A Summary: 2016 — 2017

As we end another year working on making anatomy-customized saddles, we take a moment to reflect on what we think about most during the past year. We hope this article is informative and perhaps shed some light on the directions we take and choices we make. All thoughts are appreciated and can be sent to info@meld3d.com.

0. First, A Word of Appreciation

We would like to begin by thanking everyone who either purchased our saddles, were/are beta testers, or provided valuable feedback. We’ll be sure to put the feedback to good use and benefit future users.

1. Natural Bias

The phenomenon that keeps cropping up in discussions is natural bias. Basically, everyone tends to lean to one side while seated, even when our body is symmetrical. In just about every imprint we’ve seen, one side is deeper than the other.

Implications

Representative view of key bike and skeletal components as seen from the rear, pedals are at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions.

For the majority of riders, our skeletal structure (spine, pelvis, left and right legs) is effectively symmetrical. Accordingly, we mirror one side of each imprint to make symmetrical saddles in order to provide the right support.

A tilted saddle results in a) curving of the spine and b) an effective leg-length difference.

Conversely, using the imprint as it is (i.e. one side being deeper than the other) will result in the pelvis being tilted while pedaling. Since our legs and spine are connected to our pelvis, this tilt results in an effective leg-length difference and curvature of the spine respectively. Needless to say, this can cause issues in the near and long term and must be avoided.

Handling Asymmetry

Natural bias also complicates things in cases of pelvic asymmetry. It is commonly believed that relying purely on the imprint is sufficient. Unfortunately, the difference in depth between the two sides of corresponding imprints is a combination of both natural bias and pelvic asymmetry, and it is not possible to separate the two without additional inputs.

A way forward would be to obtain, via X-rays for instance, the precise difference in depth between the two halves of the pelvis, and input that to our model design service. Another, perhaps less complicated way and more widely achievable is to try padding of different thickness on either side of the saddle, a trial-and-error solution which may be good enough.

2. Imprint Inaccuracies

The imprint captured is directly used to generate the saddle model. Hence, inaccuracies with the former result in issues with the latter. The main causes of inaccuracies we’ve encountered include:

  1. sitting too far back on the foam,
  2. shifting weight sideways while on the foam, and
  3. getting up from the foam before the imprint is fully captured, i.e. before users stop sinking into the foam.

As a result of these causes, there is a small likelihood of the resulting saddle not fitting as well. In these situations, we work with the user to determine the root cause, then remedy by recapturing the imprint and replacing the saddle.

3. Installation-Related Fit Issues

Getting the saddle fit right isn’t only about having the right saddle, it is also about positioning the saddle correctly relative to the body and bike.

By relying on photos taken of the mounted saddle, as well as users’ answers to a short questionnaire, we have been able to determine the root causes of installation issues. This allows us to make recommendations on fore/aft and nose tilt adjustments.

In addition, we have encountered a few cases where users’ bike frames’ sizes were unsuitable for them. Frames that are too big prevent saddles from being pushed sufficiently forward, and causes users to sit too far in front (usually on the perineum). Conversely, frames that are too small result in users sitting too far behind, which in turn cause the saddle wings to hit the back of the legs.

4. Repair, Return & Replacement Policies

These policies are updated from time-to-time based on the situations we encountered.

Two-Year Warranties

We continue to provide two-year warranties for our saddles. This covers damages that occur during normal usage of the saddle. For instance, premature wear of the saddle cover and/or graphics is covered, as well as issues with the carbon components due to normal flexing while riding. Excessive impact to the saddle is handled differently.

Excessive Impact Damage

Excessive impact can occur for instance when we hit potholes at speed, when we crash, when the bike is mounted on the car roof then driven into the garage door, etc. This is not to be confused with normal saddle usage, i.e. when the saddle flexes during rides on relatively smooth or slightly bumpy roads.

Our handling of excessive impact damage is driven by the following:

  1. We cannot tell what the impact force encountered actually was, but
  2. we still need some way to determine the maximum impact a saddle can handle in real world usage, and
  3. real world impact forces encountered varies from person to person, and can depend on the individual’s riding style (e.g. aggressive, risk-taking), as well as road conditions along the routes taken.

The methodology we adopted is driven by our goal to have occurrences of excessive impact damage be rare exceptions. To that end, we adjust the strength of our saddles based on general user feedback. If, for instance, road conditions worsen in the future (e.g. the number of potholes per square mile increases), that will be reflected in an overall increase in saddles damaged due to impact, and we will strengthen our saddles accordingly.

To accommodate users who know that their saddles will be experiencing significantly above average impact forces, they can notify us beforehand and we’ll handle the requests on a case-by-case basis.

Lastly, we decided that saddles damaged due to excessive impact can be replaced at lower costs. We offer a 66% discount for the first replacement, 33% for the second, and none thereafter. Users can opt for stronger replacement saddles if they so wish.

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