It was on the Narrows Bridge in Tacoma, Wash., more than two decades ago that Jeri Rutherford first started thinking it was time to change the world one butt at a time.
She was commuting home to Gig Harbor, Wash., when she was hit from behind by another car, the third time she’d been rear-ended on the bridge.
“I thought there should be fewer cars on the road,” Rutherford, 53, said. “If only more people rode their bikes, but I know that most people don’t ride their bikes because it’s uncomfortable.”
She finally decided it was time to do something about that when she experienced her own bout of seat discomfort in 2004 during a 400-mile ride from Boise, Idaho, to the Pacific Ocean.
After the ride she bought a welding torch and helmet and got to work. Over the next seven years she made more than 40 prototypes before coming up with what she calls the Carbon Comfort Saddle.
The 13.8-ounce seats have a carbon fiber base plate and Kevlar reinforced cover that allows the seat to conform to the rider while absorbing road chatter. Additionally, the seats are wider and shorter than traditional bike saddles.
Her company, RideOut Technologies, received a patent for the design and has sold more than $100,000 worth of seats this year. The seats sell for $85-$95 at rideouttech.com.
Holly Ulfers, a bonding agent from Bellevue, Wash., tried the Carbon Comfort Saddle shortly after buying a new bike in September. She read about the seat in a Seattle business publication.
“I was a little disappointed I couldn’t try [the seat] out first [at a bike shop],” Ulfers said. “Then I said ‘What the heck’ and decided to give it a try. When it arrived I went on a 15-mile ride and I didn’t feel a thing. No pain anywhere. Not even a little discomfort. I was pretty impressed.”
With winter arriving, Ulfers put her old bike on the trainer so she could ride inside, too. After her first ride on her old bike, and her old seat, she noticed a huge difference.
“It was pretty uncomfortable,” Ulfers said. “The difference was night and day. There is no way I could keep riding on that.”
So she ordered a second saddle.
Ulfers’ husband was so impressed by her results that he’s been threatening to swipe one of the seats for himself, she said.
“So we might be ordering a third one pretty soon.”
Geoffrey and Ruth Dick of Orlando, Fla., bought a RideOut saddle for the rear of their tandem bike. They heard about it from other cyclists.
“We have tried a slew of very expensive seats … over the years,” Geoffrey Dick said in an email. “My wife is certain that the RideOut saddle is the most comfortable to date.”
Most cyclists are apt to get out of the saddle on longer rides to ease seat discomfort. But on a tandem, the person in the stoker (rear) position will have a hard time standing unless both cyclists are pedaling hard and leaning forward simultaneously. Dick says he and his wife ride at a relaxed pace that prohibits the rear rider from standing.
Ruth says the RideOut saddle makes it easier to ride in the seated position for longer periods.
After spending thousands of dollars to invent the seat, this is precisely what Rutherford likes to hear.
“Doctors tell us that bicycling is a great activity for us, but so many of us don’t do it because it’s uncomfortable,” said Rutherford, who now lives in Boise. “And most car trips are less than five miles. Maybe more people would ride their bikes if they were more comfortable.
“That’s how I want to help people.”