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Success of Bike Seat Business Rides on Comfort

Tampa Bay Recreation owner Steve Toll's patented bike saddles buck tradition—and elite athletes worldwide have hopped on board.

Steve Toll designed his first bicycle seat after a particularly uncomfortable bike ride in 1997.

He sketched a design, and “it kinda took off.”

His company, Tampa Bay Recreation, grew from humble beginnings in the living room and garage of his Lutz home to a 3,000-square-foot warehouse off State Road 54.

And recently, the former Tampa Police officer struck gold.

Nicola Spirig claimed Switzerland’s first gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games,  winning the women’s triathlon in a photo finish. And she did it riding one of Tampa Bay Recreation's ISM (Ideal Saddle Modification) seats.

Toll and his wife, Laura, were there.

“It was pretty exciting,” he said.

About 10 percent of the Olympic triathletes competed on the company's saddles, Toll said. When a U.S. athlete sponsored by ISM qualified, the Tolls booked a flight to London.

“We went knowing we could see it,” he said.

Spirig was on a team the company sponsored in the past, and “she continued to ride our saddles,” Toll said.

It’s not the first time athletes took the podium with ties to the Lutz business. Two triathletes won silver in the 2008 Olympics in Bejing riding ISM seats, Toll said.

The saddles are designed to take pressure off the perineum area, he said.

But it wasn’t easy to convince the cyclist community to make the switch at first. Seats have been the same since the mid-1800s, he said. “The bike business is very traditional.”

Skeptics told him he wasting his time and money. He didn’t listen.

“You’ve gotta follow your instincts, you have to go with your gut,” he said.

The company gained recognition after it was involved in a government study that determined traditional seats were bad for riders because of the pressure they place on the sensitive area, he said.

Their seats were recommended by the study, among others, he said.

The rider’s hips are positioned at a wider point, and the front is cut out, eliminating the pressure.

“It works,” he said.

Law enforcement officers all over the country ride Toll’s seats now, he said.

Tampa Police officers will be riding more comfortably as they patrol Downtown Tampa during the Republican National Convention, thanks to Toll. His company recently donated 200 seats to the agency.

ISM seats are sold through bike stores, including:

Suncoast Trailside Bicycles, 16242 State Road 54 in Odessa

Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium, 14425 N. Dale Mabry Highway

Other locations can be found on the ISM Seat website.

Leah Fox August 25, 2012 at 01:19 AM
Very cool article! Glad to hear of local businesses doing well.
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