Photo courtesy of MoonSaddle.
If you've ever ridden a bike for exercise, chances are you've stepped off the saddle and had to walk a little funny as the soreness in your groin gradually dissipates. Saddle soreness has led to a number of innovations on the bicycle-seat front--from heavily-padded seat covers to saddles that look more like barstools--but one product has taken the design to a new level.
The MoonSaddle, as its name implies, is shaped like a crescent moon. This design eliminates the part of the seat that comes in contact with the perineum of a cyclist. Pressure in this area has been linked to erectile dysfunction, lower sperm counts and even some health problems in women--chronicled in a Los Angeles Times article published in April 2007 called "The cyclist's tight spot."
Unlike soft, padded gel saddles--which some experts say makes the pressure worse by causing riders to sink down in the seat--the idea behind the MoonSaddle is to shift the area where a cyclist's weight is normally supported to the body's skeletal system. In this aspect, the MoonSaddle does exactly what it claims.
Instead of a straddling position, you're riding in more of a sitting position, which takes some getting used to. I had to lower my seat a few inches so as to not have too much weight distributed on my handle bars. I was worried the new position would decrease my control over the bike--not something I wanted to deal with while fighting for road space with morning commuters. It didn't turn out to be a problem, however, as the position I initially had the MoonSaddle in felt almost like I was pedaling out of the saddle while leaning my rear end against something.
Experimenting with different heights, I found that a lower seat provided an easy sitting position, great for flat or longer rides. The higher I moved the saddle, the easier it was to tackle hills, perhaps due to the ease with which you can alternate between sitting and standing on the bike. I didn't have any lower-back pain, typically associated with improper bike fit, while riding with the MoonSaddle. The only limitation I experienced was the inability to slide back on the seat without restricting my down-stroke while pedaling. As long as I was directly on top of it or on the front third, however, I had no problems.
The surface of the MoonSaddle is made of a waterproof elastomer skin and provides enough traction to prevent you from sliding off, even when wearing spandex. It's not too soft--it is about as firm as a not-yet-ripe avocado. The skin on the one I tested did begin to slightly loosen and separate from the saddle's core after several weeks of daily riding, but surprisingly didn't rip or stretch out, and the ride wasn't affected.
The MoonSaddle weighs 360 grams (12.9 oz.), well below the weight of many "comfort saddles." It attaches easily to a seat post and the stainless steel rails seem well secured to the saddle.
It's a freeing experience to ride without the horn of a saddle pushing into you, one that I quickly exploited by skipping the traditional padded bike shorts and wearing loose, mesh shorts during my commutes. Yet you're still sitting on a saddle while pedaling, and the points of contact on my butt felt the miles after long rides. No different, however, than my normal seat.
In an effort to truly put the MoonSaddle through its paces, I used it in a sprint triathlon. It didn't hinder my speed at all, though an attempt at a rolling dismount almost became an embarrassing situation. The width of the crescent nearly caused me to catch my leg and fall over. I was definitely glad to avoid the occasional standing "shake out" that I usually find myself doing near the end of the bike leg to increase blood flow, and I could readily appreciate what wasn't sore once I began the run.
Will we see professional cyclists using these saddles anytime soon? Probably not. But the MoonSaddle does seem perfect for those doing century rides, commuters, and anyone else whose first thought before hopping on a bike is the pain they're going to have to deal with in an area they'd rather not restrict.