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Specialized is no stranger to the saddle game. Look on its website and there is a steady stream of saddles to choose from…and for every discipline. Recently it released the latest iteration of the S-Works Power with Mirror saddle that utilizes 3-D printing and liquid polymer. We’ve been using this saddle for the past couple of months both on dirt and road and decided to dig deeper into the process and details of it with Garrett Getter, product manager for saddles, grips and bar tape at Specialized.
Interview: Tim Schamber. Images: Russ Ellis & Michal Cerveny.
First and foremost, explain Mirror technology? Mirror technology is the combination of an infinitely tunable 3D-printed material and over 20 years of Body Geometry saddle-design knowhow. In this case, it’s a 3D-printed saddle utilizing multiple durometers of honeycomb-shaped padding in key anatomical locations to create a saddle experience unlike anything we’ve ever made or dreamed of.
Foam has been used for so long as we know, why now with liquid polymer? Foam’s biggest limitation is the time it takes to implement changes to the density and shape. Utilizing a digital-manufacturing process allows us to iterate quickly; we can make changes to the print and have those changes in a rideable sample days later. That advantage allows us to tweak and refine a product in a short amount of time.
3D printing has been around for a little while now. How long has Specialized been looking at it as a means of creating product? We’ve utilized 3D printing for prototyping new products for years. It took a new 3D-printing process from Carbon 3D to convince us it could be utilized in a consumer good.
Over time, will the saddle lose its “elasticity” or “memory”? Yes, the material properties will change over time like any foam, but no faster than traditional foam from our testing. One of our professional ITU triathletes has said they feel like this saddle’s fit characteristics remain more constant over time than the foam saddles they’ve rode in the past.
What are the advantages of the polymer compared to foam with regard to sweat, and to elements such as water and heat? It will definitely vent and drain really well since the entire product has openings for drainage and ventilation. It won’t affect the form and function at all.
Will the use of 3D printing enable Specialized to effectively build custom saddles for people? For instance, Rider X may want a power saddle that’s less plush, wider and say a tad longer…. That is the opportunity. The bigger question is, how does a rider know they want a less plush, wider or longer product? That’s where the 20-plus years of Body Geometry research and development will help set us apart.
It seems that saddles have gotten smaller. What’s the explanation for that? For years, the traditional saddle was somewhere in the ballpark of 26 to 28 centimeters long. From our experience, setting tradition aside, there was no good reason for a saddle to be that long. A snub- nosed saddle takes the nose out of the equation, and while some riders miss the longer nose most find a shorter saddle to be more comfortable.
I have the new Power saddle with Mirror and the previous version. How different are the two with regard to the pressure map? Due to the softer durometer where your sit bones would rest, the Mirror saddle feels much more compliant. With that being said, a pressure map of the sit bones shows that peak pressures are much less on the Mirror saddle versus a traditional Power saddle.
Was there any fine-tuning that had to be done with the FACT Carbon shell to accommodate for the new design? We designed a new shell to work with the new design. The print comes off the machine totally flat, so we had to create a shell that had no ribs or differing surfaces where we glue the print down. This was also an opportunity to tweak the shape. The shape of this product is a combination of the Arc and Power, offering class-leading sit-bone support with better hamstring clearance.
Were there any iterations of the new design that were close to what we have now? There were 70 iterations total—in the last two or three we were really close on the cover finish and texture. We wanted something that held you in place but also allowed you to move around. It also had to look good! Not an easy feat.
Explain why there’s material in the center “channel” when that section on any regular open-channeled saddle is void of any material? This center lattice was influenced by Mimic technology and we wanted to incorporate some of those learnings into this saddle. We’ve seen that some center-channel support is really beneficial for women and is safe for men as well.