Although a lot of people may describe conventional bike seats as being "a pain in the butt," the fact is that they're more often a pain in the crotch – in the perineum, to be precise. That's why Texas-based 3 West Design first announced its air bladder-equipped Reprieve Bicycle Saddle in 2014. Two years and one successful Kickstarter campaign later, the first production units are now ready to go. We recently got the chance to try one out, to see how much it really takes the pressure off.
First of all, the Reprieve doesn't have one big bladder that goes all the way along the saddle. Its rear end is in fact pretty normal, supporting the rider's "sit bones" with firm conventional padding.
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The bladder starts at a tender-bits-cradling dip half-way along the seat, and extends up to the nose. Riders can set its pressure by inserting a separate hand pump in the end of an inflation hose, which extends out of the Reprieve's underside. The idea is that by setting that pressure just right, users' nether regions will still be supported, but without being unyieldingly squashed against the saddle. Instead, the bladder will continually distort to accommodate them as the rider pedals.
In our test rides, it did indeed appear to make a difference – not an "oh wow" difference that will bowl you over as soon as you sit down on it, but one that you should appreciate on longer rides. We did try going with the bladder completely deflated just to see if that dip was really the only thing that was making a difference, but discovered that definitely wasn't the way to go – it felt like sitting on a ledge, where the rear padding met the bladder. So no, the air isn't just a gimmick.
Materials-wise, the Reprieve is also no slouch. It features a full leather surface, titanium rails and weighs in the neighborhood of 265 g – this is actually up a bit from the original Kickstarter version, which was claimed to tip the scales at around 210 g. Still, it ain't heavy.
The Reprieve is available now in black or white, for US$185 ... li'l pump included.
Product page: 3 West DesignView gallery - 3 images