New Megmeister 3D Was System Technology Set to Revolutionise Saddle Comfort4 Min Read
Saddle discomfort is an issue that affects most cyclists, especially those spending a long time in the saddle (recent research shows that 94% of cyclists have physical complaints while riding and that 64% experience saddle pain). Whilst there are a number of reasons for this, including proper bike setup, posture and the saddle, clothing and padding (chamois) can undoubtedly also be major factors. This is why our team at Megmeister have concentrated their efforts on developing a new, technological approach to padding that raises the bar when it comes to deliver rider comfort.
A little known fact
Despite their racy price tags, most mid to high-end shorts actually use the exact same padding. That’s because there is one company that manufactures a very good range of foam material and sells it to many brands who then incorporate it into their bib shorts. Each brand may name their padding differently but essentially it’s the same foam being used.
Don’t get us wrong, as foam padding goes this is great quality, but we sensed there was an opportunity for cycle padding to get a long overdue upgrade and this is what we set out to achieve two years ago when we embarked on the development of our 3D WAS system.
Before we started the development process we undertook a full analysis of what products are available on the market and across the price spectrum. Initially we pressure mapped these shorts with the help of specialised gebioMized pressure mapping equipment. The accurate data we gathered on each set of padding effectively showed us how well each performed under a variety of conditions.
Surprisingly we discovered that some of the more expensive brands’ shorts did no better in testing than the less premium brands. This was not necessarily surprising given that most pads are sourced from the same place. However, the findings certainly raised some eyebrows amongst those of us that had shelled out big bucks for so-called premium brand shorts.
From the data we could see there was much room for improvement and we realised that to innovate we would need re-think the whole pad design and production process. Following our data and being guided by the science, we focused on the issue of ‘suspension’ in other industries. For example, we investigated suspension mechanics in cars and airplanes and once we gained a deep understanding of the problem we began to look at what a possible solution should look like. Ultimately, we knew that to create new levels of comfort we would have to specifically engineer and develop our own fabric with inbuilt damping qualities, similar to the suspension on cars.
Why cars? The importance of spring v damper
In car technology there are two physical operations involved - springing and damping. You need both. Most cars use steel springs for the springing and fluid-filled dampers (also known as shock absorbers, but that's a misnomer as its actually the springs that absorb the shocks) for the damping.
The springs support the weight of the car, but allow movement under load in order to smooth the ride. The force they require to compress is proportional to the distance they are compressed - so to move 2cm takes twice the force as to move 1cm. However, because of conservation of energy, if they were not damped the suspension would continue to bounce after a bump, which could allow the wheel to temporarily lose contact with the road, reducing grip.
The dampers reduce this bouncing. The force required to compress (or expand) a damper is proportional to the speed at which it is compressed (or expanded), not the distance.
We wanted to apply this science - matching spring and damper rates to the pressure created by cyclists. And this proved one of the more difficult tasks in our pad development.
The difference between suspension and impact absorbing
To understand the Megmeister solution, imagine the foam placed around a child’s trampoline to break the child’s fall. If the child does fall the foam acts to absorb the child’s energy on impact, safely and effectively. And this is how most bib short padding works. However, whilst most bib shorts absorb the initial impact, once pressure is applied to the foam it absorbs the pressure but it does not bounce back quickly.
This means that if you have sat on your bike for any length of time you have pressed all the air out of the pad and greatly diminished its damping qualities. So, what felt wonderful in the shop, does not necessarily feel so great 20 minutes into your ride.
It was clear to us that we needed a new padding material that whilst it would absorb the initial impact would also quickly go back to its original state to deal with the next impact, that’s what we call suspension. This is a totally new concept in chamois design and also the missing link in bib shorts in general.
After a lot of trial and error, we designed a fabric ourselves that creates a similar damping effect as the suspension on cars. We figured that we could create damping between two outer layers of our fabric, by filling the space with threads that act as shock absorbers in the shape of an 8.
Then we enlisted the help of an Italian pad maker to create a professional pad that might look similar to what cyclists are used to but has far superior performance. The result is our Megmeister 3D Warp Aero Suspension (WAS) System,
The moment of truth
The only way to properly test how successful our new pad technology is was to pressure map re-test the best of the existing pads on the market in competition with our new 3D WAS system.
Under strict scientific control conditions (because as a tech led company we wouldn’t want to kid ourselves) we put our technology to the test against four of the top brands out there. What’s more, we undertook our tests in 4 different labs in 4 different countries with several different riders.
And the result? Truly amazing - as our new 3D WAS System, turned out to create significantly better pressure distribution than all the other brands. Which we know results in a more comfortable, pain free ride.
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