Sunday, April 27, 2008

Nitto Seatpost? Not Really

In my formative cycling years, back when I was 10 and paper thin, I ruled my corner of the universe on a Schwinn Traveler. The bike had a two-piece seatpost. There was the post and a separate clamp that secured the seat. Problem was, the clamp wasn’t all that great. I didn't weigh any more than a sack of feathers. But hit a big bump and the seat would tilt violently back. -- the biking equivalent of a bucking bronco. I’d hang on and hope I didn’t land on the pavement noggin first.

I haven’t thought much about seatposts since then. With the modern seatpost, what’s to think about? It’s just there, doing its job. Grease it, slide it in the old seat tube, adjust the seat to your liking, ride your bike. End of story.

Lately, I’ve been reliving my childhood seatpost experience. And it ain’t a pleasant memory.

My new Coho randonneuring bike has a great mix of parts. But the one weak link has been the single bolt Nitto post.

Here’s how it’s described on Peter White’s site:

This is about the nicest single bolt seat post on the market. Extremely well polished with top quality machining for the clamp. This is clearly the best looking seat post available. It's extremely well made, as are all Nitto products. When making adjustments, you can't isolate the fore/aft positioning from the tilt, so it's not as easy to make small adjustments as it is with a two bolt post. But once you do have it adjusted, it won't slip.

Sure, it looks good. Nice and shiny. But as for no-slip: horse pucks. Mine has angled back as much as 10 degrees.

It did it on the very first long ride I did, the 230-mile fleche. When I finished, I noticed the seat had about a 3-degree angle to the back. Odd. I could have sworn I’d had it level at the start.

When I got home, I reset it. Next long ride was the S.C. 300K. When I got done. I checked it. Same problem.

And again on a 20-mile ride around town.

I was fast losing confidence in the best looking seatpost available. Maybe it’s true what the say – looks aren’t everything. Maybe at 195 lbs. I was too big, too fat, for this single-bolt design. I mentioned this to Chuck. He said the post/clamp interface probably had some grease on it. Clean it with alcohol, he said; that should cure it. He also sent me a small sample of valve lapping compound, a gritty substance that he said would help bind the two surfaces.

Okay, Saturday’s 300K, I’m riding along and I notice a new pain around the old groin area. I was in a pace line and did not want to stop, but it was obvious what was going on. We hit the control at 100K. I climbed off and had a look. I joked later that the saddle was pointing at the North Star. Everybody had a good laugh. But there was nothing funny about it at the time. The damned thing wrecked my left knee for half the ride and -- how shall I say this in polite company? –- it nearly put Junior Johnson in a coma.

The fix: I angled the seat down in the front by about 5 degrees and climbed aboard. By the time the Nitto finished with its slipping down life, it was back to level. Is that any way to set a post? No, it ain't.

I didn’t have any more problems the rest of the ride. Maybe it’s cured. Who knows?

I know there are a lot of you out there who swear by Nitto products. Me? I spent part of my Saturday swearing at it. If you’re a big guy like me and don’t want to spend any of your precious time thinking about your seatpost, you might think long and hard before you buy the single bolt Nitto post. As for me, I'm thinking about replacing mine.


bullcitybiker said...

Junior Johnson- bwah ha ha hah!!

Felkerino said...

The only way to get this post set in place is to grease the bolt and use a long allen wrench. Don't be shy -- give it lots of torque (just don't snap the allen!). Go for a ride and give it another tighten and it should stay put. I carry a long 6mm allen on the tandem for just this reason to adjust Mary's one-bolt post.

Ed Felker

Anonymous said...

I had a Uno one-bolt seatpost that I bought from Wallingford that had exactly the same problem. Eventually, I got frustrated and torqued it up really tight with a ratchet and it stayed in place fine. But then when I decided I wanted to adjust the fore-aft position recently, when I re-torqued I felt that little give that means "stripped". I replaced it with a Kalloy LaPrade-style seatpost. Though it's still a one-bolt design, these just don't seem to have the adjustment issues.


R2D2 said...

Tacx or FSA assembly paste.


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