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  1. #1
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    Reading this short treatise, I wondered what the purpose of the "horn" on a bicycle seat/saddle is.
    Does any one out there know?

    http://www.triz-journal.com/archives/1998/12/b/

    CASE STUDIES IN TRIZ:
    A COMFORTABLE BICYCLE SEAT

    Darrell Mann
    Industrial Fellow
    Department of Mechanical Engineering
    University of Bath
    Bath, BA2 7AY, UK
    Phone: +44 (1225) 826465
    Fax: +44 (1225) 826928
    E-mail: D.L.Mann@bath.ac.uk

    Introduction

    Bicycle seats are uncomfortable. According to Scott Adams in ‘The Dilbert Future’, bicycle seats will always be uncomfortable.

    State of the Art Bicycle Seat Engineering

    The bicycle industry has evolved a bicycle seat design that tends to look something pretty close to:-

    <Picture 1 below>

    Look in any bike shop, or any bicycle saddle patent on the US database and there are literally hundreds of tiny variations about the same set of design principles. Each one a subtly different balance between the trade-offs inherent to the concept of a product that is required to give both weight support and the freedom to pedal. All in all, the bicycle seat may be seen as a classic example of how the traditional Western ‘design is a compromise’ philosophy produces a product that ultimately satisfies no customer.

    Seeking Out Contradictions

    The search for, and elimination of physical contradictions is a fundamental principle of the TRIZ method. The search for design trade-offs like those found with the bicycle seat – in other words the search for physical contradictions – is an often potent means of defining the ‘right’ problem to be solved.

    In the case of the bicycle seat, the fundamental design trade-off may be seen to be one of compromise between a requirement for a WIDE seat in order to achieve comfort for the cyclist, AND a NARROW seat in order to provide freedom of movement of the legs during pedalling.

    Seeking out the best compromise between the two extremes is clearly here not solving the ‘right’ problem. The right problem is more likely to be how we might achieve

    A BICYCLE SEAT THAT IS BOTH WIDE AND NARROW.

    Or, expressed in the terms of the Altshuller’s Contradiction Matrix (see Ellen Domb’s comprehensive July 97 TRIZ Journal articles for further information on contradictions and their use), the thing we are trying to improve about the bicycle seat is the ‘LENGTH (width) OF STATIONARY OBJECT’, and the thing that gets worse as we try to improve the width is the ‘SHAPE’ of the seat.

    For such a LENGTH/SHAPE technical contradiction, the matrix recommends:-

    THE OTHER WAY ROUND
    CURVATURE INCREASE
    DYNAMIC PARTS, and
    NESTED DOLL
    as inventive principles used by others to solve this kind conflict. In particular, for inventive principle ‘the other way round’ is the suggestion:-

    "make movable parts fixed, and fixed parts movable"

    And for ‘dynamic parts’:-

    "divide an object into parts capable of moving relative to each other"

    and

    "if an object is rigid or inflexible make it movable or adaptable"

    Which almost immediately gives rise to an idea very much like the following concept from ABS Sports in the US:-

    <Picture 2 below>

    While it might be possible to argue about some of the details of the ABS design, it seems almost immediately clear that here is a solution to the bicycle seat problem that not only uses the two inventive principles recommended by TRIZ, but is also fundamentally ‘right’; not only giving cyclists support where the body desires support to be found, but also – thanks to the moving seat components - giving the possibility of zero-chafe pedalling action.


    Conclusions

    Bicycle seats will always be uncomfortable as long as designers continue to solve the wrong problem using traditional trade-off methods.

    Finding the fundamental physical contradiction is an excellent means of finding the ‘right’ problem to be solved.

    Using the Contradiction Matrix is then an excellent means of finding solutions to the right problem.

    © 1998, University of Bath, all rights reserved.
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    Last edited by scottogo; 03-17-06 at 03:16 PM.

  2. #2
    Dances a jig. Mchaz's Avatar
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    Well, I know the saddle "horn" is necessary for me when XC riding on my hardtail mountain bike. Combined with gripping it, and just pushing it with my legs I can control the back end of the bicycle through the fast twisty sections. Even on the road, it seems without a horn it would easy to slide off the saddle.

  3. #3
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    Thing is, the bicycle seat IS a good design, so long as the right variation is picked to match your own butt's profile.

    That is the key, there are so many variations in the sit-bones...from pointy, to blunt, from wide paced to narrow...so there are saddles to meet those needs.

    There are even saddles made for varying riding positions. From dead upright beach cruisers, to laid-back choppers, to as forward as you can go pursuit bikes, and everything inbetween.

    Plus, the "noseless" saddle has been tried for ages, and has failed everytime. I'm pretty sure we all need that horn...I know I do...it helps keep me in place on the saddle. Angling it just right assures that you don't gradually slide forward, yet produces no pressure in unwanted places.

    I say just go hunt for the right saddle. It took me a while, but I found mine.
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  4. #4
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottogo
    Reading this short treatise, I wondered what the purpose of the "horn" on a bicycle seat/saddle is.
    Does any one out there know?


    Bicycle seats are uncomfortable.

    There's an error in the initial premise. Bicycle saddles are not uncomfortable .... not if you get a Brooks!


    Oh, and I believe the horn is for balance.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Jarery's Avatar
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    As an engineering manager, id fire that guy.
    He completly missed the fact that the shape is also used to help stear a bike.
    Fills up pages with complex theory and matrix's and forgot the basics.
    Jarery

    -If you cant see it from space, its not a real hill
    -If two bikes are going in the same direction, ITS A RACE!

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    Here are some testimonials from forum members who have used hornless seats:
    Has anyone used a Spongy Wonder or SpiderFlex Seat?
    Mostly they are used by cyclists that sit upright.
    I dion't really understand how the horn affects balance.

  7. #7
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    a western saddle horn and the nose of a bicycle saddle perform two distinctly different functions for the riders.

    bikes are partially steered via the nose of a bike seat and also provides a spot to sit; look at old hobbyhorses or the big wheels to see loong saddles.

    the western saddle horn is designed for use as a rope cleat and handle and has little to do with the riders' comfort or control of the horse.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  8. #8
    jcm
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    On a fleshy feeling gel saddle, the peak gets in the way when I try to re-position after standing into a hill or waiting at a light, etc. It tends to grab. But on a Brooks, it puts me right back where I belong and keeps me there. I tried one of those peakless types. Come to think of it, I did notice a slight feeling of unbalance at first impression. Never thought it had to do with no peak.

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    Thanks.
    Steered by the thigh pushing against the horn?

  10. #10
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottogo
    Thanks.
    Steered by the thigh pushing against the horn?
    Yes.

    Go ride your bicycle, and pay attention to how the upper part of your thigh comes in contact with the nose of the saddle on corners or anywhere you have to lean (like leaning into a corner or crosswind).

  11. #11
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Scan up. I've got another post on this subject.

  12. #12
    Good Afternoon! SamHouston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mchaz
    Well, I know the saddle "horn" is necessary for me when XC riding on my hardtail mountain bike. Combined with gripping it, and just pushing it with my legs I can control the back end of the bicycle through the fast twisty sections. Even on the road, it seems without a horn it would easy to slide off the saddle.

    On the road the horn is often used sprinting. Personally I cannot sprint anywhere near as effectively with the "new" form of saddle. It isn't new anyway, I've seen wide seats with the horn chopped and duct taped for decades. It may well be a good design for commuting, as long as you don't require as much control for your riding style during your commute. When you chop the horn from an ultra plush/wide "comfort" seat often the seat will flex more than its design intended, giving the springs in the rear a more dynamic role while you pedal. Depends on the sort/quality of comfort saddle you've modified. So nothing new in the dynamic department either.
    Last edited by SamHouston; 03-19-06 at 07:53 AM.

  13. #13
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    I hope the guy got his doctorate and is happy with that; he sure didn't shed any light on the perennial saddle debate.

    Call me unimpressed but I like a saddle that is comfortable and efficient, wide and narrow enough for me alone. Your personal requirements are not mine. With this in mind, I will continue to commute, race and tour on Brooks saddles, despite what the marketers, fashion police and clueless researchers tell me I'm doing incorrectly.

    All bike products are a compromise designed to appeal to a cross-section of the buying public, at whatever price point. Designers with a more practical bent than Mr Mann have spent a century trying to improve on Brooks principles, without success. In actual use- and who can say how many miles Darrell is clocking up this march?- the compromise is simple enough: if it ain't comfortable, you can't ride. Many so-called improvements to cycle products fail to appreciate this truth.

  14. #14
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    I used the dual pad hinged seat for a while. While it was quite comfortable, It changed the body geometry leading to much more weight being carried by the wrists. And then; way too much wrist pain. The spiderflex seat is much more comfortable and solves the prostate problems. Better yet, a LWB recumbent; way more comfort and no pain problems. bk

  15. #15
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Looks like that supposedly better saddle limits you to one position on it.

    How are you going to scoot up for a time trial position? How are you going to scoot back when climbing?

    There's a reason racing saddles are long and narrow. It isn't just aesthetics.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

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    Here's one of those threads refered to above:
    Rating Three Hornless Saddles

  17. #17
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    Doesn't the horn have the potential to horn in on your anatomy?

    http://www.ergotheseat.com.au/

    "The SEAT" is an innovative, ergonomic seat that makes bicycle riding a pleasure, not a pain.

    "The SEAT" does not have a pain inducing saddle horn, which is present on conventional bicycle seats. The sitting area is wider, allowing you to sit on your body's built in supportive "sit bones".

    Riding on traditional saddle style bicycle seats puts pressure on delicate nerves and blood vessels, cutting off circulation and in some cases, leading to sexual dysfunction, such as impotence.

    "The SEAT" is physician approved and is your best choice for a comfortable and healthy bike ride.

    "... as long as a saddle has a nose -
    the case with most new designs - it isn't safe."


    -Dr. Irwin Goldstein
    Chief Urologist at Boston Medical University
    Business Week, May 10, 1999

  18. #18
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    Pressure points?
    Attached Images Attached Images

  19. #19
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    Found on Amazon

    "Having had prior experience with nerve injury and having some familiarity with anatomy I do take the danger of cycling inflicted nerve and vascular injury seriously. Often such damage is just compression nerve injury which reverses itself in a matter of days or weeks, but there is also the real possibility of more serious damage to the nerves or local artherosclerosis which does not normally heal by itself. Possible symptoms are tingling, loss of sensation, erectile dysfunction and even urinary continence problems. The risk is probably more serious for men than for women. There is also very little that medicine can do for you in these cases.

    Studies show that some of the ergonomic saddles on the market with cut-outs of various designs cases can in some cases actually make the risk of injury greater, but concentrating pressure on a smaller area than conventional saddles. Only noseless saddles like this one can really eliminate the danger by entirely tranferring the weight from the perineum to the buttocks.

    I ride regularly and intensively (80-90 minutes a day) in crazy Manhattan. Here are my observations.

    1. This saddle is not only safer than conventional saddles, but also more comfortable. I had not realized that my previous saddle was causing me discomfort until I started using this one and found that it was a more pleasant experience.

    2. It takes a few weeks to get used to this saddle. At the beginning it felt like somebody kept trying to push me off the bike. After a while it feels perfectly natural.

    3. There is a reason that most saddles have a nose. Correcting the alignment of your bike by pushing on the nose from the side with your thighs has a more important role in controlling a bike than most people realize. Without the nose some of the gracefulness and manouverability is gone. I ride a mountain bike and I am often heavily loaded with bags, etc., so I don't exactly swoop through the streets, anyway. On a road bike or natural terrain this might be a forbidding problem, though.

    4. Using a noselss saddle considerable weight is transferred from the saddle to the handlebars. This in turn leads to an increased risk of injury to the hands, wrist and arms. I recommend using cycling gloves, preferably the gel type. My feeling is that this sort of injury i smore likely to be noticed early and has a better chance of being reversed than damage to the perineum.

    5. Related to the previous point, unless the road surface is very even and I am going straight and at a moderate pace, it does not feel safe to take either hand off the handlebars, which means that I cannot give hand signals in traffic anymore. This is perhaps the most serious problem I have with this saddle. Have to be very careful when changing lanes."

  20. #20
    45 miles/week Eggplant Jeff's Avatar
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    The simple fact that so many alternate designs have been tried and have failed (globally anyway, sure there's a few people who love 'em) says that the basic bicycle seat isn't THAT wrong. It may not be perfect, but no one else has come up with anything significantly better yet or we'd all be using it.

    Starting an article off with the premise that "Item X which has been used more or less unchanged for a hundred years is totally screwed up" just indicates that you're an idiot. If it were totally screwed up, everyone would be using Item Y which is only 90% screwed up. And saying "...But wait! Here's the solution:" just means you're an arrogant idiot.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member Jarery's Avatar
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    If the person in the first article actualy took the time to find out what all functions a saddle does, and then put it thru his fancy matix , he may have ended up with a seat similar to what he shows in the second pic, but with flared insides on each articulating half.

    Similar to how a kayak has 'thigh pads' on the inside of it to allow a kayaker to exert force onto the kayak for control, putting flared walls on the inside surface of each half would allow for the same function they ellude to, with the addition of being able to add steering force with the inside of the thighs. In fact it may even alloiw better control since the surface to apply force to will be against the thigh regardless of what portion of the pedal stroke. With a regular seat the ability to apply sideways force changes between top/mid and bottom of stroke.

    But then again, i think in simple terms, and dont know all this new math with its fancy problem solving matixes
    Jarery

    -If you cant see it from space, its not a real hill
    -If two bikes are going in the same direction, ITS A RACE!

  22. #22
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flaneur
    I hope the guy got his doctorate and is happy with that; he sure didn't shed any light on the perennial saddle debate.
    I hope the opposite is true. A guy who essentially took the EZ Seat promotional material as his major premise doesn't deserve any reward for original objective thinking.

  23. #23
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    As far as I can tell there are some physical symptoms which are alieviated by using hornless seats. Many of these cyclists are sitting in an upright position and generally slower riding. The advantage of more precise control is sacrificed for health and comfort.

  24. #24
    jur
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    Bicycle saddles can be extremely uncomfortable, painful even. That's if the saddle is the wrong one for you. Let the sitbones do the sitting.

    I well remember a Scott Adams cartoon, can't find it, it showed a bicycle saddle with the caption "Problem: Uncomfortable seat" then the next panel Dilbert in cycling knicks with the caption "Solution: Dorky pants."

    Only Scott didn't realize that if you have an uncomfy seat, no cycling knicks in this world are going to rescue your bum.

    Brooks saddles rule, OK?
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

  25. #25
    Senior Member Stubacca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jur
    Bicycle saddles can be extremely uncomfortable, painful even. That's if the saddle is the wrong one for you. Let the sitbones do the sitting.

    I well remember a Scott Adams cartoon, can't find it, it showed a bicycle saddle with the caption "Problem: Uncomfortable seat" then the next panel Dilbert in cycling knicks with the caption "Solution: Dorky pants."

    Only Scott didn't realize that if you have an uncomfy seat, no cycling knicks in this world are going to rescue your bum.

    Brooks saddles rule, OK?
    I remember that one.... even have a copy


    I love my Brooks saddle too - definitely awesome. So are other saddles I've found that actually fit my sitbones.

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