Those of you who follow my rantings on the unicycle forums know I’ve had issues with unicycle seats for as long as I have been a unicycling. I’m not the only one, because saddle comfort seems to be the biggest thorn in crotch of long distance unicyclists.
This medieval torture device comes in more or less one shape, because most modern unicycle seats use the same plastic KH/Velo bases. It takes years to recoup the cost of designing and producing a plastic base, hence there are few choices available. The differences between the various models relate to how much foam is used to pad it out with. They universally curve upwards to wedge against your crotch, and are fatter, heavier and wider than necessary.
A unicycle saddle looks and rides like a horse saddle, despite the motion of our legs and posture being closer to that of a bicyclist. My theory is that prior to the recent popularity of long distance unicycling, most unicyclists rode freestyle, or took part in short distance races. It was necessary to have an upwards wedge to keep you on the saddle during hands free maneuvers. That is not the case with road unicycling- we always have our hands on the handle. It would be akin to having an upward curvature on a bicycle saddle to stop you falling off the front.
Enter Peter Barrell, a unicyclist from Waikanae, a small coastal settlement an hour north of Welllington. On my recent visit to NZ, I mentioned the problem of curved seats, and it so happened that Peter is a whizz at making carbon fibre parts. With little encouragement required, Pete designed a mold for a flat, carbon fibre unicycle saddle.
The result is the flattest, thinnest and also one of the lightest, unicycle saddles I’ve used. We call it the NNC Flatfish. NNC stands for ‘No Nut Crush’.
I cannibalised a few parts from an old KH seat, which fitted nicely on the new base. Although the base itself is flat, my seat had a very mild curve because of the mounting hardware at the front. It would be easy to trim this down if necessary.
A little bit of anatomy- the two bony bits of your pelvis which you sit on are the ischial tuberosities (the ‘sit bones’). That is what should be in contact with the widest part of the saddle, and is what a saddle should support. There is no need for the saddle to squish the squishy parts of your anatomy, which is the rest of the perineum. In a male, the squishy parts of your anatomy corresponds to where the KH seatbases does a 45 degree upwards turn.
Every male unicyclist should do this….take off your clothes. Now sit on a KH saddle. Notice how your scrotum bulges upwards in a most unsatisfactory way. This is not natural. It is not good for you, and it is not good for future generations. Not so with the NNC Flatfish. I did the same experiment, and suffice to say, things had room to hang. I have left the male anatomy out of this diagram, but it sits just under the symphysis pubis.
So how does it ride?
I thought I would try the most crotch numbing ride imaginable- long distance on a standard racing unicycle (125mm/24”/100PSI), which amounts to low resistance, ultra-high cadence riding. Not only that, I would use regular shorts, rather than bike shorts. On a regular saddle, you’d be crying on the side of the road after 10km.
I’m happy to report that I’ve ridden over 50km at an average speed of 18km/hr with no dismounts. The only thing which hurt was my back, and my legs, but not my crotch. Since then I’ve put in several hundred kms on the NNC saddle, and it is the best unicycle saddle I’ve ever used. In terms of stiffness, the Carbon Fibre base doesn’t flex at all, which is good when you’re pulling hard on the seat. Although I’ve yet to test it off-road, the lower handle position seems to allow more leverage (your biceps brachii generate the most power when it is close to it’s full length), so I think it will be great for MUni.
I will be mounting a KH t-bar to it to tackle this year’s 160km Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. Looking forward to it!
See this thread for our discussion on the NNC Saddle: http://tinyurl.com/9glullf
More photos on our Facebook Page: http://tinyurl.com/9tjz43j