bastuba, A Lurie, and J Lubisich. Penile Revascularization. J Sex Med 5:2018-2021

    Published Scientific Research on Bicycle Saddles and the Female Perineum

    1. Dickerson, RL. Bicycling for Women from the Standpoint of the Gynaecologist. Am J Obstet of Women and Children 31:24-37. 1895.

    2. Steiner E, Chague A, Gross GB. [The "third testis" of cyclists, in women too...]
    Presse Med. 1989 Feb 18:(7):361. French.

    3. Groenendijk, MC, HCCM Christiaans, CMJ van Hulten. Sitting Comfort on Bicycles. Contemporary Ergonomics pp 551-557, 1992.

    4. McElhinney, BE, T Horner, WW Dinsmore, A Harper, C Goldsmith, and RD Maw. Exercise bicycle-induced vulval abscesses. International J of STD & AIDS 4:174-175. 1993

    5. LaSalle M, P Sallinpour, M Adelstein, A Mourzinos, C Wen, J Renzuli, B Goldstein, L Goldstein, J Cantey-Kiser, RJ Krane, and I Goldstein. Sexual and Urinary Tract Dysfunction if Female Bicyclists. J Urol Vol 161 (No 4 Suppl) pp 269 #1040. 1999.

    6. Berman J, L Berman, and E Bumiller. For Women Only: A Revolutionary Guide to Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction and Reclaiming Your Sex Life. Henry Holt & Co. 2001.

    7. Buller, JC. Female Cyclists and Perineal Symptoms: An Experimental Bicycle Seat. Clinc J Sprts Med 11:289-290. 2001.

    8. Baeyens L, E Vermeersch, and P Bourgeois. Bicyclist’s Vulva: Observational Study. BMJ 325:138-139. 2002.

    9. Humphries D. Unilateral Vulval Hypertrophy in Competitive Female Cyclists. Br J Sports Med 36:463-464. 2002.

    10. Bressel E and BJ Larson. Bicycle Seat Designs and Their Effect on Pelvic Angle, Trunk Angle, and Comfort. Med Sci in Sports & Exercise. 35:327-332. 2003.

    11. Frobose I, L Baeyens, and K Tofaute. Ergonomics of 2 Bicycle Saddles – Pressure at the Pudental Area in Women of a Normal Saddle with Gel and of a Saddle with a Hole. The Bicycle Saddle Report 2003.Deutsche Sporthochshute. 2003.

    12. Guess MK, KA. Connell1, SM. Schrader, S Reutman, A Wang, J Lacombe, C Toennis, B Lowe, A Melman, and MS Mikhail. Genital Sensation & Female Sexual Function In Cyclists And Runners: Are Your Feet Safer Than Your Seat? Journal of Sexual Medicine 3:1018-1027. 2006.

  • At 9:38 AM , Blogger Argentius said...

    That's a lot of stuff. I'll have to check it out, but I especially wonder what their methodology is. I've only read a couple of study excerpts about the health problems of cycling, and both have focused on those who cycle infrequently. I think that it'd be considerably different for a road / racing style racer, and I'd be interested to see a comparison between a control group of, perhaps, other endurance athletes, and professional cyclists.

  • At 11:11 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I have ridden an Allay sport for a year on my hard tail Kona, and I am pleased with it, plenty of thigh pressure if I need it cranking a turn. I've ridden various cut outs, with mixed comfort. Not to be bragging, but the cutouts are usually a bit narrow. I plan on putting an Allay Racing Sport on my new 29er.

  • At 5:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    You insinuated a brag with your comment. The slot is not for your tool, it is to relieve pressure on the artery which is much smaller.

  • At 2:11 AM , Anonymous Caverta 100mg said...

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