Split-nose saddle designs have made quite the splash in the last several years. Initially, the saddles were a fringe product, adopted by only a small corner of the tri market. More recently, these saddles have shown up on the rigs of race-winning elites, including the TT bike of Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. With the benefit of experience and years of use, the engineers at ISM have refined the shape and functionality of their Adamo saddles, and introduced a new design that appears in the Podium and Breakaway models. To get at the heart of these new saddles, let's first take a look back at their predecessor.
The Original Adamo
The split-nosed Adamo saddle was built to address a problem many athletes have while in a pelvis-rotated-forward, low, aggressive triathlon position: regular saddles hurt. A conventional saddle has a thin nose section which normally doesn't get much use, as road riders sit on the rear half of their saddles. Triathletes, on the other hand, sit much farther forward, and with a pelvis rotated towards the ground, a thin needle-like saddle puts too much pressure on the downstairs region. A split nose, on the other hand, makes contact on the ischial tuberosity bones (the "sit bones"), keeping sensitive tissue happy and comfortable.
The problem with the original design is that it was a bit too specific. A rider had to stay in one position on the saddle, without moving forward or backward during the ride. Going backwards was uncomfortable due to the very wide rear end, and moving forward didn't work because the saddle abruptly cut off at the front.
The New Breed
ISM's new Podium and Breakaway models fix the complaints above. First off, we note that the designs are identical. The only difference between the Podium and the Breakaway is, supposedly, the amount of padding they have. The Breakaway is supposed to have a little bit more, but we weren't really able to detect a difference in practice. The saddles are, for all practical purposes, identical. While the models are ostensibly aimed at the road market, they are in fact a step forward for triathletes. Want to sit further back? No problem. Advocates of the original design would say that if you weren't comfortable with the original Adamo's wide rear end, then you weren't sitting on the saddle correctly. That it wasn't designed to be sat on that way. Well, those critics are correct, but what's wrong with wanting to shift around? Movement along a saddle is a normal thing, and it can be frustrating to be forced onto one 2cm-long patch of saddle for 112 miles.
The Podium and Breakaway address that problem quite well. The rear end doesn't flare out as quickly as the old Adamo, allowing for more aftward movement. You still can't get as far back as you would on a traditional saddle, nor will you want to. The new design leaves just enough room for you to move around in order to accommodate different muscle groups on those long rides.
But the real story of these saddles is in the nose. Read on.