ISM PN 3.0 Saddle Review

About the Manufacturer

In a sport of unpronounceable boutique hyper brands and men tig welding together metal frames in forgotten towns, even ISM stand out because they make only one thing. There are other saddle only manufacturers, but only ISM dedicated themselves to the abolition of perineal nerve pain, the eradication of erectile dysfunction and the support of blood flow quite so vigorously. The American designed and produced saddle vary in size and function, but all share a pretty unique split nose profile.

To the brand, this is the next logical extension of cut outs in more traditional saddles – by extending the cut all the way to the nose, bloodflow is improved and numbness lessened leading to increased rider comfort and better long term rider health.

About the Saddle

On test we have the ISM PN 3.0. While ISM have a comfort line aimed at recreation cyclists and commuters, the PN stands for Performance Narrow and comes from their Performance line which incudes short (PS) and long (PL) variants as well as specific models for mountain biking (PM). The PN 3.0 is the second tier in the PN range after the very bling (and very expensive) all carbon 3.0 C. The version on test comes with the distinctive shell shape, slight padding and alloy stainless steel rails. The narrow versions of the ISM sites are designed to provide more clearance for the upper leg in tucked in performance riding, as well as providing slightly more room to move the site compared to old ISM saddles.

Positives and Negatives

We don’t review much tri/tt specific stuff because we’ve the view that cycling is meant to be fun. Triathlons involve getting off the bike and doing things that we either hate (running) or where sharks may lurk (swimming). Time trails are like doing the repetitive bits of cycling over and over, for a long time.

Despite this – and thanks to an ill-advised wager – this individual managed to find himself signed up for the state time trails…

With a very kind friend loaning a bling bike for our endeavour (2020 Aeroad CF SLX Disc 9.0 SL with H36 short bars) we set out to find an appropriate saddle. Initially looking for a more traditional short nosed saddle (Specialized Power, PRO Stealth etc) once we laid eyes on the ISM we knew that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to test something different.

With its unique looks, ISM saddles are always going to attract attention – it earned the monkier “crotch crab” during our review – but that shouldn’t detract from the fact there are some very fast people using this saddle. ISM saddles have been on the bikes of many race winning riders, particularly in the States where they have had a clutch of Kona wins to their name. While this saddle may not make you a world champion it is excellent.

Anyone who’s been in the drops for an extended period of the time knows that is not comfortable, especially when you’re really trying to put the power down. Extend that position into a tri position on the bars and you’re in for a world of hurt. Short nose saddle alleviate this somewhat by removing material from the nose which helps comfort – but the ISM takes this to another level with the saddle shape alleviating the normal pressure under power and providing more support for those protracted efforts compared to a normal stubby saddle.

That said if you’re riding it in a fairly upright position it just isn’t that comfortable, the shape really is optimised for the forward position.

With this in mind, there are a couple of things you should be aware of if you’re looking at an ISM saddle:

Adjustment Period

This isn’t a traditional Brooks like leather saddle, so you don’t have to physically “break in” the saddle, but there it does feel very different. ISM recommend doing shorter rides on first purchase to get used to it and we can say that you should absolutely follow their recommendations while you adjust to the shape and the pressure being elsewhere in your legs compared to a normal saddle.

Weight

ISM saddles are heavier than traditional saddles due to the reinforcing material needed for the split shell. A few extra grams isn’t generally so much of an issue for those doing tri and TT, but it’s worth pointing out.

For us the above don’t detract from the quality of this saddle. This is a high quality piece of engineering, designed for a specific purpose on which it delivers brilliantly.

There’s very little chance of any of us doing a triathlon any time soon, we’re pretty keen for more of those TT things though. The ISM will very likely be on the bike the next time we do it too.

Key Specifications

  • Width: 120mm
  • Material: Moulded Plastic Shell, Stainless Steel Rails

Pros

  • Outstanding performance for intended use

Cons

  • Not the prettiest – although this really isn’t important!
  • Weight compared to comparable offering

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
ISM PN 3.0 Saddle
Author Rating
51star
Product Name
ISM PN 3.0 Saddle
Price
AUD 239.99

One reply on “ISM PN 3.0 Saddle Review

  • Travis Tiner

    I am 74 with multiple back sue Rhys yet still an avid cyclist 250 /week. Always looking for suggestion. Read your article on ISM 3.0 but I m a bit more upright and never in arrow for long. Do you have another suggestion

    Reply

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