How Are MTB Saddles Developed And Designed? | Inside Ergon HQ

How Are MTB Saddles Developed And Designed? | Inside Ergon HQ


(dramatic music) – Contact points on your
handlebar grips and your saddle are every bit as important
as getting your bike set up correctly in the first place. Now over the years I’ve been lucky enough to kind of find my way
without having to mess around with too many different options, but I’m well aware it’s
not always that simple. So what is it that goes into making a saddle comfortable for some riders and not for others? Ergon invited me here to
their design headquarters in Koblenz, Germany to find out exactly what goes into designing and
manufacturing the essential contact points for your bike. (bouncy music) It’s a company started by a cyclist, Franc Arnold, who incidentally is actually the brother of the founder of Canyon Cycles, Roman Arnold. Now it’s very clear to me that this is a company that lives and breathes bikes and design as well as ergonomics. You can see subjects, books, and studies everywhere around the building and it’s very clear that there’s a serious amount of cyclists working in this expert company. Now I’m really excited to be here and I’m really enthusiastic to find out exactly what the process is. Let’s go and have a closer look at all of those steps, starting with the very
early conceptual drawings and the initial design. (smooth music) – Industrial design or product design is basically joining the
whole chain of production so it’s basically from the start, from the idea, to the end product, right? We start with collecting information, basically a lot of research that either comes from blogs,
from online reviews, from our own dealers – Yeah, sure. – And from ourselves as well,
from testing the products. – And I guess this is from
existing products, or? – Well it can be based
on existing products but sometimes in order to innovate you also have to take
some, not wild guesses, but some steps forward, right, which aren’t based on much of anything, or anything in particular, so, yeah, we start collecting information and a lot of research in order to develop a briefing that satisfies ergonomic functions, technical functions, and also aesthetic functions. So this is also the next
step in the concept phase. We also need to define
the basic dimensions of a saddle, and the shape. We start out with very
basic drawings of the shape and we check them with our ergonomics team so we are sure we are on the right path – [Doddy] You might not
find it that surprising that Ergon take ergonomics very seriously. With their crack team of experts, they make sure that every saddle design is up to high ergonomic standards for maximum comfort for a
plethora of body shapes. They do this via several tests. – So, when we develop a saddle, we try to see what is happening when the rider is sitting on the saddle. You want to see where the pressure occurs and how high the pressure is. So this is a necessary part to see what is really happening, but also we want to know how the rider feels on the saddle, because sometimes you can see pressure that is not really disturbing the rider, or the other way around, there is pressure that is not really high but it’s disturbing the rider so it’s a back and forth process. – Okay, cool, so explain to
me what this is doing, then. – Okay, (laughs) so that’s
our pressure mapping foil, and due to the fact
that you have two layers the resistance changes and
this is translated to pressure. So I can see exactly where
the bones are touching the saddle and how hard the bones are touching the saddle. – Yeah, okay.
– That’s what can be done, so I can switch it on now, and then we can see how the saddle performs for you – Yeah, let’s do it! – Okay so just keep on pedaling, and try to act as if you were outside (laughs) – I’m outside in the hills, – Okay, shall we take a look here? What we have now here, we can watch the video in real time and you can see that the pressure’s moving from one side to the other and a bit forward and backward, so you’re always moving a bit on the bike, and the pressure’s moving from one side to the other as you’re pedaling. But we can see here in a really good way when we take a look at the medium pressure and also at the next pressure that you’re loading your
sit bones very well, so the middle part of the
saddle, there is no load – That’s good. – Yeah, you can see the
good part of the channel that is unloading the sensitive areas where blood vessels and nerves are getting out of the pelvis, So the bony structures are loaded and that’s exactly how
we would like to have it. – [Doddy] And so, how
many people do you think you go through this process? – I would say not enough. It always helps us in
the development process to get as many pressure
distributions of people to design our saddles
the way that they suit the most riders outside, as many riders as possible, and that’s why it’s so necessary to get as much data as possible, So we’re moving from events to events or getting people in here to get their butts measured (laughs)
– Yeah. – And so this helps us to create a saddle that can cope with the problems
that people are having, and create the pressure distribution that we would like to have, to load the bony structures and unload. (smooth music) – After we sketch and we have a clear idea that everyone’s behind, we start really with
the concept development. That means turning it into
functional prototypes. Which involves, of course, not only on 2-D but also in 3-D, so we
move on to CAD design, which is Computer Assisted
Design or Development, so what we’ve got here is a CAD program, it’s a 3-D program in which you construct and build every part. And what we’re looking at right now is the assembly part, so it’s all of the parts together in one. So engineers let us know the rail drives into this garage and this garage has to have these specific dimensions. If you don’t have– – It’s not going to fit?
– It’s not going to fit. it’s going to crack, it’s going to sound, So it’s going to have three millimeters, 3.5, four millimeters wall thickness so you’ve got to take a lot
of factors into consideration. So if you go inside this part, you’ll see that it’s like this huge,
huge construction which is feature over feature over
feature so it’s huge. We can also check extra parts that we adapted to the shell. And you’ve got a rear mod cart which you can adapt to the clip on the base of the shell, one of the cool features
of the SM Men saddle. – You have no idea when you look at the saddle base, how much work that you’ve just shown me goes into it, that’s insane. – This way we can create functional prototypes which we produce also in-house through a milling machine, 3-D printer, and some magic hands from our colleagues. So we can try different construction concepts maybe or see how far we can push the
limits of each product. – [Doddy] Once a design concept has been approved digitally, a prototype is made in-house. Using the CAD designs,
the prototype is milled from a choice of varying
densities of foam. The rubber exterior
material is draped over, and the padding is attached to a 3-D printed shell. (smooth music) – As soon as we finish
the first prototype, we would go and put it on a bike, go ride it here locally in Koblenz, and then we can already
see if we’re happy with it, if there’s anything that we want to change – And at the moment we’re doing a study here in house so it’s people of the region that are coming to visit us here and do a study and test several saddles and also test them outside, give us the feedback
through a questionnaire. – Sometimes we send it to other riders, professional riders that are sponsored by us as well. They send us their feedback – We have the FMD Racing Team, Canyon Factory Racing Team, we have a few young gun racing teams, all the different athletes
in different sports from XC to downhill, We send the prototypes out to them so they can actually test, and then we Skype with them, we talk to them we ask them about their opinion and then try to put all that feedback into the product again. – Wow, so they’re actually
testing some of those prototypes similar to what we saw earlier. – Exactly. If we find out about
things we want to change, we just change it in the CAD. – So we always have to keep in mind Okay, I changed the shell, how is this going to effect
padding, rail, and other components – Yeah, yeah, sure. – How is this going to
look on a bike right now If you’re saying this is
not comfortable enough, we need to add 3
millimeters padding to the– – [Doddy] Change the appearance again. – And then three months later, you have to check this looks too fat for
a downhill bike ride, so in order to avoid these, we need to always go back to the briefing, to the original requirements which we from the start stated are
the most important thing. – Then talk about it again and again, get everything finished, redo the thing and do everything again. – And again. – And again! – Until we get it right. – And on top of that, Ergon conducts constant
in-house lab testing to make sure all their
designs and material stand up to the rigors of continual use. And if you’ll follow me in here, we’re going to find that, hopefully, Freddie is up and running in here. How you doing? – Hello, hi! – Yeah, cool, so I’ve just been talking upstairs with the crew about how the 3-D design turns into
the rapid prototyping, which we’ve seen now. Now here, you’re going to be doing some lab testing in here. – Yes. – So can you just tell
me the sort of tests you’ve got in here, and how you get a product finalized before it goes to production, I guess. – Yes, so this is our
static testing machine that we use to try to understand how our saddles behave, the different materials, how they deflect For example, we want to see how the plastic part,
the shell of the saddle, how it will deflect having
different thicknesses so we can make sure that the saddle deflects in the right way
for the type of saddle you’re trying to make. We can actually run a test if you want so you can see what happens.
– Yeah, definitely! Let’s see actually what happens to this– – We are about to load the saddle with 70 kilograms, which are going to be loaded
onto these two points, which are our sit bones. They simulate the bones of the body. – [Doddy] I can already
see it flexing, yeah. – Exactly. And interesting to notice also that the nose moves up a little bit as the saddle is pressed down. These are the sit bones that we have right now, right here, but we have other types
of sit bone shapes, depending on the kind
of riding you’re doing you’re going to be leaning more forward, so your sit bone position on the saddle is going to change, so you need to have different sizes of those sit bones and
also different widths, depending on the anatomy of each person, obviously that’s going to differ. – And so, wow, that’s a serious amount of testing that has to go on. – Yes. – So what is the goal of
this part of the testing? Is this for like stress of the saddle? Is this for comfort? – It’s to really understand
how much the saddle moves when you pedal, when your leg is on there, when you’re pedaling cause you don’t want too much movement or too little movement, or you want more of one kind of riding than another, and to see how different
materials will behave, will allow deflection or not. So it’s to make sure
we’re doing the saddle right for the type of riding that we want. Yeah, for the type of riding. – Cool and also, what other
tests have you got in the lab? – We have temperature testing here, for example we simply heat up the saddle to a certain temperature for a long time and see how the materials are affected, Then after that we can
maybe run this test again and see if there is difference. – If it’s different after, wow. – Exactly, ’cause obviously
you can leave a bike outside in the high
temperature for a long time, the whole summer 40 degrees, so we have to make sure it can withstand the heat well. Also humidity testing, cause you have that problem in many areas and humidity can be a huge problem. All these, humidity, heat, and very cold could make the saddle too hard, Make it more uncomfortable,
so it’s important to make sure that it stays as comfortable even in these extreme conditions. – What would the effect of
humidity be on a saddle? – It could be harder. – All right, okay. – There are problems, you hear about problems of people living in high humidity areas, they say some saddles can change over time so we have to make sure that we choose materials that don’t
change their properties, their behavior with high humidity. – Wow, so this is totally
not what I thought this was going to be like, it’s not just simply making, getting the correct foam
and the correct base and the correct top, – No. – And checking the saddle
is strong and stiff, there’s so much more
to saddle development. Wow, this is quite impressive. – And then after that, it’s all about bringing it to production so not only ergonomics
and engineering feedback, always at one table, but also regarding production. So we travel to our manufacturers as well, to take care of, to go
through all the projects. Because you can design
something really cool here, but if you just leave
it to your manufacturer without working and
learning from each other – [Doddy] Constant communication. – It can be a huge gap
between the expected result and the end result, so you have to be also
there and learn from them, get their feedback regarding production, and then you can kind of hand-in-hand, develop the best product possible inside a time frame because the determining factor is always time. – Well, there we go, that
is a finished Ergon saddle. I certainly didn’t think
there was going to be that many parts to the process, but I’m seriously impressed
by the sheer amount of design, industrial design,
testing, prototype testing, laboratory testing, and
then real world testing that goes into making something like this. It’s certainly made me pay a bit more attention to it and certainly the fact that they make
these for different sit bone widths and it’s definitely designed around different style riders makes it a super interesting process, and well worth checking out. Definitely get yourself measured up for the right sized saddle. The saddle is the key to being super comfortable on a bike. Hopefully you found this
as interesting as I did, touring around the
facility here in Koblenz, For another Canyon related video, click over here if you want to see a Canyon E-Bike versus
a Canyon Mountain Bike, that one’s over on EMBN, and as always, don’t forget to give us a huge thumbs up here at GMBN Tech, and of course, don’t forget to click, share, and subscribe
for all the content. Cheers, guys!