Friday, August 5, 2011

Mr. Millimeter

I was thinking about small things recently.  Not nano small, but reasonably small, like millimeter small.  In fact, not just "like" millimeter small, but exactly millimeters.

A number of years ago, I was building or changing some bike and Steve recommended a "new" saddle from Selle Italia that he thought might be a good seat for me.  Unfortunately, there isn't a great way to figure out what is a good seat and what is not a good seat for any one person except by riding on it.  It is my experience that a few seats you will hate within minutes.  Others are comfortable to start, but after an hour or so, you start to realize ways that the seat doesn't agree with your particular particulars.  And, once in a while, you find a seat that is comfortable for hours and hours and hours.  Or at least as comfortable as any seat can be for that duration.  When you find that seat, you don't really want to consider riding anything else.  Which explains why top level pro riders have been known to ride a specific saddle for years, even decades, after the model isn't produced anymore.

For me, that seat is a Selle Italia Gel Flow seat, but what I didn't realize when I ordered my last seat is that Selle Italia makes somewhere between 5 and 37 models that are Gel Flow seats, but they aren't a specific line or part of the line, the name just appears within other line-ups or groups.  As a result, you can order a seat that appears to be exactly what you looking for and have it not be right.  And, in fact, I ordered the wrong seat and it wasn't until riding it that I realized that it was not quite that loving feeling that I remembered.  Being a somewhat picky dude, I thought it was a good idea to figure out which seat I wanted, which is what lead to the discovery not only of the full extent of the Selle Italia line-up, which includes 142,921 different models each year, but that they only have about a dozen names that they mix-up and rearrange to create the model names.  I think that the "Selle Italia Gel Flow Pro Link" and the "Selle Italia Pro Link Gel Flow" may actually be different models, although honestly I can't tell for sure.  But what I do know for sure is that the gel flow seat I got is about 14 millimeters more narrow than the gel flow seat that I wanted.

I have a buddy I call "Mr. Millimeter" because he pays attention to the exact and perfect measurement of his cycling gear.  He has been known to adjust the seat of his bike to take into account the thickness of his socks, so when I say he is exact, I mean he is really exact.  I, on the other hand, am more likely to lick my finger, stick in the wind, bang on the seat or seat post so it moves one way or the other and then call it good.  Mind you, the finger licking has nothing to do with the adjustment, but lacking any other measuring device, I use what I have.

In this case, however, I find that 14 millimeters does really make a difference.  Keep in mind that 14 millimeters is only 1.4 centimeters.  It is less than the width of my thumb and, in fact, it is even less than the width of my pinky.  And, I should hasten to add, my ass is dramatically wider than either my thumb or my pinky.  As a result, it seems funny that a seat that is 130 millimeters wide is too small to be comfortable beyond an hour or two, but one that is 144 millimeters will take me from Seattle to Portland in a day, or along the Tour of Pain route in a day, or where ever, with nary a complaint.  I admit I am surprised, but it is the case.

I don't think I will start measuring the thickness of my socks, but I will at least consider it the next time a discussion of stack heights and stem lengths comes around.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the club, young padawan. But you exaggerate. I never measure the thickness of my socks. Well, maybe once, but ONLY once.

    Kidding aside, great post!