In The Saddle: ISM Saddles founder, Steve Toll

From a career in the police force to creating saddles that triathletes and cyclists swear by - this is the story of ISM
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BikeBiz: What bikes do you own and where's your favourite place to ride?

Steve Toll: I personally own a Trek, Specialized, Cannondale and Quintana Roo, to name a few. I actually have way to many bikes. Between my wife and I we have 13. We'll often ride them around to get some lunch, though for leisure I like riding Florida in summer, we've got excellent trails here. Outside of the local area the trails by Lake Michigan are among my favourite, as a little boy that was my first taste of freedom.

I just had knee replacement surgery six months ago, so I've not ridden as much as I'd like, but I'm back to full health now.

Tell us about your background in the cycling/triathlon business:

Back when I worked as a police officer in the 90s my wife and I used to ride regularly, One Christmas she bought me a bike and we would ride the Tampa Bay area. My comfort would deteriorate on longer rides, so that's where the idea to design my own came from. I was sitting in the bathroom reading and I realised how much more comfortable I was. My brother made the first sample from a design I had sketched, welding up a plastic model. Over the years we perfected the design, though it has always been a noseless design. The first models looked a lot like a toilet seat.

Tell us a bit about the science behind ISM's take on the saddle:

I learned about a German eurologist called Dr Frank Sommer who I think now works with the University of Hamburg. He's noted for his work with accurately measuring blood flow, so in the early days he was a big part of shaping our product.

We went after the triathlon market first as it's more accepting of new ideas. The regular road market is a bit more traditional. Nowadays we work locally with physicians and road cyclists in Tampa who consult with us and help shape our ideas.

You've built a strong reputation in the tri world – do sales come easy nowadays?

Our athletes sweep the podiums on a regular basis and that translates to sales. We've had people call and ask specifically which saddles our athletes our riding before going on to order.

Anything big in the pipeline for 2014?

We've always got new bits in the pipeline, again always listening to customer feedback in order to work out what's next. At Interbike we introduced the Berkley cruiser saddle, they make bike riding on a regular bike so much more comfortable. Two of the first test riders described the Berkley as a sofa for the bicycle.

Which shows/events will we see the brand at in 2014?

We'll be at Interbike, Eurobike and, in the UK, the London Bike Show in February. We'll also be with the Upgrade guys at CoreBike.

We sponsor the Jelly Belly cycling team in the US, so we'll be on the road with them a lot in future.

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