By John Marsh, Editor & Publisher
Weight: 190 grams
Source: company website
How obtained: purchased from company
RBR advertiser: no
Time tested: 6 months
The entrepreneurial spirit is woven into the fabric of bike technology. How often has a cyclist or mechanic said to themselves, I can make a better (insert tool or component name here) than that thing? And another business was born.
Such is the case with the Kontact Anatomical Saddle. Joshua Cohen, a physical therapist, wrote his graduate thesis on male ergonomic bicycle seat design. Then, distilling his voluminous scholarly research, he wrote Finding the Perfect Bicycle Seat and, recently, a new eBook for RBR, The Illustrated Guide to Bicycle Seats.
Along the way, as he states in his new eBook, “You can’t study bicycle seats for years without developing your own ideas about an improved design.” The Kontact saddle is actually an update of his previous seat design called the E3 Form that was sold for a time by Performance Bikes. Over the years, he’s received so much demand from owners of the previous seat that he decided to retool the design and bring it back into production.
Devoid of Gimmicks
One of the first things you notice about the Kontact is that it doesn’t have any of the hallmarks of modern saddle design (no grooves, no slots, no wedges, no gel, no flex, no special materials in different areas of the saddle, etc.). If you read his books, you’ll know why. He has a thorough, understanding of how anatomy, riding style, position on the bike and other factors combine with pressure exerted on the saddle to cause saddle-related discomfort — and how, through design, to help avoid it.
The foundational element of the Kontact’s design is the wide, flat rear surface made to support the sit bones and minimize nerve and artery compression. I noticed immediately the first time I sat on the saddle, with my hands on the hoods, that the hard foam padding (as with most high-end saddles, there’s not much of it) really seemed to support my weight directly on my sit bones. It provides a feeling of slight elevation, vs. your body really pushing down onto the saddle.
This is exactly what Kontact claims makes the seat work, but it does take some time to adapt to. It took me a couple weeks of regular rides for my muscles and tissue around my sit bones to get used to the saddle. (Because of its width, the seat is designed to accommodate a variety of sit bone widths, and the company says it’s fine for both men and women.)
All the while, though, I could feel that because the seat met my sit bones so directly, my perineum was not under as much pressure as with my previous saddle, a fizi:k Arione. I had ridden the Arione for a couple years, and I recall it taking several weeks to break my butt into that one, so a couple weeks of adaptation time was an improvement.
Another difference between the Kontact and the more traditional teardrop-shaped saddles like the Arione is the abrupt “transition angle” between the rear platform and the nose of the seat. Most other saddles slowly transition from rear to front, which leaves an area that can cause friction on your inner thighs, and potentially hinder your pedal stroke.
The Arione’s “wing flex” was designed to allow the saddle to flex in this area. The lessened rigidity was supposed to allow for a freer stroke. The Kontact achieves the same thing, but by simply doing away with that part of the saddle. THere’s nothing there to cause friction or impede a smooth pedal turn.
A benefit of this shape is the ability to slide back slightly on the saddle when climbing, while still having a free, efficient stroke. A drawback is that if you’re the type of rider who likes to shift far forward on occasion, this saddle won’t easily allow that.
According to the company, “The patented design increases blood oxygen flow by an average of 4x over a traditional tear-drop shaped bicycle seat design while riding in an aero, drop bar position.” The saddle is, to me, quite comfortable both in the drops and with my aero bars on the bike. Part of the reason is the rolling forward of the hips, which takes the direct pressure off the sit bones. Even so, the aero position still doesn’t cause undue perineal pressure.
The Bottom Line
It wouldn’t be a proper saddle review without noting that saddles are the most personal choice of equipment on a bike. We all have slight differences in anatomy, differences in riding style and preferred position that make one man’s treasured saddle another man’s trash. The Kontact to me is a treasure. I’ve ridden it on multi-day, high-mileage tours, hard group rides, hammerfests and a time trial. For me, it performs as advertised.
John Marsh is the editor and publisher of RBR Newsletter and RoadBikeRider.com. A rider of “less than podium” talent, he sees himself as RBR’s Ringmaster, guiding the real talent (RBR’s great coaches, contributors and authors) in bringing our readers consistently useful, informative, entertaining info that helps make them better road cyclists. That’s what we’re all about here—always have been, always will be. Click to read John’s full bio.
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