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Guaranteed comfort with a high-tech saddle

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 28 March, 2006  (New Product)
There are of course still plenty of diehard cycling fans who swear by their good old leather saddles. However, most cyclists now prefer to avoid unnecessary discomfort, no matter what kind of bike they are on, and opt instead for high-tech saddles made of state-of-the-art materials that offer maximum comfort, even over long distances. This also allows committed cyclists to focus completely on their performance.
The renowned Italian company Selle Royal S.p.A. is in the leading group of suppliers dedicated to the well-being of cyclists. The latest product from the Pozzoleone-based experts is the Lookin 3D saddle, which features a perfectly coordinated combination of three polyurethane materials for maximum comfort. In addition to tried-and-tested, comfort-guaranteed Royalgel, it also contains two layers of “traditional” and viscoelastic Bayflex foam made from raw materials supplied by Bayer MaterialScience AG.

“Reducing contact pressure in the saddle as effectively as possible is the most important factor when it comes to ensuring good seating comfort,” says Dr. Andreas Hoffmann, a polyurethanes expert at Bayer MaterialScience. “With the now tried-and-tested Royalgel we have left traditional foams far behind. This material is capable of distributing compressive loads extremely well: it feels soft and springy when you put pressure on it and returns to its original shape when the pressure is removed. This property is enhanced in the new Lookin 3D saddle from Selle Royal, the 'D' stands for 'Density', thanks to an additional layer of viscoelastic polyurethane foam.”

What makes all the difference is the fact that the 3D saddle features a VEI, a “viscoelastic interface”, between the bottom layer of “traditional” Bayflex polyurethane foam and the upper layer of Royalgel. The VEI gives the gel space to move around, in three dimensions rather than two. This intermediate layer means the pressure is distributed very effectively to the lower regions of the saddle. According to Selle Royal, the Lookin 3D saddle reduces the peaks of pressure on the prostate, pubic bone and ischium by up to 80 percent thanks to the “free-moving” gel. All it takes to permanently join the three saddle layers is to inject them in sequence into an open mold, much like in the production of shoe soles.

“Because polyurethanes in their raw state adhere to a variety of other materials, and of course particularly well to other polyurethane systems, we managed to avoid complicated bonding processes when building up the layers,” says Hoffmann. This also applies to joining the polypropylene half-shell which stabilizes the saddle's flexible layers, and the PVC film that gives the finished product its abrasion-resistant surface. When the mold is closed, the two materials are tightly bonded to the interior of the saddle by the reacting polyurethane. The cycle time for manufacturing this comfortable polyurethane 'sandwich' is just a few minutes.

“The specialists at Bayer MaterialScience actively supported the Selle Royal experts during the development work, particularly with regard to coordinating the three polyurethane components,” says Hoffmann.

For instance, as the new high-tech product was to feature viewing windows, it was important to provide raw materials for the Royalgel layer that were particularly colorfast. The newly developed viscoelastic polyurethane foam in the VEI had to ensure absolutely bubble-free, void-free expansion and meet the strict adhesion requirements, and all under the high shear loads that the inside and surface of the saddle are subjected to during its service life.
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