Prototype testing is nearing its final stages!
At the beginning of February, we started the final phase of testing our latest prototype saddle at KOA studios in Prague. Since the first tests, which took place more than a year ago, our saddle has gone through many complex stages with countless modifications and iterations. A significant change has been made to the saddle's intricate top layer, which is made using additive 3D printing. The specially developed lattice structure of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), from which is printed to fit the rider's exact specifications, allows us to produce a saddle with different zones of firmness and flexibility. This makes the fit even more precise. With all of this, it was time to test these design and technological improvements and analyse how the saddle reacts under real-world loads.
From left: Jirka (testing driver), Petr Vacek and Martin brainstorm how and what we will test
Guiding us through the testing phase is bike fitting ace Jan Falge. With his expertise, he helps to make sure we are using the correct bike setup and the precise measurements according to our test rider Jirka. At Posedla, we understand how important the role of a custom saddle plays in creating rider satisfaction. That being said, to create that perfect harmony between saddle and bicycle, the bicycle must be fit to perfection as well. This is why it is essential that testing is done under the supervision of an experienced bike fitter. Even the best saddle in the world can't fix everything if our position is not optimally adjusted.
Before the actual testing could begin, it was, therefore, necessary to set up the bike positioning correctly. We have been testing at KOA several times in the past year, so the profile of our test rider Jirka was already in the system (normally before fitting several input parameters are determined, which also affect the course of the fitting). Bike fitting is always measured according to the type of bike you are riding, be it an MTB, time trial, road or gravel. Jan sets the test bike according to Jirka's favourite road bike, he then places the motion sensors on him and Jirka starts pedalling.
According to the data that appears on the screen in front of Jirka, Jan adjusts the positions of the bike's contact points during the test - handlebars & stem, pedals and cleats along with the saddle itself. After the basic bike setup, we move on to testing the saddle itself.
Jan Falge adjusts the position on the bike during testing
How exactly does the test work? A pressure sensor cover is put on the saddle, which shows us a live pressure map. We test methodically in three riding positions - on the tops, on the hoods and in the drops of the handlebars. We record and evaluate the data in each position. We focus significantly on the position of the hoods, where cyclists tend to spend the majority of their time.
The immediate images show us that we need to tweak the positioning and the setback on the bike as well as ever so slightly slide the position of the cleats. The pressure on the saddle mapping is disproportionate, it's too far forward. This position prevents proper blood flow in the region of the soft tissue and can cause discomfort and long-term health issues.
Jan Falge explains to Jirka what the pressure map on the screen means
After the necessary adjustments, Jirka puts on his cycling shoes again, gets back on the bike and begins to pedal. Jan slightly corrects his sitting position and we start testing again. The difference is immediately noticeable. The pressure is much more evenly distributed, moreover, in the optimal place on the seat bones. Jirka confirms the position's noticeable improvement. In his own words, he feels "like on cloud 9." At the same time, he adds that the saddle's carbon shell provides an optimal amount of firmness and that it is more than satisfactory.
Comparison of pressure maps before and after adjusting the position on the bike
It is amazing to visually see the results from all of our calculations, modelling and testing in simulated conditions to a fully functioning prototype saddle that stands up to the tests. Although the testing at KOA doesn't stop there. In the next 2-3 months, we will be testing several dozen different cyclists. They will simultaneously be testing the saddles outdoors. The intention is to test the saddles on as wide a range of riders as possible, to verify that we will be able to produce saddles that are tailored to cyclists from all backgrounds. Next up will be stress testing in the lab. More on that next time
Soon we'll all be Posedla.
Martin analyzes the measured data