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
Garret in MA says
In the mid 70s I added “weight saving” flutes to my Campy seatpost with a milling machine. Later on I noticed a crack, and stopped using that seatpost.
Robert Ames says
I have found the Thompson seat post to be very strong. It is easy to adjust, one each fore and aft bolt to reset saddle angle with a 3 foot level, and allow the seat to be adjusted for distance to the stem with out parts loose parts in your hands, easy to inspect and grease. (pedros) .
Riding in a variety of terrain, I replace me saddle about every 18 months on my road bikes and ever other season on gravel and mountain bikes. I have not replaced a Thompson seat post on a titanium Moots since building the bike in 2004. I do keep everything clean and either greased or lubricated. Titanium takes a special grease.
Road bike Rider reader since day 1 with Ed and Fred at Lon and Susans PAC Tour desert Camp .
Bob Smith says
Love that closing line in your comment;
thoroughly enjoyed those sessions with at Desert Camp!
Re: your replacing saddles every 18 months:
Do you ride leather covered saddles? If so, where do you find them on such a regular basis? I can’t stand riding the non-leather saddles, but have noticed that finding good leather ones are harder to find these days. (outside of dropping $100+ for a Brooks)
Stephen Rovinsky says
I use Selle Anatomica saddles. They’re made in the US, and they sell a line of saddles with replaceable and repairable parts. They even have a NewSkin program to replace the leather saddle. If you like leather saddles, or if you’d ever had a Brooks saddle, look at these. Web-site: https://selleanatomica.com/
Fred Matheny says
Robert—Thanks for the comments! I remember that Desert Camp well—we had a great week’s riding. Only two weeks of Desert Camp coming up in March due to Covid but Lon and Susan’s tours are still the best. Fred Matheny
Not sure if this is a hack or just a tip. We’re already in winter in the Northeast; in fact, there’s raging blizzard going on outside as I type with 15″ of snow on the ground already, sideways snow blowing with gusts of 40 mph, and 5″ more of snow expected. So today will be on the torture chamber from cycling hell – my stationary trainer. My hack is about keeping one’s head warm during cold weather riding. I’ll assume that everyone knows that keeping one’s head warm is the first step toward keeping everything else warm all the way down to your toes and fingertips. A good balaclava head covering is a good start. A good helmet cover is also important. Because all those nice wind channels in your helmet that keep you cool in the summer also keep you cold during the winter, a helmet cover helps block that wind. But a lot of wind still gets through. Here’s the extra tip. Use your old helmet or a less expensive helmet for sub-freezing cold, but put duct tape over the vents to block the wind flow. Block only the front 1/2 or 2/3 of the vents. You want to leave the back part open to let any warm moisture vent out the back. Moisture close to any body part is the enemy of cold weather riding. Then put the helmet cover over the helmet. No one will know what a weird looking helmet you have, but they will want to know why you seem so comfortable in the cold.
George Straznitskas says
Excellent! I also live in New England and use duct tape to block venting on my shoes. Blocking the front helmet vents is a great idea. Thanks.
Randy Brich says
Indoor cycling hack — Spotify earbuds music of choice
Warmup 15-20 minutes, last 3 min structured, Hi rep, 3×30 sec at FTP w/ 30 sec recovery
2 min recovery
Workout: 3×8 min Tempo w/ 20 sec FTP every 2 min and 2 min recovery.
Tempo RPM = 65-75, FTP rpm = 90-95
larry english says
i’ve had broken seat posts, clamps, and rails
every time for me, it was a gradual failure – either a sag or a crack slowly happened
your crash was very unlucky!–sorry
For a seat post plug I use an adjustable boat plug. The type with the screw tensioner down the middle. Cheap and water tight.
Kerry A Irons says
Back in the ’70s there was a nutty pursuit of light weight, and we didn’t have the quality of alloys or design that we have today. I think it was Avocet, but some company came out with a superlight seat post that had a reputation for failure. I seem to remember some woman winning a national level road race riding “out of the saddle” because her seat post broke off a few miles from the finish!
I used Campy seat posts from the late 60s to 2015, and the last 5 years with a Thompson alloy post. Never had a problem in several hundred thousand miles of road riding. I did have a Fizik Alliente saddle rail break at about 35K miles (I weigh about 175 lb/80 kg). It creaked for a few weeks before breaking and I was still able to ride it home since one rail held up.
Dave Minden says
I ride a Brooks Pro on both my bikes. One’s now 7 years old – I know, new for the Pro! I use a seat cover both riding and when the bike’s on the back of the car, a bit of moisture can get in but not enough to soak the seat and endanger softening it. I also use Oberhof’s heavy duty lp waterproofing grease on the underside of the saddle and it’s coated it well.
Fred Rose says
Jim Langley said in the above article about Linda’s crash: “I’ve broken multiple seatposts and saddles and know plenty of other riders who have, too.” Are you buying ultralight seats and posts? are these seat posts MTB equipment or road equipment? because in over 40 years of riding, and 10 of that racing, and mostly on road bikes, I’ve never broken a seat or seat post, nor have I ever known anyone who has in my small crowd I know; and even my 8 or so years of MTB riding I’ve never broken any either.
Jim Langley says
By now you’ve probably read the other comments and seen that I’m not the only one who has broken seats and posts. You also saw that the roadie who asked the question, Linda broke her post. So, I’m happy to hear you haven’t and you don’t know anyone who has, but that’s definitely not the norm.
And, yes, to answer your question, I have ridden all types of seatposts and saddles over the years. Some have been superlight but most have been normal high quality seatposts and saddles of normal weights. FYI: The last seatpost I broke was a Shimano Dura-Ace. The last seatpost I heard about that broke was my buddy Tony’s Thomson seatpost. But that’s not to run down those makers, it’s just to explain to provide actual examples. Like I said, these parts are under incredible stress and it might not be the fault of the component that it broke.
Hope this helps explain,
David Kamp says
How do these stresses get applied to the seat post? When ascending, standing, no stress. When ascending seated, I can understand stress. But enough to break a post? I’ve never broken a post, so am thinking there are cyclists out there with much greater strength than I will ever dream of having.
Doug Kio says
Any well stocked hardware store will have a selection of rubber or real cork plugs to substitute for a seatpost in your frame in lots of sizes and cost about a dollar.
Daniel S. Glass says
I am an attorney in California who has ridden extensively for the past 30 years, at least 5000 miles/year. I also handle bicycle product liability cases for injured cyclists. a number of years ago I had a client who was injured (small vertebral compression fracture) when the bold holding his saddle on the seat post snapped while riding and he was shot off the back of the bike. At the trial of the case, my expert witness, who had a PhD in material science, testified that the stress on a single bolt seat post is tremendous and eventually they will ALL fail from use. The key to safety is inspection, proper torque, of bolts and even periodic replacement of the bolts. Lightweight components fail. Everyone should know it – that it one reason why carbon bikes have short limited warranties, not like the old steel bikes with “lifetime warranties.” diligently try to find out what is causing that little “creak” before it becomes a disaster. Stay safe.
Mike Moreland says
One time for me in 30+ years of cycling. I had a saddle clamp bolt snap with the saddle falling off. No crash. I felt the saddle come loose and stood up on the pedals. Luckily I was only about 2.5 miles from my house so I shoved the saddle in a jersey pocket and stood all the way home. For about 3 weeks I was hearing a creaking noise and myself along with two other bike mechanics could not figure out where it was coming from. I think the crank and bottom bracket were removed and replaced twice in the process. When the clamp bolt (alloy steel) finally snapped it was fairly loud like a shot. I started laughing and felt so relieved to finally know the source of the creaking that was driving me mad.
In my younger days I rode a fast Wednesday Niterr with a large group of cyclists. One night, one of the cadre that started from my house, hence one of my buddies, had a seat post malfunction that left his post a very dangerous projection inches below the the connection for the seat rails…the post having snapped off with the connection inside the seat. Still about ten miles left on the ride, the small group returning to my house milled about checking out Peter’s situation and whether we needed to remove the post so he could ride standing safely, call a spouse (pre-Uber), or someone go fetch a car. Though it was a very nice part of town, one of us found a men’s boot tossed into some high grass outside the fencing of a new home. When put on the post it offered a reasonably comfortable place for him to perch on a modest paced ride to our start. Fortunately for us, Peter didn’t have any of the problems that Linda had and it was just figuring out how to get somewhere safely.