Much like the Republicans after the last presidential election, I did an autopsy after the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred this year, to try and figure out what went wrong. (Let’s hope I learned more than they obviously have.) Leg cramps had me off the bike several times in the last 18 miles. I’ve ridden HHH the last eight years. I always give it a high effort, and considering that and the heat, it’s not surprising that my legs want to cramp at times. Most of the time, though, I’ve been able to just ease up my effort, and finish the ride without an off-the-bike caliber of cramp. On two of those rides, however, cramps have stopped me.
The first obvious observation is that on all six HHH rides where I finished without stopping for cramps, I was riding a Euromesh seat on a Corsa. When I cratered with cramps, I was riding a CCK seat on a Roadster, then a RailGun seat on an F5. What do these seats have in common? If it had only been the RailGun, I would have probably blamed it on the extreme recline. But, with the CCK on the Roadster, there was enough rear wheel interference that I couldn’t recline the seat as much as I wanted, not even as much as the Euromesh was reclined on the Corsa.
Besides being made out of carbon fiber, the other thing these seats have in common is that they don’t have much of a seat pan. That is, they don’t curve up at the front of the seat to give you something for your behind to rest against as you slide forward. The more I thought about it, the more I decided that this is the most likely cause of my lack of comfort, and leg cramps on long, hard efforts, on these seats. Not all seats work for all people, and I’m thinking that Euro style seats which have no seat pan just don’t work as well for me. My first effort to help with this was to put a small piece of wally world camper pad at the front of the CCK seat, under the regular seat pad. I just put velcro on the top and bottom of it, to keep it in place. Here is that pad.
That lessened the feeling that I was about to slide off the front of the seat, but was never enough to get me really comfortable with the CCK seat. I had kept this pad, and used it again on the RailGun seat, but it obviously wasn’t nearly enough to make the seat comfortable for me. On a short ride, it wouldn’t be a problem. And I don’t normally ride more than 10 to 15 miles without stopping, but I had noticed aches and pains if I went longer without a stop on the RailGun.
My first thought was to just go back to the Euromesh seat. But, I like that wide seatback on the RailGun, and the support it gives my cratered shoulders, so much that I decided to try creating a seat pan for it, first. I took the camper pad that I was already using, and glued several more camper pad pieces to it, to make a wedge.
Next, I put masking tape around the wedge and painted it black.
Finally, I wrapped it with the same material I had used to make the seat pad cover, and put velcro on the top.
Here is the RailGun seat with it installed, and the Euromesh seat laying on top, for a rough comparison.
After installing this setup, I raised the seat two notches. It’s still seems a bit more reclined than the Euromesh was, but it’s close to what was comfortable for me all those years on the Euromesh. It’s no doubt a bit less aerodynamic, but improves my view of the road. I rode the F5 for three weeks with this new setup, and it did seem like an improvement. It still didn’t seem like enough, though. Behind the pad, and in front of the lumbar curve on the RailGun, is a valley that my behind and tailbone sat in. I felt like I needed to add one more longer piece of camper pad underneath the wedge, to fill this valley. Here is what I made.
It goes from the front of the wedge, almost to the start of the lumbar curve of the RailGun. Here is the wedge on top of it.
And here is the seat with its new configuration.
It does seem much more comfortable for me. I haven’t done any really long rides on it, though. It will probably be next year’s HHH before I know if it’s as comfortable for me as the Euromesh was. We’ll see.