Saddle Donut Pro
12g (when prepared for fitting, as tested) $39.95 (£29.21 at time of writing)
The Saddle Donut Pro, from CushionAid,is a cleverly designed addition to your saddle aimed to prevent saddle-soreness as well as benefitting your cycling prowess in other ways. A bit of care is needed when fitting to your saddle, but it’s a process rather than a faff about. On-line reviews are a testament to its many fans, but contact points are very personal thing – none more so than saddles (or seats, if you must).
Pros: reduces chances of saddle-soreness and slip in the saddle.
Cons: will not suit all saddle materials, reducing ability to adjust position may not suit all disciplines.
The Saddle Donut Pro is designed to prevent saddle sores on long rides (true, what constitutes a long ride is a matter for individual definition; to reduce slippage in the saddle and the need for readjustment (how big a problem this is or if easy movement in the saddle is seen as desirable is, again, a matter for the individual); and to cradle your ischial tuberosities more effectively, thus increasing pedalling efficiency and direct power to the pedals (even less sportier riders are unlikely to reject greater efficiency as a benefit. Above all it is really light, so even speedsters may well feel the additional weight pales into insignificance when matched to the benefits.
Interestingly, green cred can be enhanced, too. The USA manufacturers are proud to state that the materials are all plant based and compostable. Don’t fear, even the most fetid product of a long day of cycling in humid weather will not cause disintegration, but when the time comes to remove it – although you may never want to – you can dispose of it with a clear conscience.
There are three options to fit male, female, and tri saddles, which covers most bases. It is up to you to decide, and given that ergonomic differences between men and women include a huge overlap, it is worth remembering that you are buying the donut to fit your saddle not your own rump.
Cradling, relief, and security are provided by a rash of raised pimples.
Having chosen the right model for your saddle, take time to read the instructions and, watch the on-line video. The saddle needs to be surgically clean to ensure the best adhesion. Without that the benefits promised will not be delivered.
Follow the instruction on how to locate the Donut in the optimum position. Cut it to size, and locate carefully.
The process may sound lengthy, but is not onerous. Keith, from MaxBikes – the UK PR agency working with CushionAid (the manufacturers) – tells us that the Donut is removable but not transferable. Getting the installation right is well worth the time.
Whatever saddle one uses it is likely to be one that you find comfortable. I’d not suggest using the Donut to try to convert an uncomfortable saddle into the perfect perch. That is not its purpose.
Personally, I did not want to fit it on a leather saddle or the velour-look Velo Orange saddle that adorns the seventies Carlton Clubman. Equally, some cheaper saddles seemed unlikely to give a firm enough anchorage. So, I selected a road touring/sports saddle.
I ported the saddle between the single-speed – where a secure saddle position aids steady cadence and power – the day fun bike (seventies Carlton Clubman), and the hack-cum-old tourer.
I hate to discuss my arse in public, but I have rarely suffered from saddle-soreness in the last thirty years. I’ve found well-worn-in leather saddles very comfortable, but even on others, such as the Soma Okami, have felt very comfortable on longer rides. Evaluating for efficacy against saddle-soreness might be a little problematic. Hence, I decided to farm out longer rides to a couple of acquaintances, both of whom were aiming to extend their cycling range. The report on performance is a combination of their observations and mine.
There’s no doubt that, given an appropriate saddle, there’s absolute security between saddle and donut. Likewise, all testers agreed that even the shiniest seat of winter longs sat more securely on the ‘knobbly bits”. Now, there are those – especially off-roading technical single-trackers – who love to adjust position rapidly. They should not worry; contact is secure, not sticky. For ‘plodding tourists’ such as I, and speedier roadies, such as the other testers, that additional security may be a plus. We’d conclude that this does enable more power to be driven into the pedals – remember, you have to produce the power first!
The big selling point of the donut is a promise to prevent saddle-soreness. No-one likes saddle-sores, and at some stage in our cycling lives most of us will have had some. Leathery-mounted leathery-arsed tourers may have forgotten them, and, I for one, rarely feel any soreness after an eighty-miler. However, others, particularly those extending distances and time spent in the saddle, are prone to the off-putting affliction.
Both other testers regularly cycled thirty-mile rides in a little under two hours. Their aim was to get up to sixty, then eighty-mile rides – the latter planned to take around six hours, not including a break. What was the impact? Well, the donut-deprived control found that there was distinct soreness, and after the first eighty-miler, a distinct feeling that they might never get back on a bike. The donut-favoured rider found no soreness up to sixty, although a little after their first eighty-mile ride – but not enough to make them think twice.
Swapping places, there was a sense of relief and, a bit of moot point, the feeling of comforting stimulation of the sore areas.
Light-weight as it is, only the weight-weeniest rider could really object.
Nothing puts people off longer rides than saddle sores. In that sense, a precautionary addition to the saddle offers real pluses. It does offer secure contact, and marginal gains in power may be just what you want; there’s no doubt it has reduced saddle soreness amongst riders extending. That seems to make the donut good value. It may be of little value to the rider who does not suffer saddle-soreness or who would not want their shiny leather saddle suffer an aesthetic affront. Frankly, the Donut’s value depends purely on the individual – for some it could be invaluable, for others, an irreleveance.
Ingenious, light, effective, with distinct merits, the Saddle Donut Pro, has a lot to recommend it. If you’re aiming for more ambitious, longer rides, with more time in the saddle, or looking for that little extra drive, it has a lot to offer. Even tardy old traditionalists, such as I, may find that a return to longer Audax rides may well be a happier experience with the Donut in place.