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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 6:54 am 
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Joined: Sat Oct 15, 2016 9:08 pm
Posts: 213
TL;DR
1. Meld states that they can shortcut the process of finding a saddle that fits. I've found that it's true for me, and it went a step further: in addition to getting a saddle that works, it is also the most comfortable saddle I’ve ever used. Also, I didn’t have to go through any ‘professional fitting’: I did have to move the saddle slightly backward a little, and that was it. The step-up from my previous best saddle (Fizik Arione) is significant.

2. I’m wondering if designing a saddle based the body allows us to directly and meaningfully compare saddle feedback from different riders.

**********************************************************

I was waiting for reviews of Meld saddles from certain cycling news sites. I read a couple of positive ones that showed up recently, then I remembered I don’t trust any of them anyway due to sponsorship/advertising reasons. I had met the Meld crew at Interbike and was intrigued by the process and the resulting saddle. A couple of months ago I took the plunge and bought one. I haven’t tried anything like that before, and it turned out to be great fun designing a saddle with lots to think about with regards to the parameters. It’s been raining where I am and I’ve done only about 500 miles on it so far, with the longest ride lasting about 4 hours. I will update if/when I learn anything more.


I thought I’ll divide this review into three parts: the process, the pros and cons, and the parameters.

The Process
I signed up online, and paid via an Amazon portal. The website provided an estimate of the time needed for saddle manufacture. I received an imprint kit a couple of days later, sat on the foam, then sent the kit back. Another few days later, I received a notification email about the scanned imprint, and I designed and submitted my saddle model. About a week and a half later I received my saddle. Overall, not an overly long period of time to wait in my case.

Here’s a picture of the imprint kit (including instructions), and of the foam after I’ve sat on it:

Image


The Cons
To be perfectly honest I didn’t expect anything to work, I was very skeptical. After all, we’ve had a few decades of getting the saddle right, with mixed results. We seem to have reached the point where nothing more seems to be getting done other than improving aesthetics.

I thought the website looked “engineered”, but everything went smoothly and the lack of marketing was kind of refreshing (since I’m getting quite tired of hype after all those crowdfunded projects). From the imprint kit, its instructions, to the final saddle’s packaging, it's clear there isn't too much put into marketing at this time.

The next negative is the description of the two-dimensional outline parameter. I initially thought this was the saddle shape (i.e. the 3d version), then after reading the description a couple of times I realized it’s just an outline template we see from above. It took a while to get my head around it.


The Neutrals
I think the price is reasonable. I purchased a full carbon saddle, with the Alps shell (the more flexible version touted for ultra-long distance cycling) and short carbon rails. I looked at all the saddles on my shelf, and thought about the time and money that went into buying and the agony experienced while testing them. Not to mention paying for and going through bike fittings which turned out to be less than useful. And I get the best saddle I've ever ridden on. I suppose this should really be a ‘pro’...


The Pros
I was skeptical about everything right up to the moment when I sat on the saddle for the first time. It has a very different feel from all the other saddles I’ve used in the past (including Specialized, Fizik, Selle Italia), it feels like I’m sitting in the saddle rather than being perched on it.

I thought (and am still thinking) a lot about why the saddle is comfortable, and I think there are two main reasons:

    1. ‘Sitting in the saddle’ rather than being ‘perched on it’ reflects the larger contact patch between the body and saddle. I think this is a result of creating a saddle centered around the body. Regardless of the posture, whether I’m upright on the tops, on the hoods, or in the drops, I can get my weight distributed evenly between my rami and sitbones.
    2. The saddle shell is very flexible: I picked the Alps version, and I suspect the cutout helped with flexibility as well. When I pedal, I can kind of feel the pressure moving around, rather than being concentrated at particular spots (e.g. around my sitbones).

The increase in comfort is very noticeable: it’s not just that it feels great during a ride, but my bum feels the same at the end of the ride as it had at the start. When I ride the next day, my calves and quads can be complaining, but not my bum. Previously, I would at least get some aching around the sitbones, but that’s now gone. This means I’m not limited by saddle comfort, and I can continue riding day after day.

The other benefit I’ve realized over multiple rides is that I now actively adopt other postures. Before, I wasn’t quite used to extended periods of time in the drops, but now, because I’m comfortable in that position, I find myself in the drops more often. And I’m looking into frames with more aggressive geometries (H1).

The saddle isn't just good in the drops. When climbing on the tops, I usually sit upright and rolling my pelvis backwards finds my sitbones being supported by the widest part of the saddle. Incidentally, that's slightly wider than my sitbone width, as stated by the saddle model.

I don't really need a cutout. From past experience, a channel is sufficient. But I decided to try a cutout for the heck of it, and learnt that the cutout is lengthened with an increase in movement fore/aft option selected. I thought that was cool.

Finally, since this is WW, it weighs around 126g. Not too shabby...

Image


Aesthetics
I opted for the short carbon rails, which results in a lower stack height. The padding’s 3/16” (I wussed out on the 1/8") which made it look ‘fat’. But overall, I like the way it looks, especially from the side. The first time I saw it I didn’t think it’ll be comfortable, I guess I really didn’t understand what a flexible shell can do for comfort.

Image

I don’t have a picture of the underside of the saddle but yes I would agree with a previous article which mentioned it doesn’t have a gel coat and is a bit rough to the touch. But I soon discovered a benefit to this: when I accidentally scratched it, I removed the scratch by just rubbing at it with my bare finger. Then again no one looks underneath the saddle much anyway.

There is the option to include a national flag (which I chose not to), as well as have a club/team logo in place of Meld’s. I played around trying to make my own but I wasn’t much of a graphics designer and ended up opting for a more ‘stealthy’ look. Looking at the photo I guess it might have been better if the letter color is grey instead of white.


The Parameters
In addition to why the saddle feels comfortable, I keep thinking about the parameters. Feedback on saddles in the forums, and indeed saddle reviews in general, are pretty much useless because everyone’s bum is different. A saddle that’s comfortable for someone can be utterly unbearable for another.

I’m wondering if utilizing the body’s geometry enables meaningful comparison of Meld saddles made for different riders. I.e. if someone asks me, “I see your saddle has very gradual tapering towards the nose, does it cause discomfort?” I can say, “No, it still works for me”, and I can be sure that bit of information will be useful to him/her. Can we directly compare parameters chosen? If not, what else is necessary before we can do so? This to me is one of the holy grails of road cycling (in addition to finding a saddle that fits).


Conclusion
I’m very pleased (and still kind of surprised) with my saddle, especially after considering the fact that the company's so new. It's been fun just thinking about the process and figuring out why the saddle feels the way it does. It seems that, for mass customization to work, Meld has the ability to iterate very quickly on saddle models. It’ll be interesting to see how they improve on the current saddles.


Last edited by antonioiglesius on Wed Mar 08, 2017 6:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Posted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 6:54 am 


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 10:24 pm 
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Posts: 419
Thank you for the review. These saddles have seemed interesting, but there isn't a lot of real world info out there.

I've been curious to see more about what they actually change based on the imprint that one makes in the foam. Most companies just use an impression to measure sit bone width and then match you to a pre-made saddle width, but these guys could match the width more closely rather than the 10mm increments that are common. Still, those impressions don't look like they are going to help them measure the width or curvature of the rami, which can affect how comfortable the saddle is when rotating the pelvis forward, or the gap between the thighs while pedaling, which can limit the nose width due to chafing.

Even if it isn't perfect though, it could still be an improvement over a standard model. I just don't quite get how the type of impression they use as a starting point is conveying the level of detail they'd need to have a perfect match consistently, and at the price that these things go for, it'd better be a perfect match at least 90% of the time, or have a money back satisfaction guarantee.

When sliding back on your saddle, do you feel the edges of the saddle digging in? The part of the wings where the grey stripe wraps over is very much a flat plane, rather than having the shell curve downward into a vertical surface as the area just in front of it does. That can dig into the back of the thigh on some saddles, but if you never slide that far back then it might not be an issue.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2017 2:46 am 
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One of the main questions I had was: if the fit systems that other manufacturers provide are perfect, would it remove the need for this customization? In my case, I had measured my sitbones via two different systems before, with different results. I went home, did the sit-on-cardboard-and-measure-indents test, and chose the closer one. Then I picked the saddle recommended for that width, that didn't work well so I went for another with a wider width, and then another wider width later. The last saddle I used was meant for people who are very flexible, but I'm not. I think sitbone width is a parameter to consider but the overall shape matters as well, which is perhaps why the fit systems didn't work out for me.

I've always assumed that I'm that odd duck that somehow isn't meant to work with the fit systems. Assuming that most people get fitted well, then my suggestion (to Meld) is to push harder on the fact that the saddles are more comfortable (at least for me), hence the first statement.

***

I remember this conversation with them: the overall idea is to iterate quickly based on feedback from users, this includes feedback on the design interface. Incorporating feedback into the next iteration of the saddle design code ensures that a) the current user's problem goes away and b) users down the road will not face the same issue. As an example they said they initially had an even more 'engineered' interface: they allowed the users to change the saddle length, and nose width. Apparently when they showed that to beta testers, the feedback was that users weren't sure what to set as the nose width. Using their current saddles' nose width doesn't solve the problem because users still have the nagging feeling that they don't know what the *optimal* nose width is.

Then there is the other issue of how people use the saddle nose. Some riders, when sprinting on the nose, sit dead center along its length. Then there are those who sit to one side, with their 'boys' free. The former prefer a wider nose, while the latter a narrower nose. In other words, a 'good' saddle cannot be made solely from the imprint itself, but it must also include information on how the rider uses the saddle.

The Meld guys currently set the nose width to some default value and eliminated the need for excessive thinking/worrying for the time being. If there is a need, based on feedback, they say the underlying system can already accommodate nose width changes.

******

I believe it's more than just the sitbone width that's measured and used from the imprint foam. I received a newsletter a couple of days ago, and there was mention of a pre-beta analysis tool that determines if a channel/cutout is required. I see the tool in a post on their Facebook page as well (my linking skillz failed, it's dated 1/15/2017). There are some caveats mentioned, one in particular is that if one barely sits on the foam, then less information is captured and the analysis is less accurate. This makes me think they look at more than just sitbone width.


*********

Yes I would agree with the high satisfaction rate or money back comment. I cannot imagine that this is a proper business model if it does not have a high success rate. I believe the full carbon is US$325, and the carbon shell + metal rails version is US$250. That's not unreasonable to me compared to other similar saddles, especially when the customization part is thrown in. If that's considered high, what would be more reasonable?

**********

Re: edges digging in. The first time I went for a ride (40 miles) I put the saddle on with no additional adjustment. At the end when I got off the bike I could feel a slight ache at the back of the legs. That ache went away in a minute or two. I moved the saddle back a bit and now it's ok. I did feel I was too far front during the ride.

I think the flexibility of the wings play a role, here's their video of an Alps shell being flexed: https://www.facebook.com/meld3d/videos/293881860972681/

Looking at the saddle some more, the shell actually does curve down quite a bit, maybe it's not showing up that well in the photos...

Sorry I'm kind of vague, still thinking about these things.

************

One of the major questions I have is this: I sat upright on the imprint foam, per the instructions. How did they get from that upright position to the various postures I adopt during a ride, and also accounting for the pedaling motion (I didn't try and 'pedal' when on the foam)?


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2017 7:09 am 
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Thanks for the post and info. I just ordered one so I'll let you know how it turns out.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 9:07 am 
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I need a narrow nose, like the Kontact and Selle Italia Friction-Free saddles have. Did Meld do away with the option to let you specify nose width? It's not obvious from their website.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 5:28 pm 
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I don't recall seeing the nose width parameter either on the parameters page or the dashboard itself, so I suppose that means it's fixed at the moment. Since they mentioned the design parameters are based on user feedback, this might mean people are happy with a fixed nose width. You can always talk to them about it. Before placing an order, I signed up (for free) and checked out the saddle model creation process via the dashboard. I could change the parameters and see their effects on the model. There's also the output section (bottom half of dashboard) which has various saddle dimensions (max width, cutout width/length, and widths at various places), that might help.

I wanted to add something which I think might be related. I looked at the Kontact saddle a bit and I believe there is a major difference between the two. For the Kontact saddle, the recommended sitting position is on the sitbones around the widest part of the saddle. For the Meld saddle, it's actually in front of the widest part, where the saddle tapering begins. This made a significant difference for me: I pretty much always sat on my sitbones for my past saddles, and it usually caused some kind of aching.

I checked my sitting location after Kaiser's comment on the edge: on subsequent rides I felt underneath the saddle and around the edges to see where I sit. I realized I was sitting on the tapering part. I started on the widest part, which is what I did for prior saddles, then I just moved around while pedaling and settled on that area. I emailed Meld about this, and they essentially said, "Yeah, that's what we suggested, in the installation guide." So yup, I didn't read the instructions :oops:


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 8:24 pm 
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Location: Nashville!
I ordered one as well based on the VeloNews article

I LOVE it. It is an amazing saddle. I said, "Ahhhh" the first time I sat on it. Very supportive and I totally agree about being able to be in the drops for far longer without pressure up front.

I'm going to order a second for my #2 soon.

I did the tall rails to give me more room to for my strap-on (saddle bag, haha). I also just stuck with the Meld logo, the US flag and my name. Interestingly, and unbeknownst to me, I have crazy narrow ischial tuberosities (sit bones) -- 89mm apart. The Meld guys actually emailed me to make sure it wasn't for a 13 year old, haha. For some reason the butt-o-meter at bike shops always had me much wider. I, uh..., confirmed... that my sit bones are actually ~9cm apart after getting the email. :lol:

Also interestingly, my initial "best" saddle was a Selle San Marco Aspide (see narrow sit bones above). Worked well for years, then I got convinced to go with a Spesh Romin. This Meld saddle actually resembles my old Aspide! Just a side note....

Great company, Meld guys are responsive and very helpful. Highly recommend. And the saddle is crazy light too....

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:37 pm 
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Location: USA
Good review! I need to choose a new saddle now, so thank you for this info.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 4:26 pm 
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They just wrote an article on automation:
https://medium.com/@meld3d/from-saddle- ... b258ba3745


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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 12:32 pm 
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I also took the plunge and just finalised my saddle, after sending the imprint back. Very curious to see how it will ride!

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PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2017 9:40 pm 
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They just unveiled their policy on saddle replacement:
https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/meld3d-data/prod/pdfs/SaddleReplacementPolicy.pdf

Two-third price discount for the first crash replacement, then a third for the second, and none thereafter. I think it's cool we can specify an increase in saddle strength for the replacements.

********

I emailed them and asked about their biggest problems they're facing (I told them I'll update this thread). They say on the whole things are smooth, with a couple of exceptions.

One of the previously big issues was getting people to sit upright on the foam (who would have thought that'll be difficult?). Improving on the crush box instructions seem to have improved things quite a bit.

The second was a difference in expectations: they've had a small number of users who expected personal service, they would say "Make me a saddle like this and that" without using the dashboard/model generation interface. Which kind of defeats the purpose of automating the design service.


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PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2017 11:42 pm 
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I hope that they will be able too offer carbon rails for weights >80kg in the future. Others like Berk manage to do so, too. The steel rails are relatively heavy.

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PostPosted: Thu May 25, 2017 12:57 am 
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It does sound like a low-hanging fruit, they already make 7x9 carbon rails, 'should' be relatively straightforward to extend that to 7x10, and raise the weight limit. They wouldn't tell me what their priorities are though lol.

Since you mentioned Berk: Trek's latest saddle is very similar to the Lupina. I don't think I'm phrasing this correctly but it's not that simple just copying any Meld saddle shape, because each shape is tied to a particular cyclist. I thought that's a cool aspect of making customized saddles (in terms of shape).


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PostPosted: Sat May 27, 2017 2:28 am 
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Nice Review!


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 16, 2017 7:13 pm 
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Anymore updates from folks with Meld saddles?

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Posted: Fri Jun 16, 2017 7:13 pm 


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