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Study 612 ERGOWAVE®R Saddle

Based on the scientific studies of Max Holz

Max Holz has been one of the best mountain bikers in Germany for several years. He already has numerous victories in renowned marathon races, performances for the national team and cross country world cup starts to his credit.In addition to competitive sports, Max studied sports science at the Technical University of Munich with a focus on "Biomechanics". Since one year Max is "Performance Manager" at SQlab. No matter how you twist or turn it, for Max sport plays a major role in every area of life. In his master's thesis, Max precisely applied his knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics, training sciences, but also his practical experience from high-performance sports.


His target: 
To develop a new product for mountain bikers and racing cyclists in a very sporty sitting position with all necessary ergonomic adjustments.

The basis: 
The existing 612 ERGOWAVE® is the basis of the following investigation, since Max himself rode races predominantly on the 612 ERGOWAVE® and trained for hours on this saddle.

The study topic: 
"Load-indicated changes in saddle pressure in cycling based on a dynamic pressure measurement analysis of the SQlab 612 ERGOWAVE® saddle".

The result: 
The new 612 ERGOWAVE® R Saddle

Award-winning: 
Max Holz was awarded the well-known "Dr. Gertrude Krombholz Prize 2019" by the Technical University of Munich for the outstanding achievement in his scientific work.


INTRODUCTION

Cycling is the most popular means of transport but combines two opposite effects: On the one hand, it is an ideal form of aerobic non-impact training with beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system (Hillman, 1997). On the other hand, it is also one of the sources for the development of acute traumatic injuries affecting the urogenital tract, which can lead to erectile dysfunction due to high pressure peaks on the saddle. (Leibovitch / Mor, 2005). Irritating sitting problems up to physical consequences, such as impotence, are under discussion, as the saddle has to carry 40% of the body weight (Rodano et al., 2002). Cyclists have an increased, permanent load at the respective pressure points, which changes with different performance behaviour and influences the pressure on the saddle (Carpes et al., 2009 and Potter et al., 2008). For this reason, a deep understanding of the anatomy of the pelvis is an essential part of designing a saddle with the best possible adjustments. The areas from the sit bones to the pubic bones are the only bony contact points in the pelvic floor and are therefore the most "pressure resistant". The perineal area consists of a sensitive network of nerves and blood vessels that extends from the anus to the genitals and the pubic arch (Sobotta, 2011).

Approach of the study: Therefore, it is additionally important to critically examine the pressure measurement chart with the load area and to minimize the unphysiological sitting areas, such as the pelvic and pelvic floor muscles. This means that the more sporty and stretched the sitting position is, the more the pressure shifts from the ischial tuberosities to the pubic bones and to the central perineal area. How does the saddle shape change in this context? 


State of the art in research

The health consequences of cycling were therefore the main reason for the following investigations. As in the report by Desai and Gingell (1989), in which excessive compression against the pubic vault pinched the pudendal nerve and arteries and led to medically verifiable numbness for 5 months.
The authors (Gingell/ Desai, Bristol 1989) agree that an additional pelvic rotation must be responsible for this, which is the result of an athletic sitting position and occurs with a certain inclination of the upper body. 


This is clearly shown by a study by Sommer (2003), which examined the blood flow to the genitals in two different sitting positions. The comparison of an upright sitting position at an angle of 90° with a sitting position with an upper body angle of only 40° showed a 40% higher blood flow for the upright sitting position (90°).
In addition, it has been found that a wider saddle allows 50% better blood circulation than a narrower saddle, which improves the contact area and pressure distribution (Sommer, 2003).
As the force on the pedal increases, other structures that support body weight, such as the saddle, are lifted, resulting in lower saddle pressure.
This has been significantly demonstrated by a study with two different power levels, 100W and 200W (Potter et al., 2008). From this it can be concluded that different power outputs lead to different pressure values in the saddle.
However, the study by Carpes et al (2009) claims exactly the opposite. According to this study, the mean pressure and also the pressure peaks increased with intensity, in this case from 150 W to 300 W. While Carpes (2009) tested recreational cyclists, Potter (2008) tested experienced cyclists. In further investigations Carpes demands that the cyclist's level of experience, his athletic condition and also several stress areas should be investigated. If a cyclist spends a lot of time in the saddle, the cyclist is expected to have improved adaptation to the bike (Carpes et al., 2009), which might explain the difference from Potter's results.
Resources: Gingell, K.M. / Desai, C. (Bristol 1989). Hazards of long distance cycling. Department of Urology, Southmead Hospital, S. 60:450-6. Potter, J. J.; Sauer, J. L.; Weisshaar, C. L.; Thelen, D. G.; Ploeg, H. (2008). Gender Differences in Bicycle Saddle Pressure Distribution during Seated Cycling. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercised, Vol. 40, No. 6: 1126–1134. Dagnese, F.; Martins Ede, A.; Carpes, F. P.; Kleinpaul, J. F.; Mota, C. B. (2009). Effects of Workload on Seat Pressure While Cycling with Two Different Saddles. International Society for Sexual Medicine, No. 6: 2728–2735


AIM OF THE STUDY

The following study should find out which of the two statements is correct:
Does the pressure load in the saddle increase or decrease with increasing intensity?
In some preliminary studies on this question, a change in the dynamics of the saddle pressure profile was also found. At a pedal load of approx. 160 - 200 watts, all test subjects showed a shift of the saddle pressure profile forward. The first assumption was therefore a rotation of the pelvis forward.
The aim of this study was to understand the dynamics of saddle pressure pain when cycling. It was investigated how performance is related to saddle pain and whether there is a need to adjust positioning on the saddle. 


EXPERIMENTAL SETUP

The main focus of this research was on the contact area with the saddle (model SQlab 612 ERGOWAVE®).
Quantitative analysis with a pressure measurement image and qualitative analysis with a questionnaire was performed on N = 29 subjects. They were divided into three homogeneous groups, based on the total number of kilometres travelled last year.
The data was collected over three tests on an ergometer and compared with the body weight. The statistics were examined using a two-sided multifactorial analysis of variance (ANOVA), clarified with the effect sizes of each group and the correlation values.


RESULT

In general, the more athletic the group (more training kilometers), the more the saddle pressure adjustment was visible.
In addition, pelvic obliquity occurred in 97% of all subjects after a range of 180-200 watts was exceeded and maintained once. It can be assumed that this rotation of the pelvis or bending leads to a biomechanical effect of an over-expansion of the gluteus maximum, which causes an adaptation to a physiologically more efficient contraction mode (Gressmann 1995). This overstretching of a muscle (maximum 20% muscle shortening) makes use of the elasticity of the muscle fibres and this can be confirmed to acclimatise to this effect.
The more intensive a cycling tour becomes, the less pressure is generated on the saddle (up to 24%), but the more the pressure shifts to the front areas of the saddle (after 200W) and thus to the soft tissues. As a result, the pudendal nerve is pinched off.
A flatter and thus rotated inclination of the upper body results in poorer blood flow to the genitals.

    Therefore a saddle should be chosen for the respective use:

  • For a low to medium performance level in an upright to stretched sitting position, a saddle must be selected that has the sit bones as the main pressure point.
  • For a high to very high performance level with a very stretched sitting position, a saddle should be chosen that offers a large and adapted surface to relieve the perineal area and the pubic bones.


Implementation of the study in the product 612 ERGOWAVE® R


Since the soft tissues are more sensitive than the bony structures of the sit bones, the pressure shift is observed as an increase in pressure, even if objectively a decrease in mean pressure values occurred.
For this reason, in cycling, but also in other sports areas, the concept of ergonomics has increasingly gained acceptance. In such cases, the aim is to ensure the best possible adaptation of the human being to the bike from an objective and subjective point of view.

Two requirements can be derived from the results:

  • On the one hand, it is recommended to support the load on the sit bones during an extended constant ride and the associated individual sit bone width.

  • On the other hand, a support and relief of the pubic and perineal area during intensive rides, which indicates a relief of the unphysiological sitting area, has a positive effect. The pubic vault should be supported even more and the width of the saddle nose should be dimensioned in such a way that the required area is available for intensive sessions.



The perfect fit
The prerequisite for maximum performance is the perfect fit for the athlete. Available widths: 12 / 13 / 14 cm.

Sporty rear
The further raised rear offers additional support and thus creates a more efficient power transmission. This is a great advantage on straight roads and especially uphill.

Strong waist  
The strong waist and the narrow saddle nose create maximum legroom.

Extended Dip
The slight recess in the middle of the saddle has been extended for the very sporty riding position in order to reduce the pressure on the sensitive structures of the dam area.