Ergon's Saddle Designer: "My Female Colleagues & I Couldn't Find a Saddle We Were Happy With" - Interview

May 23, 2018
by Sarah Moore  
Ergon Interview
We spoke with Janina Haas at the Sea Otter Classic this April, where Ergon launched their new women's saddle program.

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.


Inside Ergon
Janina at Ergon in 2016 when Pinkbike's Matt Wragg visited their Koblenz office.


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.


Ergon Interview


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.


Ergon Interview


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.


Ergon Interview


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.


Ergon Interview


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.


Ines Thoma would suffer a mechanical at the close of the day to finish 9th.
Ines Thoma for the Canyon Factory Racing Enduro Team is one of Ergon's test riders.


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.

Ergon Interview at Sea Otter Classic 2018
The two versions of the new Ergon women's saddles were on display at the Sea Otter Classic.
Ergon Interview at Sea Otter Classic 2018
The two models, the SM Women and the SM Women Sport Gel, each come in two colours and two widths.

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.


Ergon Interview


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.


Ergon Interview


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.


Ergon Interview
Ergon Interview


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.


Ergon Interview


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.


Rachel Strait makes an appearance and is looking good in the matching Sombrio kit.
Rachel Strait is one of Ergon's female test riders.
Ergon Interview


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.


Ergon Interview
Ergon Interview



MENTIONS: @ergonbike



Must Read This Week

94 Comments

  • + 95
 Saddle designer - aka Assegai.
  • + 4
 Underrated comment of the day
  • + 18
 Except in this case it's Assegal
  • + 5
 Her name is Haas. Sounds a little like nominative determinism.
  • + 53
 No 26” option? WTH?!
  • + 35
 Ergon, singularly the best saddle i have ever had !!!! Will be checking out this one for the missus, the shouts of 'sore bits' after a 40km ride will hopefully be a thing of the past..... and the following 'don't touch' 3 day lock out ;-(
  • + 20
 Tried countless saddles, and can’t go past my Selle SMP Lite 209. Combined with some Assoss knicks and my bits are bomb-proof, with no lock outs Razz
TMI?
  • + 6
 @Lejla:

My best is SQ Lab 611...
  • + 1
 Ergon and SDG have always supported me with comfort
  • + 1
 I've had the best luck with a Selle Italia Diva if your lady wants to try another option - but I do like the sound of this one.
  • + 1
 @zokinjo: great saddle
  • + 1
 @Lejla: She isn't keen on padded shorts (as i'm not also), it gets very hot here in summer and padding adds to the 'cooking pot' syndrome..... my Ergon saddle will allow for 2 hour plus climbing in the saddle without complaint, she will spend even longer as she is generally XC, the lady specific Ergon could be the answer....
  • + 1
 Ladies out there, how do you choose your padded knickers / shorts? Apparently I'm not sitting on the very far end of the pad where it's the widest, but in the part where it starts narrowing down. Only one pad that I found is wide enough, and I tried countless. And of course it's no longer manufactured. All the rest is simply too narrow for me and I end up with max pressure points outside of the pad. I ended up not wearing padded shorts at all. Does anyone else have this problem?
  • + 2
 @Slabrung: do try Assos. They’pricey though, so make sure you can try them on first.
The chamois on them seems to be wider than others I’ve tried.
@Steve-skidvd: it gets very hot here as well, I just deal by wearing short knicks and a singlet! I actually couldn’t imagine no chamois in summer. The sweat would make it worse, with the rubbing/chafing etc ... but anyway, my point was more about the saddle I use. The Selle Diva is too wide and padded for me. Softer saddles are not better.
  • + 1
 @Lejla: thanks, will try for sure!
  • + 16
 The only office job where it's OK to photocopy your butt.
  • + 12
 hmm, Ergonomics team does not have ergonomic workstation setup.
  • + 1
 Ergonomic workstation setup can eat a bag of d... if you don’t work out your back and shoulders, massage regularly, no certified smartarse or bunch of dumb gadgets will help you. People sitting on a fkng pilates ball, standing on rubber matt, using idiotic replacements for mouse, sitting on kneeling chairs or complex office chairs looking like a mix of R2D2 and a Tie fighter, no just no. Good posture is not something to try to obtain and mantain, it is something that happens to you when you work out properly.
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns: I’ve got an idiotic mouse replacement (ergo!!) It almost instantly reversed the problems I had with the traditional flat hand position, I couldn’t even use it until I switched, when it’s your job that’s a problem, it also caused major problems for my climbing which is a very good work out so that wasn’t the problem, it was the unnatural and repetitive position my arm was forced into.
  • - 2
 @jimmythehat: Well ergo is a kind of a mouse isn't it? Also I'm using a logitech mouse that is half way to ergo. I just speak from experience of working in two companies. People who have issues, just have issues, and sporty people rarely one of them. So by average, make your body do work that balances out your regular work. A tip: mountain biking on it's own is not going to fix it. neither yoga. And I know enough poor fks who don't work out and just pound on gadgets and weird physiotherapies. Collapsed shoulders, overgrown neck muscles pinching on nerves and vains. No gadget or way of stretching will do much for this. Find a way to put those fkng shoulder blades together with digusting ease. All sorts of pull ups and rows, then to keep shoulders bold, all sorts of pushups and dips, hang on the bar - do a lot of it. It's not an exercise, it's a way of being because we all benefit from it in every single aspect of our lives. We had an ergonom coming to our offices fixing the way people sit, guess what it's better for your shoulder and neck but it fks up your lumbar spine and elbow.
  • + 1
 Standing desk for the win!
  • + 4
 The Ergon designers might not be at their desks for extended periods of time. I know I didn’t have any issues with desk jobs until I became a software developer in a satellite office and I was no longer regularly getting up to investigate problems or talk to people.
  • + 9
 @mmoon:
Commuting to a Satellite office must be a long trip. Nice view from the window though.
  • + 2
 @mmoon: Yup, working from home has the same issues. However, I find it easier to talk with my bike tools and parts.
  • + 1
 @macross87: I'd sell my mother into slavery to work from home.
  • + 1
 @Session603: it has its pros/cons. Especially when the family is home. Most home insulation’s are not tailored towards it.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: yeah i have to get out of my chair 20 times a day and do a couple squats or stretch or roller massage myself to keep the spine problems at bay. Movement works wonders
  • + 5
 Ergon ain't my thing. Whatever i have tried from them is simply not ergonomic enough to justify the price. Having spent literally hundreds of euros on different saddles, my sweetest spot has been a SQlab liteville with carbon rails. This thing just vanishes the bike under me. If i was told i would not believe but this saddle is simply incredible and thus, worthy of all the hard earned cash i splashed to put it on my bike, or under my bum for that matter.
  • + 2
 Big fan of SQLab too. Other saddles gave me pain, numbness or even prostatitis, but the SQLab is just awesome. Obviously you have to use the measurement stuff for your sitting bones before ordering one. Wink
  • + 1
 I always found durability issues with their grips for mtb. The plastic underneath the rubber would crack if you crash and the whole thing would start twisting on the bar. Makes me reluctant to try their saddles.
  • + 2
 WTB Volt for me, but it's really a personal fit thing. Nosingle saddle is going to be right for everyone.
  • + 1
 @MrEtnie @bobos: do you guys have issues with noise. Mine is really noisy when I shift my weight around. Great saddle but the noise drives me nuts.
  • + 1
 @
Had my first rides on the 611- and man I wasn’t sore or anything.
Best saddle I’ve used so far, and not even that expensive (75€).
  • + 1
 @NotNamed: No issues with noise so far for me.
  • + 7
 Why every brand make their "own" version of specialized power saddle ?

Because the power saddle is a very good saddle ????
  • + 9
 Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
  • + 3
 Yeah, no one should try to make new products anymore because some brand nailed it.
  • + 13
 Imitation is the sincerest form of fl...... *damnit*
  • + 2
 Spesh, Bonty make amazing saddles that fit most people out there, even if they are hard on the wallet. Many asses fit Selle Italias too. But we are all different and there are good reasons to believe that more is more in the case of multitude of saddle options. The only issue is: where can you test one?
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: around here it’s the roadie biased shops that demo higher end saddles
  • + 1
 There's a certain "style" of saddles that every manufacturer has in their line.
  • + 3
 Had an Ergon saddle (their "enduro" version) and it was super painful on long rides, which is ironic how not ergonomic that saddle was, thought maybe theres a wear in period but even a year later it was still painful, got a WTB volt and it was more comfortable on the first ride than the Ergon ever was. That was 2 years ago, 3 bikes ago, same WTB saddle is still working so well. Sorry Ergon :/
  • + 2
 Ergon sucks! the marketing fooled us all!!
  • + 1
 Same, can't stand Ergon. One came on my Yeti and I hated it from day 1. WTB fits my butt more better.
  • + 2
 I've been riding since the 80's! This is the best saddle HANDS DOWN that my rear has ever had the pleasure of sitting on. low profile, super comfy, I highly, highly recommend. I've been riding one on both my DH and my AM bike for almost a year now, totally changed the game.
  • + 2
 Ergon makes the most uncomfortable saddle i have ever used the SME3 pro and yes i measured my sit bones. This company acts like they are better than the others becuse they use the science of "ergonomics" and their marketing fooled me. Just now they are realizing they need a pressure relief channel on their saddles?! The womens saddle looks more comfortable than anything they make for men
  • + 1
 I've always thought of a saddle as something you get used to. The only one I've ever noticed being uncomfortable was when the iBeam saddles first came out. That sucker was like sitting on a steel saddle. But I got used to it. As a bloke it's not something I've ever really thought about it. It would be interesting to be fit for one, and see if it made any difference to my normal 90 minute ride.
  • + 1
 I'm still trying to find a saddle that really fits me. I measured my sitting bones and got the Ergon SME3, which was an improvement, but I'm still not happy with it. Plus after a few weeks of use, it started to creak under pressure. That new one looks promising - or maybe I should just try an SQ Lab.
  • + 1
 I just had a lot of luck with Chromag trailmaster, it's heavy but i went for a ride the pther day with no pads and didn't have any numbness at all, i also had ergon sme3 that would make me numb down there after 1 hour...
  • + 1
 I love ergon grips (i have 4) and backpacks (i have 2), but with gloves seems to be the same issues as with the saddles... I have a HA2 gloves pair and the fingers are very large for the perfect fit in my palm.
  • + 1
 My Wife has had a heap of different saddles trying to find something that fits her. It's important for chicks to get a saddle that works if they are an innie or an outie, might have a look at these.
  • + 1
 innie or an outie??
  • + 2
 @Lejla:
Your lady bits.. do they stick out a bit? Then you're an outie. Not many ways to describe it without be too personal and I'm not going to post pictures for reference... haha
  • + 1
 @Lejla:
totalwomenscycling.com/fitness/cobb-saddles-ask-innie-outie

All the chicks should read this and don't be shy about what you need.

SFW
  • + 1
 Ohhhhhh... OK! I just thought girs were innies, boys were outies Razz
Never even crossed my mind, that...
  • + 4
 So am I the only dude wondering if this will work for him?
  • + 1
 I heard that Ergon is having a new men saddle in their line up... Wink
  • + 9
 Taint nothing wrong with that!
  • + 2
 @endlessblockades: oh you didennnnt
  • + 2
 A lot of dudes use the WTB Koda saddle that is supposedly a women's saddle. A ton of women I know like the Specialized power saddle that is not a women's saddle. I think that there's probably more variation in pubic bones (heh heh) than just men vs women. I also like the Fizik Arione Donna (the "women's" version) because it's wider than the regular arione. I don't think it makes sense to split saddle design into men's vs women's saddles.
  • + 1
 @chachmonkey: Have you *seen* a female vs. male pelvis? This must be the one thing where it makes perfect sense to have a male and female design, given that a male pelvis isn't built to accommodate a small beach ball.
  • + 2
 @Lejla: Sure, some women push babies through their pelvises, but have you noticed that not every woman has the same level of difficulty with this? I'm not trying to say that women and men have the same pelvis; I'm saying that even one woman and another woman will often have different pelvises. I think it's mostly marketing to pretend that a saddle is for "women," instead of saying that that saddle will fit a specific pelvic shape. The point about "innies" and "outies" above is one example of how saddle choice is based on much more than a generalization about women's pelvises. And there are several people I know (including myself) who have chosen saddles based on comfort, which has lead them to pick saddles that don't line up with what the marketing tells us about pelvis shape and gender. I just think that it's more realistic to say that all kinds of people have different pelvis shapes (plus many other factors, like innie/outie) rather than focusing on a single factor.
  • + 4
 So now Janina's Haas is now happy with her new saddle.
  • + 2
 Fucking gold!
  • + 1
 Looks like a Power. They couldn't find one they were happy with, simply arrived at the same design as the Power through separate and isolated development! Yeah okay!
  • + 3
 I don"t workout. I always thought the weights were heavy.
  • + 1
 SQlab for real. My Ergon SME3 was the best ever saddle until I swallowed the big price tag and bought a sqlab 611 ergo wave active.
  • + 2
 bugger no tail bone relief, i wont be able to use it was super keen otherwise
  • + 2
 The two pictures showing riders on the bike, the riders are standing...just sayin'
  • + 2
 LMFAO

"Janina Haas: I'm in my fifth year with Ergon so it's been quite a long time."
  • + 1
 I like their saddles but I wish the stack height / rail height wasn't so high. Also I can never not laugh at the butt measuring machines.
  • + 2
 Why is it so hard to say vulva? We are all adults here. Oh wait...
  • - 2
 I made a really wide saddle just to see how it would work on the trails (20cm wide). I was totally on my sit bones pedaling around my flat driveway, but on steep inclines I still rolled forward onto my taint.
The only way I can see really offering 100% pressure relief would be to have a large step down from where your sit bones should go, which I guess is why some people point the nose of their saddle down as much as they can.
The pressure relief chanel looks like it takes away pressure from the center, but it’s still not putting the load on the sit bones. It still doesn’t seem like the perfect solution to me.
  • + 9
 Nobody wants to hear about your fucking taint
  • + 3
 I want to hear about your fucking taint. For hours. Then piss on me and call me an ugly woman.
  • + 3
 Sorry. Thought I was on Reddit
  • + 2
 Ergon makes my balls numb!!!
  • + 2
 Men’s saddle still mutilating sacks and pelvic bones!
  • + 1
 Ok. Can we please make a 'mens' saddle now? Its really past due
  • + 1
 am i the only one that felt kinda pervy reading this story?
  • + 1
 The New Ergon Moose Knuckle seat designed for Camel Toes.
  • + 1
 What does the T stand for?
  • + 6
 Tagina
  • + 1
 If your butt hurts on your saddle then stand up and pedal slacker.
  • + 1
 I bit off topic but Kyle is sucha lucky dude.
  • + 1
 Yes it is !
  • - 1
 Now women everywhere can queef in peace!
  • - 3
 Dildo saddle.
  • + 6
 spoken like a true 17 year old
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