The design of a seat or saddle can have a significant impact on an athlete’s performance and the materials from which it is made can have a major effect on the outcome of a race. It needs to be fit for purpose, strong, lightweight, and to assist rather than impede performance.
The design of the bicycle saddle or seat has been evolving since the invention of the bicycle. Differing cycling activities demand different types of seats. What might be of primary importance for one discipline becomes less crucial for another.
For a road bike the seat needs to be lightweight but strong, ergonomic and streamlined. The Selle San Marco Regal E racing saddle (1) has a carbon fibre base which is covered in a non-slip Microfeel material and incorporates an inset core zone to reduce pressure. The rails are made from Xsilite, a strong, lightweight composition material of silicon, titanium and carbon. The streamlined design of the nose allows cyclists to spin their legs at high speeds without being impeded, whilst the back of the seat offers sufficient width to support the pelvis and just enough padding to absorb impact without adding weight.
A conventional rail seat is prone to breaking in the high impact style of riding of BMX competition. The pivotal seat and post was developed to help overcome some of the problems. They tend to be lighter and stronger. This example by the Stolen Bike Co. (2) incorporates a moulded polycarbonate seat and a seatpost made from Thermalite™, a nylon 6-6 and long glass fibre infusion.
In competition rowing a strong, lightweight and ergonomic design is also crucial. This moulded carbon fibre rowing seat by Martinoli (3), with nylon wheels and rails, is strong, lightweight and ergonomically designed to support the most efficient rowing action possible.
The Gel Sport rowing seat pad (4) has been designed to offer comfort and relieve pressure when undergoing the extensive training necessary to reach Olympic standards. It has an upper surface of neoprene, and an under-side fabric of polypropylene on a woven polyester substrate backing fabric. Comfort is provided by the use of silicone gel and a closed cell nitrogen foam.