Bicycle Seats Need Design Help.

Hi Gang!

Been awhile since I posted. Having left the design community in favor of bicycle shop ownership I’ve come across a glaring hole in the bicycle parts market: SADDLES! Granted, there are hundreds out there but they all share one common feature which is PAIN! Seriously, how can there be all these amazing advancements in frame materials, suspension and the like yet the saddle remains an uncomfortable piece of plastic and fake leather sitting on top of metal bars. By the way all you saddle manufacturers out there, stuffing a bunch of gel under the covering and calling it a day is NOT the answer. I also find it kind of sad that one of the few saddles that comes close to working is a heavy one hundred year old Brooks leather seat that looks like it was pulled off a mustachioed man’s high-wheeler.

The first person to truly crack this nut stands to make millions. Thoughts?

I haven’t designed a bike seat, but I’ve tried a bunch, and tried to discern which claims held water.

My conclusion is that individual anatomy, general bike fit, and saddle time are the primary issues in whether your … parts… will hurt after riding. Width of the saddle needs to correspond to ischial tuberosities. Knowing how to sit on the bike, making sure cockpit length and all other angles correspond to your riding position and style, will influence the pain or lack thereof in the behind. And frankly the hurt goes away or at least lessens in importance as a rider puts more hours in.

Its not a seat, or a chair - its a saddle. If performance is the goal, there are few ways around a relatively firm, narrow saddle that will still allow for proper pedaling and body English. If comfort is the goal, then it will come down to individual preference.

Not saying there aren’t millions to be made designing something else, but improvements in comfort and performance are probably easier to come by with addressing the topics above.

I just wanted to say, that the site for your bike shop rocks !
Haven’t thought about refreshing my bike for years, now
I do.

I got a Brooks saddle as a present from an Uncle when I
was like 12 years old. I wish I knew what happened to it.

Didn’t work back then as I was still too light to break it in.

Those are the best, even now, but I shudder every time I see what
they are going for today.


Thanks mo-i. I’m on a mission to create the greatest shop there ever was or will be. :slight_smile:

To Slippyfish’s point I agree there are many factors involved for a proper bike fit and those will come into play, but if you pull out almost any bike in my store the saddle is complete shit. I don’t have a big butt yet the stock saddles for men do not support my pelvic bones, so the soft tissue gets crushed and I wind up with testicle pain. I have positioned and repositioned and adjusted myself into a corner of hopelessness. It’s not just me either. We sell a ton of aftermarket saddles (which only help a little), so I see it as a design flaw.

I’m just surprised at the lack of design variation or out of the box thinking. If you look at all my suppliers have to offer, its the same thing over and over again. The same basic materials are repeated along with the same shape and structures. Could a saddle and seatpost combination yield better results? My Aeron chair is comfortable enough to sit in all day, can that be translated into a bike seat? My dream saddle would conform like a Brooks, but be as light as a racing saddle with adjustable width for my pelvis. It would also be nice if it didn’t cost a fortune, so more cyclists could benefit.

Seeing as how our cell phones can do everything short of predicting the future, why is bicycle saddle technology so stuck in the past?

The SaddleCo saddle tried to do exactly that - duplicate an Aeron chair - with mixed results. Most users reported feeling the rigid edges was worse than having the flexible center. Another humorous side effect was water going straight off your rear tire and on your butt.

I like what Specialized has tried to do, and Fizik does a little, with education and a range of saddles to fit different widths/butts (or spirit animals in the Fizik instance). The seats themselves resemble other seats but at least they are targeting users better and doing more up-front work so that the chances of it fitting right away are better.

To be clear, we are talking about performance saddles, not comfort/upright/cruiser bike saddles, right?

Maybe its not about the shape, but the materials. Like how the H-M research tied comfort to heat and ventilation, thus the Aeron and Mirra chairs.

I don’t think it is - Fizik makes some great saddles with some pretty inventive and new tech.
The saddles on the spec bikes in your shop probably do all suck. - as i’m sure do most of the spec wheelsets…

I suspect though that there aren’t enough wider saddles available for those with wider sit-bones. Not to mention wider saddles with a cutout or releif in the center for the perenial zone…

Curious: what saddles have you tried?

A lot of what is related to comfort also has to do with proper fit. And fit certainly depends on your riding style and your anatomy. Having been a shop rat for 15 years, this is a question I’ve heard since day one. In most instances, the best thing you can do is choose a saddle based on your riding position, skill level, fitness and general anatomy and “break the saddle in to your butt”, not vice versa.

However, materials do make a difference. Brooks are comfortable once broken in because they conform to your body over time. There used to be some saddles out there that used surgical gel in place of standard bike saddle gel. I rode those for a while for commuting, and was very pleased with the comfort and support.

My preference has changed a bit. Selle Italia Flite Ti, was once my top choice, but I’ve since found the Arione to be my saddle of choice.

people mold their skiboots/snowboardboots in the shop when buying a new pair, why isnt this possible for cyclers? Atleast dedicated ones?

I know zilch about cycling, so I might be a tad naive.

Not a bad idea. Haven’t heard of anything like it.

I think bicycle saddles are quite advanced. I’ll echo whats been said above and say that the fit is the real problem, not design or tech.

So how can we get a better fit? (aka the correct saddle and adjustment) Right now the best method seems to be ischium (sit bone) measurements. In the store I work at we have “devices” from both specialized and bontrager for finding this measurement. Sometimes they work pretty well, and other times they don’t work at all. Clothing type of the user seems to affect it a lot. Perhaps we could come up with something better than a foam pad for measuring this? There have to be other measurable factors in the fit… what else?

Another big piece of the puzzle is user education. How do you get the user to understand that a big puffy saddle will end up hurting them on any ride over a couple of miles? How do you get them to not mess with the angle or fore/aft adjustment once a certified fitter has set it? These are really the things that I’ve encountered as the cause of discomfort for my customers.

[FWIW, I have ridden a Specialized Toupe gel since '10 for rides up to 70 miles and haven’t had a problem. My new bike came with a Romin and I’m liking it so for too. As for customers, I sell a lot of bontrager SSR’s to casual riders. Recently I’m finding the Specialized Riva to be great bang(fit) for the buck for more competitive/aggressive riders]

Exactly my point. Getting comfort from a bike seat is completely hit or miss. Why does everything need to be perfect in order for the seat not to hurt? Can we start laying the blame on the seat design? Is a small padded surface area on the end of a stick the be all end all answer? Maybe it is…Maybe I’m totally wrong. But I know there are way more people who hate their bike seats than there are people who love them. A better bike seat would also help casual riders ride more often, which is good for the world.

I sell a TON of ergonomic grips these days, where before they were almost all just tube shaped. The Ergons are way more comfortable and prevent numb fingers. This is the kind of innovation I would like to see from saddles. Give me some radical thinking and new ideas dammit!

Design is about solving problems right? The problem now is that there is great difficulty getting your average rider comfortable on a bike seat. If there was a better seat that could eliminate the need for absolute bike fit perfection, then you are talking HUGE demand and big $$$$$$.

If I had to hazard a guess it would be because humans aren’t built to ride bikes. :wink: Also, keep in mind there are some things that just can’t be universal. Shoes come in a lot of sizes and widths. If you get the wrong size, it hurts.

Really though, it seems like in order to support better, there would be so much material interfacing with your body that mobility would be severely hampered. Redesigning the bike is an option - recumbents are very comfortable with their stock seat. EliptiGO bikes take your butt out of the equation entirely.

I guess I’d have to admit that I’m stumped on how to change the saddle without making it bad in other ways. Do you have any ideas?