Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On being particular

I'm a decisive person, and have never understood people who spend lots of time doing research to make just the most perfect choice possible on the planet (or so it seems to me) - I like to come in, assess my options, pick one, and move on.

This comes in handy lots of the time - planning trips (pick a destination, pick a flight, book some kind of lodging, and go!), buying a used car (price is right, age is fine, let's do this thing), heck, even shopping for clothes or jewelry. I remember poking around at the Saturday Market with a friend who assessed every bit of jewelry, put stuff on hold to revisit it, and really pondered each and every bauble that caught her eye. It drove me insane, and I wound up buying way more than I ever normally would - in retrospect, I realized I was trying to show her how this shopping thing ought to be done!

The truth is, my way isn't the One True Way, however it is my default operating behavior and it's hard to remember/believe that people act differently for rational reasons.

Right now I'm living in the world of being picky. I'm trying to find a new bike seat, and it's not coming together easily! I have friends who say their bike seats never give them any trouble - yeah, you spend seven hours sitting on something and you'll be a bit sick of it, but they don't ever have any specific pain points or anything.

I'm now on the sixth seat I've tried this summer and still am not finding my perfect match. When you are testing a bike seat, there are three main areas of discomfort to consider: the sit bones (the contact point between you and the seat where most of your weight goes), the crotch area (which can't be blissfully ignorant of the existence of the seat, but hopefully feels neutral about the situation), and your upper legs/inner thighs area (which can chafe/pinch/bruise if the seat is too wide or in other ways too much present).

First seat: good sit bones, bad crotch, no notice of legs
Second seat: decent sit bones, fine crotch, leggy complications
Third seat: painful sit bones, fine crotch, no leg awareness.
Fourth seat: terrible horrible no-good crotch.
Fifth seat: probably much better but still sore from fourth seat. also didn't feel super well-supported in the sit bones
Sixth seat: This is the same brand as the second seat and so far I think it might be mostly okayish. Sit bones are okay, crotch is okay, not sure about the leg complications.

It's killing me that I can't just go, get a seat, and ride away happy, but apparently this isn't something I can force!

I had similar issues when getting a mattress.

My first was a latex mattress that seemed great at first, but after a few months I realized it was too soft - and they did not take returns. When I left the bay area I sold it to a soft-mattress-loving friend who is super happy with it still.

When I got to Portland I did some research and read that people were pretty happy with IKEA mattresses. So, I got one there. And it wasn't comfortable. And then I found out they had a terrible return policy: you have to buy a second mattress, then they will take the first mattress back, but won't refund your money - you'll get a store credit in the amount of mattress #1. So basically you're out the cash for TWO mattresses. This seems so insane as to be impossible, but that's what several store employees told me. So when I got my second mattress I chose one that felt comfortable and was not super expensive. Fortunately for me when the store employee called to talk about giving me the store credit for the first mattress, she asked why not just refund onto my credit card? I was very happy to let her!

Unfortunately that second IKEA mattress was also sub-optimal. I was going to just live with it, but a couple things happened: my sister moved in and could benefit from a decent mattress in my guest room, and some friends gave me mattress money for my housewarming present. SO back to the mattress store I toddled.

This time I chose a locally-owned shop that sells regionally-produced mattresses. They too have a pretty strict return policy: you get one return and it has to be done within six weeks. I got a mattress, they delivered it, and after about six weeks I realized it just wasn't working - much to my deep chagrin. They let me swap it for another, which is the one I have now. To be totally honest, it's good but not great. If I could exchange it again I totally would! But I can't, I don't need any more mattresses, and I am NOT going to go back through this process if I can help it! I have considered setting up my guest room bed and rotating between the two to see if I prefer one mattress over the other. But I can't (yet) bring myself to be quite that picky just yet!

....and I am definitely focusing on my seat first!


  1. You've heard of satisficers vs maximizers right? I'm a horrible maximizer. Large/Expensive purchases that cannot be tried on/out or returned are the absolute worst. We are nearing a new mattress purchase and I just am not looking forward to it.

    Good luck with the bike seat hunt! Do you have a seat that serve as "neutral" while you look for "darn near perfect" (to avoid the situation you experienced between seat 4 and seat 5)?

  2. I am TOTALLY a satisficer - though I hate the word, I love the feeling!

    I do still have my old bike seat, which is over 10 years old and has more than 6,000 miles on it, I realized (oops/wow). At first I was bringing it along on rides in a little backpack, in case I needed to swap out the loaner, but I stopped doing that and instead had the ol' Seat 4 incident (I stopped riding at 26 miles and didn't even want to do the sweeping five-mile descent, I was so uncomfortable. Tragic.)!

    Good luck mattress shopping. Be prepared to spend a stupid amount of money - I sort of wish I had! I have a friend who is in love with her mattress, I can find out what it is if you want. I think it was rather spendy but she is SUPER happy.