Why Meld’s Design Process Isn’t Like Custom Bike Building’s
Every now and then, someone comes up to us and tells us exactly what he wants as the shape of his custom saddle. His expectations of what the overall process should be is different from Meld’s automated way of generating saddle models based primarily on the anatomy. After encountering a few of these folks, we think that since they own custom-built bikes, perhaps they believe our process of making custom saddles should be similar. In this article, we explain why there are differences between the two.
Information We Convey
For a custom bike built at the local bike store, we probably already know quite well details of the bike we want, such as its geometry. We convey this information to the bike builder: we talk about it, or do a short write-up of our requirements. The builder may have his/her opinions and feedback, and after some to-and-fro, we get the bike we want. This process works because the information we convey is effective in achieving the desired result.
The right saddle isn’t designed the same way. Many of us do not know our sitbone widths. Some of us sit on our perineums mistaking it for our sitbones. And in general, we most likely do not have the best points of reference with regards to saddles: the design we want is limited to our past experiences with them. We don’t know if, and how, saddles can be better, and we don’t know that we don’t know.
As a result, if we convey what we want to the custom saddle designer, the information is probably incorrect and/or incomplete and we’re very likely to get it wrong. This means the design needs iteration, which means it ends up being a trial-and-error process. And even in that case, folks who know only about sitting on their perineums will continue doing so and end up with the least uncomfortable saddle and not the most comfortable, because that’s all they know about with regards to sitting on saddles.
The Anatomy as Ground Truth
Hence, a lot of the design decisions going into getting a saddle right doesn’t come from us in either spoken or written form. Instead, we have to look at the ground truth, which is the anatomy itself. There are other secondary factors, such as how we use the saddle (whether we move fore/aft a lot), which we can provide feedback for. But, we, as users, should not trust ourselves to fully decide, for instance, how wide the saddle should be.
By making most of the saddle design decisions based on the anatomy and not our verbal/written inputs, and by getting feedback on how to install and use the saddle (e.g. don’t sit on our perineums), we dramatically increase the chances of getting the saddle right the very first time. Trial-and-error, and the resulting frustration, is largely eliminated.
It is this understanding that we can’t really trust ourselves to determine the best saddle for us which leads Meld to anchor the design process around the anatomy. This is the reason why Meld does not, and cannot, approach custom saddle design the same way folks approach custom bike building.
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