What is your role at Ergon?Janina Haas:
I am a sports scientist and I'm responsible for ergonomics at Ergon. I am part of the R&D team that we have in Koblenz, Germany which is made up of designers, engineers and of course, ergonomic specialists. We start working on every project from the beginning together, so it's not only the designer saying how we need to do the stuff to look, it's all of us working together sitting at the table and just discussing stuff and how we can do it. Our designers are more like industrial designers so they get into the process and technical stuff right away.
What is your background for your schooling?Janina Haas:
I studied Sports Science. My master's degree was a mixture of sports and engineering science. It was called Sports Technology at the German Sports University in Cologne. That's how I got into all of this. I've been riding bikes for like 10 years. My parents have a bike shop and that's how I came into it.
Is this your first job after you finished your master's degree?Janina Haas:
Yeah. I did my master's thesis at Ergon and just stayed there. It's such a cool company with nice colleagues, and nice possibilities you have there.
What are ergonomics?Janina Haas:
Ergonomics is about measuring the human body and the machine. At Ergon, we cover all contact points to the bike. We have insoles and saddles and we have grips and gloves and also backpacks. It's about making the contact points in between the rider and the bike as comfortable as possible. Ergonomics comes originally from work science, adjusting the whole work surroundings in a factory or on your desk, that stuff.
It's about making the work environment less harmful. That's what ergonomics usually, originally comes from. Sports ergonomics is more or less the same. You have to have the knowledge of the human body and about anatomy and how everything works and how everything needs to work to get the best performance, the best comfort and to stay as long on the bike with the most fun as possible. That's what we try to do. That's what our products are all about. Fitness, comfort, fun, and performance on the bike.
It's for the pro rider, but also for the recreational rider who just wants to sit on the bike and feel comfortable and doesn't want to think about hurting fingers, numb fingers, or sitting problems. That's the story of ergonomics.
How did the new women's saddle come about?Janina Haas:
My female colleagues and I just couldn't find a saddle that we were happy with. We talked to friends, and women at bike events and bike festivals, and everybody said more or less the same thing - that they have too much pressure in the front area. Also, around that time the Canyon-SRAM women's racing team came into being. Canyon is right in Koblenz as we are. So they came over and we were like "Hey, shouldn't we just figure this out together?"
So we got the riders from Canyon-SRAM into the whole research process too. I did several tests with them and did some pressure mapping. The thing that was so interesting was that the issues they had were the same issues that recreational riders had. So with that feedback from recreational riders, and from pro racers, we decided that we needed to do something about it. So we got into the scientific side of things. We had a university student analyze 50 male and 50 female pelvises for us via X-ray and CT scans.
Almost everything to do with the saddle has to do with the pubic bones, like the pelvic geometry. In a woman's pelvis, the pubic bones have a wider angle than in a male pelvis, and this brings the pubic symphysis a bit lower. This leads to a compression of the soft tissue a bit earlier than it does for male riders. Women also have a higher flexibility, so when they sit on the saddle they tend to roll their pelvis a bit more forward. So you have those two factors: the pelvic geometry and the tendency to roll the pelvis a bit more forward. This leads to some more compression of soft tissue in between the saddle surface and the pelvis.
Those two concepts were the foundation for the saddle. What we did with the saddle is make it a bit wider in the transition area to get the pubic bone on the saddle to load the bone structures on the saddle and to unload the soft tissue area and the middle and the front area.
The women's saddles also have a cut out that goes to the very front of the saddle. Having a cutout saddle is not really new, but there are many saddles where the cutout ends at the exact spot where you would need a cutout, and doesn't go far enough towards the front. We also have padding in the nose area of the saddle so that it is still squishy and comfy in that area.
We also put a big focus on the way the saddle surface gets into the cutout zone. If you just do a cutout with the saddle, it is going to pinch in some spots where you don't want to have some pinching, so we tried to smooth out this area as much as possible and create a larger surface area in the nose area. When you have a cut out you take away surface and you have to be careful about not having too much pressure in this area.
We also have a little bit of a shorter nose on the women's saddles as we are shorter than men and also ride shorter frames. You don't want to get off the bike and have a saddle nose pinching in your back.
Last thing about the women's saddle is that it rises a bit in the rear. As we are more flexible than men, when we sit on a flat saddle and roll forwards to pedal, it feels like our sit bones are just going into the air. We want to have some pressure on the sit bones as well so that's why we raise the saddle a bit in the rear part so that female riders can load the rear part of the bony structures.
What projects did you work on for Ergon before you started working on this saddle?Janina Haas:
The rest of the saddles. We had a touring saddle that we launched at Eurobike last year, so that was a big project. The SMA and the SMC4 were also the projects I had. The SMC4 is more like a comfortable mountain bike saddle for touring and the SMA3 was our first mountain bike trail saddle which was a bit more comfortable than the SME. I'm also responsible for the grips, so the GA1 Evo, a really cool update of our GA grips. We created a bit more grip, updated the material, so it's a really cool project I've been working on the last year. Also, the downhill grip and of course the GA2 and the GA3, the mini wing grip which is really good for riders that need a bit more of a surface area.
The cool thing about it is the wing is that it is really soft and really flexible because the inner core doesn't go to the very edge of the grip. So it's flexible. You even have more fun descending with it since it is really is comfy and helps to improve the comfort on the bike because it enlarges the surface area.
How long have you been with Ergon for?Janina Haas:
I'm in my fifth year with Ergon so it's been quite a long time.
So you suffered with the saddles that existed at Ergon for five years?Janina Haas:
Yeah. Well, we have been working on the women's saddle for the last 2 years. Our factory riders were a part of this project and we also got a milling machine in Koblenz at our office. It has been loop and loop and loop and prototype testing, prototype testing, prototype testing so it's really cool and fun.
What was it like working with the factory athletes on this project?Janina Haas:
It's nice to get in such good contact with our athletes because they are riding the stuff every day. We can never - well, we are riding our bikes quite a lot as well - but we can never get those hours on the bike and use the stuff as much as they do. It's a really cool thing to work so closely together with our athletes. It's just interesting getting their feedback on things and sometimes you're in your own bubble and you just need some other people telling you what stuff is like and how they use it. It just helps improve step by step everything we do.
And how many different versions of the saddle did you create throughout that two year period?Janina Haas:
Saddle sizing is a big thing for us, so every saddle comes in different sizes according to the sit bone width. We also have for the women's saddle, two specs for the mountain bike saddle and two specs for the road saddle, so it's been a total of four saddles that we created.
The mountain bike saddle comes in a standard version with really good padding that has a really good rebound so it feels soft but you don't sink into it too deeply. It's only good for short rides to have a really really soft saddle otherwise you don't want to have that because muscles and nerves get compressed when you sink too deeply into the saddle.
The other spec of the women's mountain saddle that we have is the gel inlay which goes to the very front of the saddle because we want also some comfort in the front area.
So you would create one version, sent it to the factory team riders, they tried it, they sent back feedback, you sent them another version, and you went back and forth and back and forth?Janina Haas:
Yeah, that's how it's working. Depending on the saddle and depending on how far off we were on the first try, it was more or fewer loops. We wanted to come out with a really cool product, so we took this two years of research and developing and doing prototypes.
And what widths do you have?Janina Haas:
For the women's saddle, we have two different widths. We measure the absolute width of the saddle but this is not really important. The sit bone width and the riding position are more important values. You just need to know a rider's sit bone width to get the right saddle.
How did you name these saddles?Janina Haas:
It might a bit kind of hard to guess what it means, but if you get it once it's not too hard. The S stands for "saddle," the M for "mountain bike," and E is for "enduro," A is for "all-mountain" and D is for "downhill." With the grip, it's G for the grip, E for "enduro," A for "all-mountain", D for "downhill." So that's the story of our names.
And the numbers is the padding level. The SME3 is saddle padding that is in between. It's not really thin and it's not really thick, so it's a 3. The SMC4 has more padding than the SMC3, which is like a mid range. That's why the SMC4 has a bit more padding. So the higher the number the more padding.
And for the grips, it's about the bar length. The GP1 has no bar, the GP2 has a little bar, and the GP5 has a big bar. For the technical grips we don't have any bar and the GA1 was the first GA grip, the GA2 was the second GA grip, the GA3 is the third GA grip.
How does the pressure mapping work?Janina Haas:
We have a pressure mapping foil, there are some sensors - it almost looks like a thin saddle cover - and you put it on the saddle and it measures the pressure the bones are making on the saddle. We prefer to get the pro riders and the recreational riders on the pressure mapping foil and try to analyze where there might be some spots that might occur, that might create some problems.
And then you can see if there are some red spots and you know that you have to do something about it. You know you have to redistribute the pressure and think about the shape again. It's like back and forth all the time. Also riding it out there on the trails is also a big thing too.
How many people do you think are riding the wrong size saddle and how do you know what width saddle you need?Janina Haas:
Well there are many people riding the wrong size. Sit bone width and proper saddle width you cannot see this when you see people. You can have small hips, but quite wide sit bone width.
It's really important to get the proper measurements with our TS1 measuring device so you can see pretty much exactly what size of saddle people will need. That's the big thing. I know it from our factory riders - we measured all of them and some of them wanted to stay on a small saddle but as soon as they tried out the appropriate size they were like, "Okay, I don't want to move back to the smaller one any more," and the other way around. It's really, really important to get the right saddle size.
Are there other ways of measuring sit bone width?Janina Haas:
There are some other ways with paper and stuff but there might be some miscalculating in other ways so we prefer that people do it with our TS1 measuring device so that we know that it's exact and measured the right way.