Jim’s Tech Talk
This week, I’m running with an idea from retired engineer Will Haltiwanger who pounds the pavement in Columbia, South Carolina. A big RBR fan, Will asked if we have ever had a column featuring things that people have come up with to enhance their cycling that are “a bit outside the box.”
We’ve offered tons of cycling tips for as long as RoadBikeRider has been around. But Will’s got a different concept that piqued my interest. Maybe it will yours, too. He’s looking for what is more like what we call hacks, today. Rather than mainstream, commonly known tricks and tips, he’s looking for more one-off, unique cycling solutions.
Will’s OTB Hack
“Here are a few photos of my solution to a need. When I’m traveling any distance with my bike on the car, and especially in the rain, I want to protect my perfectly broken in Brooks leather saddle. So, I remove my seatpost with the seat attached.
To keep moisture and debris out of my frame, I have been filling the hole with an old seatpost, but I wanted something small and light. I thought there would be plugs for sale, but I didn’t find them.
So I bought a seatpost shim (that black part in the photo marked with the diameters) for less than $15 (available at bike shops and on Amazon). I then inserted a retired Drambuie cork. It actually snapped on like they were made for each other, but I added a bit of Gorilla Glue to make sure they do not part ways on the highway. Now, I just put a cork in it (the frame) and voila, the saddle and bike are safe!”
I’ve ruined a few fine Brooks saddles myself so I appreciate Will’s tip. Brooks actually makes an affordable quality waterproof saddle cover (photo) https://amzn.to/3gK1Lyo. But, when a bike is on a car rack the rain might work its way up and under a cover. You could wrap it in plastic or tape on a plastic bag. But with Will’s hack, the saddle stays dry no matter what.
If Will’s hack makes you think of one you’ve come up with that you’d like to tell the world about, please send it in. I’ll read them and share the best ones here from time to time, or maybe put them all together for a feature on readers’ best hacks in the future.
While it just so happens to also concern seatposts and possibly saddles, the other topic on the docket today is to answer a reader named Linda’s comment.
She posted it in a general area on the RBR website and I’m concerned she won’t see my reply. So, I’m running her comment and my reply hoping that she’ll see it. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts for her.
“My saddle snapped off.. “
“Fortunately, I was only a half mile from home when my saddle snapped off the stem. Needless to say, I flew off the bike and landed about 6’ away sprawl eagle in the middle of the street, fortunately, no traffic. There was damage done to the bike, but the bike shop will be able to make it alright again.
Anyhow, my question is, how often are you aware of this happening? I was riding about a 7 year old Ridley Forte.”
What I told Linda
I’m sorry to hear about the accident and glad you weren’t hurt too badly, Linda. Unfortunately, seatposts and seats break. I’ve broken multiple seatposts and saddles and know plenty of other riders who have, too. The only good thing I can say is that for me they’ve been few and far between, but it does happen.
It’s not the brand or quality of components that decides if they break, either. I’ve broken the “best” seatposts you can buy from the top makers. Only after tens of thousands of miles, but it did and does happen.
FYI: Right now I ride mostly on Cervelo carbon seatposts made for my Cervelo aero bikes (I have three Cervelo bikes all with similar versions of the seatpost). On my 1999 Litespeed I have a Campagnolo Super Record aluminum seatpost circa 1989 that’s still hanging in there.
Both components take a beating on every ride. All you can do is check them regularly (at least twice a season) to ensure there are no issues such as cracking or corrosion or loosening parts. And treat them right.
If you’re not sure the parts were installed correctly or worried about condition issues, I would remove them, inspect everything and make sure. For example, if the frame or seatpost binder bolt or saddle clamp were to have any burs or sharp edges, they could cut into the seatpost or saddle rails possibly leading to a break down the road.
For your own peace of mind you should ask the bike shop if they figured out what caused the seatpost to break. Or if it was the saddle, what caused it to break. Ideally, something caused the failure that they can fix so that the replacement doesn’t fail for the same reason.
Know that there are many things that can cause problems. One is overtightening the bolts that hold the seatpost and saddle. They need to be tightened to the correct torque and checked regularly. Another is allowing any of the parts to corrode because it weakens them and can cause them to break. And, one more is twisting seatposts.
It’s common for cyclists to twist round seatposts to raise and lower a seat. With steel seatposts, this isn’t likely to cause any problems. With aluminum seatposts, you have to be sure that nothing can scratch the post when you twist it (such as the frame or the seatpost clamp) or else you’ll be making a perfect failure point where the post will break. With carbon, the risk is even higher. So, a good rule is to not twist seatposts unless there’s no other option and then be prepared to replace the post if you damage it.
Readers, please share your seatpost and saddle durability knowledge with Linda, too. Thanks!
Ride total: 9,849
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.