Based on the zafu cushions used for meditation sessions in Zen Buddhism, the “3um3ags43ikers” seat pad (annoyingly quirky spelling and all) is made from waterproof nylon and filled with organic buckwheat.
Numb bum. The enemy.
The spoiler of touring holidays and Iron Butt attempts; the distracter from glorious views, and the cause of not wanting to get back on the bike the next morning.
Not only does it have a hard seat but it’s also so high that I can only reach the controls and the ground by perching on its tip, is a particularly bad offender.
I’ve seen any number of solutions to the problem, including gel cushions, sheepskin pads, and sections cut from beaded car seats, but I’ve always suspected that anything you sit on for a prolonged period is going to get uncomfortable.
Even angels perched on clouds probably vary their posture every century or so!
Plus, if I add too much to the height of the Honda’s seat, I won’t be able to touch the ground.
When a long trip looming up coincided with a thread about seat cushions on the NC700 Forum, my attention was caught by a recommendation for a Bumbags4Bikers seat cushion.
At £25, the product was half the price of an Airhawk and considerably less ridiculous-looking than massage beads or a piece of old sheep.
The website states that “All materials used in the manufacturing of these cushions are sourced from the UK and made by myself and my team in the UK.”
Waterproof nylon and a filling — not of polystyrene beans, which squash and lose their cushioning properties over time (as any hippie could tell you) — but organic buckwheat. (“Butt-weak?” asked my partner, when I told him).
Currently, the company’s other products are the “Medicush” for meditation and the “Kanoocush” for canoeing.
The cost of postage was relatively high, at £3.99. However, I ordered my “bumbag” on a Monday (in the afternoon, too) and it was delivered on the Tuesday.
The cushion arrived in a clear, sealed plastic bag, accompanied by an A4 printout with instructions and tips.
(This started with “Hi Alice”‘, which was a nice touch.)
It’s square, black, and the nylon feels adequately tough.
When the filling is evenly dispersed, it’s about an inch thick; squish all the buckwheat up at one end, and it’s around three inches at its thickest point. It doesn’t feel over-stuffed; this is so it can mould itself to your bottom.
The bumbag measures a little over 12 by 12 inches (30 x 30 cm), and weighs around 300 g.
The underside has a pad of non-slip rubber similar to the mats available for placing under bike luggage, while the top has a small tag with the URL of the website.
There are two 15”, T-shaped webbing straps for attaching your bumbag cushion to your bike, with the cross of the T in double-sided hook-and-loop. The stitches, in matching black thread, are small and strong.
The instructions suggested attaching the bumbag either to the bike frame or under the seat, with a caution not to pull the straps too tight and prevent the filling from moving around.
I discovered that the straps just reached the pillion foot peg supports with enough give to leave the cushion slightly loose.
This was lucky, as there is no way of shortening or lengthening the straps except by the number of times you loop them around things.
The hook-and-loop is very strong — where can I get some like this? — and the cushion was secured, rubber side down, in under a minute.
I tried the cushion out on my commute a few days before embarking on a European trip, just to make sure it worked and wasn’t dangerous. I felt the difference as soon as I set off.
Where the sides of the Honda seat usually made their presence known, the buckwheat made a soft, yielding cushion.
My thoughts were something along the lines of “Wow, that’s comfortable!”, which, much as I love my bike, isn’t a sentence I’d previously associated with sitting on it.
I was anxious at first that the cushion would slip around, given the looseness of the straps, but the rubber mat did its job and any sliding sensations I felt were traceable to my trousers gliding over the nylon as I put a foot down.
The cushion does add a little height to the seat, which in my case meant I was tippy-toeing even more than usual at a standstill.
I found that with my feet down, my comfort was actually decreased, as the filling, under pressure, dug into my pelvis.
During a long day of motorway riding, however, I would be stopping and starting much less than on my way to work, and I was hopeful about the cushion’s performance on tour.
I strapped my luggage to the pillion, my bumbag to the frame, and I was away.
Mounting the bike so that the cushion sat correctly beneath me could be a delicate operation, but once I found the right position things were very comfortable indeed.
My comfort and endurance increased noticeably, both on the long, fast straights of the motorways and on sections of winding country roads.
When I started to feel a little stiff and sore, I moved around, as recommended in the instructions, to shift my weight and to move the cushion filling around a bit.
I would have used the same method to relieve the pain without the cushion, but with it my adjustments were more subtle and less frequent.
As I got used to the cushion I placed it in a better location on the seat and no longer noticed discomfort when putting my feet down.
One day I tried attaching it under the seat rather than to the frame, since the seat on my bike must be lifted to fuel up, but I couldn’t get the bumbag to sit as securely in this position; perhaps with more patience I could have done.
We did a series of long days, the longest just over 400 miles, and although I’d be lying if I said my bum was entirely comfortable at all times, I was definitely suffering far less than usual.
I’ll be using the cushion on future trips, and perhaps even lending it out to my mad Iron Butt friends.
As a middle ground between the high-tech Airhawk and home-made solutions, the “3um3ag4bikers” works well.
Personally, I’d only use it for longer trips (mostly because I fear it would get stolen in London), but it would be possible to leave it attached all the time, especially if you strap it to the seat.
And should you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, you could probably slit it open and cook yourself a nutritious porridge with the contents…
From “I.C.” (October 2014): “I read the review of the bumbag and agree it is a great compromise price-wise, without any compromise comfort-wise from a gel pad.
It will not stop numb bum on a four or five hour ride, but as soon as you get off the bike, you feel fine. Then you realise it has provided a lot of relief.
I have had one on my bike (which lives outside for much of the year) for two years now and the cover looks fine, the straps are still there (they go under my seat) and it has survived numerous soakings.”