PHILIPSBURG — Dennis Bell was a busy engineer in Huntington Beach, Calif., when he noticed it was time to slim down.
“I bought a bicycle at a garage sale,” he said.
But in the end, girth wasn’t all Bell lost to cycling.
“I started having boy problems because of the nose on the saddle — numbness, erectile dysfunction,” said Bell, who now lives in Philipsburg.
While some men would have quickly ditched the bicycle for the libido, Bell wanted both. An inventor holding more than 30 patents, he set out to create an alternative bike seat.
“I started riding standing up a lot,” Bell said. “If you’re riding a bicycle standing up, why do you need that stupid horn?” His brainchild is the MoonSaddle: a crescent-moon shaped, and moon-supporting, hornless bicycle seat made in the Flint Creek Valley.
“One of the primary reasons people don’t enjoy riding their bikes is the seats are uncomfortable,” said Cara Seekell, marketing director for Philipsburg-based New Concepts Development, MoonSaddle’s parent company. “This was designed to take that problem away.” And MoonSaddle has a growing list of customers who say the eye-catching seat takes painful pressure off sensitive parts without sacrificing performance.
“I could realistically ride 100 miles without bike shorts” on the MoonSaddle, said Barry Falcon, who completes centurion rides to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. “Even though I’m on the bike for eight hours at a time, I can get off and I don’t have any discomfort.” The MoonSaddle joined Bell’s cache of inventions in 1992. He also founded Bell and Carlson gunstocks and was the recipient of the Alexander Graham Bell Award in Patent Prolificacy — named for his distant relative.
When it came to creating a new bike seat, Bell also tapped his experience as a former U.S. Naval Hospital Corpsman.
“I remembered the anatomy of the pelvis,” he said.
Regular bike seats put pressure on the perineum, the diamond-shaped region between the pubic bone and the tail bone — home to blood vessels and sensitive nerves. Particularly in men, long-term cycling on traditional seats can cause erectile dysfunction, low sperm counts and numbness.
MoonSaddle, an 11-inch bow-shaped seat which has contact only with a rider’s rear-end, eliminates contact with the perineum and solves those “boy problems.” For the record, Bell said, it works.
The seat is designed for casual and recreational cyclists, bicycle commuters and people who do their jobs from bike seats — such as bicycle cops. And, it’s designed for all ages, and both genders.
“We make it sound male-focused, but it’s beneficial for women,” said Seekell, who put MoonSaddles on her daughters’ bikes. “We have nerves and blood vessels down there, too.” Sales of MoonSaddle — largely manufactured in Bell’s Philipsburg shop, although some work is contracted to an out-of-state producer — picked up pace in March. The company sells about 135 seats a month to customers as far away as Greece.
“It’s been steadily increasing by about 20 a month,” Seekell said.
A few distributors have purchased the product in bulk, but customers are mostly individual cyclists who have seen MoonSaddle and want to give it a try.
“I saw somebody riding with it in Atlanta,” Falcon said.
The seats have also received national press.
In April, the LA Times reviewed pain-relieving bicycle seats and labeled the MoonSaddle, “Finally, a simple solution.” The seat also was mentioned in the New York Times.
While the seat is more comfortable than traditional types, it does take some getting used to, Falcon said.
“You give up a little stability,” he said. “I’m a little more cautious when I’m drinking my water. You have to get the angle correct and you have to get the seat height right.” But the adjustment period is worthwhile.
“The advantage is comfort,” he said. “I did a ride in June with my MoonSaddle in Sonoma, Calif. I did a hundred miles, got to the end and kissed my saddle.” The MoonSaddle costs $79.50 and is available at www.moonsaddle.com, or by calling 859-1963.