Date:31 January 2018
Is this the end of the saddle as a pain in the butt?
For all the advances in bicycle technology, from space-age frame materials to electronic shifting and no-flat tyres, there’s one area that remains a sore point – literally: the saddle.
There have been no significant changes to bicycle saddle technology since the 1960s. Essentially, they are all rails + saddle shell + padding + cover. The disadvantage of this layout is that the saddle shell has two jobs: carry the load of the rider, while also being the substructure for the padding. So seat shells have to be stiff, which means uncomfortable.
That’s exactly what a research team from Ergon (ergonbike.com) focused on. The company calls its innovation TwinShell. Two shells function in isolation from each other in a sandwich construction, held in a floating arrangement by a high-performance elastomer damper made of Infinergy. The elastomer is an expanded thermoplastic polyurethane (E-TPU) developed by BASF. The lower, supporting shell performs a load-bearing function; the upper, flexible seat shell supports the padding. It’s said to be inherently more comfortable.
But wait, there’s more: besides more comfort, the design is said to allow for an entirely new form of pedalling ergonomics. As a result of isolating the seat shell from the supporting shell, the saddle follows the natural pedalling movements in all directions. This has the advantage of systematically combining optimised pressure distribution across the sit bones, efficient pedalling ergonomics, excellent vibration damping and active back protection for the first time.
Infinergy sets new standards in relation to damping and suspension thanks to thousands of light and highly elastic foam particles. The high elasticity optimises the damping of pressure in the seat area. As soon as the pressure impulse has passed, the foam springs back into its old shape. The material retains this property even under continuous load. The Ergon core thus ensures a direct damping response and the highest possible resilience, as well as maximum durability at minimal material weight. This E-TPU foam has already been used with great success by leading manufacturers in the safety gear and running shoes.