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The Right Seat-Pad

Author: Adam / Comments: 0

It’s the beginning of a new year and it's time to start thinking about the biking season ahead. In case you want to ride more, choosing the right seat-pad will ensure you are comfortable and can enjoy your ride for longer. The smallest details sometimes make all the difference, and the level of comfort will help increase your endurance and ability to endure pain.

One of the 'Engineers Talk' article by Mavic explains about how they design, develop and test their seat-pads. It’s not a game, it’s a professional way to do it, and they are the best ones in business!

Typical distribution in pressure during
  the downstroke with the right leg

Typical distribution in pressure during the downstroke with the right leg - by Mavic

We all agree that perceived comfort is highly subjective (like fashion), and there is no guarantee that the same solution will suit different people, but there are some objectives that professionals has to asses and test in real conditions in order to achieve the best. Comfort is essential for achieving pleasure, and for deriving maximum benefit from the cyclist’s physical capacities. It depends primarily on the individual, therefore it is difficult to find a one-size-fits-all solution. Nevertheless, in the case of cycling and more specifically the interface between cyclist and saddle, studies have shown correlations between the subjective notion of comfort and objective factors that can be measured in the laboratory.

Mavic specialists tested in the laboratory the measurement of anthropometric parameters and they found that women’s inter-ischial distance is significantly greater than men by 16.7%, therefore designing the seat-pads differently for men and women is essential. They’ve also researched the measurement of mechanical qualities, by conducting many rebound tests, different material tests, vibration tests, load-bearing tests, breathability tests, field tests.

All these tests proved that developing a high-quality cycling pad is a highly complex process that involves finding the sweet spot from a number of parameters. Achieving that sweet spot means objectively assessing the intrinsic characteristics of the inserts and accurately measuring the conditions actually experienced during a ride in order to select the solutions offering the best response to a given set of parameters. Ultimately, performance needs to be validated with cyclists in real conditions. In the end, such developments are always based on a combination of lab tests, field tests and tests with end users.

What is the best cycling pad? Which one should you choose?
There are many solutions responding to several types of parameters involved, like:

  • Riding profile - On more “extreme” rides, it is essential to “weigh up” the balance between performance and comfort. This involves cyclists identifying their own ride profiles. The level of proficiency and type of cycling must also be taken into account when choosing a pad. “Leisure” cyclists should choose a comfortable pad. Conversely, minimalist pads are the answer for cyclists in search of pure performance. Once again, the key is striking the right balance between performance and comfort.
  • Ride duration - Any high-end pad should enable the cyclist to comfortably ride 100 km or more. This gives cyclists a chance to also take account of pleasure and personal comfort when buying a bib short.
  • Sex - The distribution of materials in a man’s pad is narrower than in a woman’s pad due to the distance between the ischial tuberosities. Despite being of a smaller build than a man, a woman’s ischial tuberosities would lie outside the protective areas of a man’s pad.
  • Height and mass - Exceedingly tall cyclists (over 2 m) should choose a wider pad, because they are statistically more likely to have a larger inter-ischial distance. However, the distribution and design of Mavic’s pads cover 99% of all ischial widths. The cyclist’s mass will influence the force (weight) applied to the pad. The greater the mass, the more the cyclist should focus on a thicker load-bearing pad. In addition, since there is a strong correlation between mass and height, it is in tall cyclists’ best interest to choose a load-bearing pad.

Probably the right answer to the questions asked is that you should test several pads: one pad for each type of ride profile and work with them as necessary. There is no one choice fits all!

If you want to read more about the impact of the intrinsic characteristics of seat pads on comfort and performance you can do it here.



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