Friday, April 19, 2013

Choosing a Saddle / Adamo Breakaway Saddle Review

This is a hybrid post.  My new saddle looks weird, so everyone asks me about it.  I figure that's a good excuse to review it.  I also thought it might be nice to talk about how I go about choosing a saddle.


Hey Pete.  How do you like your Adamo saddle?

(Image thanks to ISM Adamo's web site.)


I like it a lot! It takes a little getting used to though. The Adamo saddles are weird enough that any Adamo dealer will have demo saddles that you can try. I strongly encourage you to demo one for at least a few long-ish rides. There are some things about it that are cool and different, but like anything in the bicycle world, if it doesn't fit, you're gonna hate it.

Saddle Fit/Shape:

I use Specialized seat sizing system. They have you sit on a board that has some memory foam on it (I call it the ass-o-meter) and then measure how far apart your sits bones are. They use that to figure out which width of saddle you are. I'm 143mm exactly. You then have to pick if you want a flat or curved profile nose to tail and a flat or curved profile side to side.

In Specialized speak, I'm a 143mm flat nose to tail and flat side to side saddle kind of guy. That comes out to a Toupe or Phenom 143 for me. It also means that a Fizik Antares fits me like a glove... an ass-glove that is. A good saddle dealer can help you figure out what shape fits the measurements you come up with.  Most will let you demo a saddle for at least a few rides before you buy.

Fizik has 3 different saddle shapes depending on the kind of riding you do and your positioning on the bike and flexibility.  The curved saddles are for those who are very flat-backed and aerodynamic.  There's one in the middle for people who are somewhat in the middle and a wider, flatter profile for people who are a bit more upright.  It is a good starting point for choosing the saddle shape, but doesn't really allow you to reliably pick a saddle without trying it. 

Looking at the Adamo saddle line, the one that was the closest to my dimensions was the Breakaway. It is about 143mm wide (135mm at the sit bones) and board flat side to side. There's a tiny bit of curve nose to tail, but I'm able to adjust for that with seat angle so that my man parts don't get smooshed. Adamo makes 6 or 7 different models that fit different kinds of people. Go through a fitting process, then demo them to find out if your research and fitting was right.

Seat Adjustment:

Dialing in the seat angle is very important with the Adamo.... more so than with my Specialized or Fizik saddles. I don't know why that is, perhaps it has to do with the bit of curve at the nose of the saddle and its width. Adamo's web site suggests starting with the saddle level, then adjusting forward 1/2 - 1 degree at a time until you find the perfect setting. Thomson seatposts make that a little easy because they've got the angle marked on the seat clamp. My saddle is tilted forward a bit more than i thought I'd ever ride. That is likely because of the slight curve to the noses (there are 2 saddle noses on the Adamo).

What kind of riding?

I chose the Adamo Breakaway because of its reputation with endurance athletes. I spend a LOT of time in the saddle and I'd heard that the Adamo design is great. Riding fixie much of the time means I don't coast and get out of the saddle to give my butt a break as often, so saddle comfort is critical.  This saddle is also designed for people who get very aerodynamic.  If you sit quite upright and have a lot of weight on the saddle, it is unlikely that this saddle will be anywhere near comfortable. 

My impressions:

Now onto my impressions. The saddle is deceptively firm. The padding feels much like my other saddles. Not significantly softer or harder. The shell of the saddle, however, is MUCH more firm than the other saddles that I use. There's no give at all to that saddle. That is probably why fit and adjustment are so important. The saddle is a brick with a nice leather cover and a bit of padding. That isn't a bad thing. It means that the saddle will likely last for ever and never deform. It does mean that if you don't like how it feels, the saddle won't do like a Brooks or Specialized Toupe and conform slightly to your shape. Your shape is what will do the conforming.

The Breakaway is not particularly light weight. This isn't a huge deal, but it is something I take into account. All that substance and firmness costs weight.

When I first started riding, the noses of the saddle felt odd between my legs because they're wider than anything you've probably ever ridden before. It didn't take more than a few miles before I forgot about that, though. There's absolutely NO pressure on my tender man bits. In that respect, the Adamo is perfect.

The firmness of the saddle takes some getting used to. I'm there with it now and I like it. The fixie cyclo-cross bike that I have it on is one that is designed for long gravel road rides. I've got 8 rides on that bike so far.... 4 of which are over 100 miles... one of those over 150. Though I've got very few rides on the Adamo, the mileage is significant... over 600 miles. The Adamo Breakaway has been exactly what I wanted. I'll keep it on there.

Installed on the Fixie Adventure Bike during a 120 mile, unsupported (not even a water stop), gravel grinder ride.

 Final Comment:

Last comment on the saddle... The main reason why I was so careful about measuring and choosing the saddle was that THESE THINGS ARE FREAKING EXPENSIVE!!! The $225 price tag made me stop and think a few times.  I could almost buy 2 Specialized Toupe saddles for that. I'm glad I didn't, but it is definitely something to consider.

I lied about that being my final comment:

Everyone is going to comment on it or ask about it. It looks weird and people want to know about it.  Be prepared for that with either a serious, helpful answer, or something kind of obnoxious.  My personal favorite answer is, "It feels like I'm sitting on a giant tongue."  It takes a few moments for people who don't know me to figure out that I'm joking.


Adamo Breakaway:

Local Adamo Dealers: All have a demo program, I believe... Tri360s is probably the best saddle demo fleet I've ever seen.
  • Tri360:
  • Freshbikes:
  • Bonzai Sports:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review. I stopped in at Freshbikes a couple nights ago to check out the ISM Adamo saddles, as I was still "recovering" from a 65 mile ride this past Saturday on my stock Madone saddle. They only had the Road, Racing, and Time Trial models in stock, but they were able to order the Breakaway. After having my sit bones measured at 140mm, they encouraged me to go for the Specialized Romin Evo Expert, which is 168mm wide. The guy I spoke with said that the ISM Adamo models were more popular with triathletes who remain fixed in an aero position. But at the risk of ignoring professional advice, I went ahead and ordered the Breakaway. I'm glad to see someone else has used this saddle on a non TT bike with success. I'm hoping that it works out just as well for me!