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Specialized has been experimenting with a novel way to produce bicycle saddles called Mirror, which abandons conventional foam padding in favor of a 3D-printed polymer lattice structure that is attached to an otherwise conventional carbon composite base. According to Specialized, the printed structure incorporates “14,000 struts and 7,799 nodes,” and the entire pattern can be customized in both structure and density to provide truly body-specific comfort and support.
Using manufacturing expertise from development partner Carbon — a California company that focuses on cutting-edge 3D-printing technologies — Specialized claims its new Mirror saddle padding is not only more comfortable and improves blood flow in sensitive areas relative to conventional foam padding, but there’s also supposedly potential for other performance improvements, such as increased stability and possibly even enhanced vibration damping.
According to Carbon’s marketing spiel, this 3D printing process isn’t solely for prototyping purposes as is usually the case with this kind of technology. Instead, Specialized and Carbon both suggest that Carbon’s Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) and Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) processes can not only be used for concept validation, but also for full-production manufacturing.
In fact, Specialized plans to offer a Mirror variant of its snub-nosed Power saddle beginning in early 2020, including fully custom versions tuned to each individual rider.
Specialized hasn’t released much more information on Mirror thus far, aside from mentioning — of course — that prototype saddles have been tested by riders on the Deceuninck-Quick Step and Bora-Hansgrohe road teams, as well as Specialized factory cross-country mountain bike team racer Christopher Blevins. Among the fleet of questions remaining are things like cost, weight, and the logistics for what a custom-printed saddle would entail (or if a fully custom option would even be available).
So for now, consider us duly intrigued. And seeing as how we supposedly will be receiving prototype samples in the coming days, stay tuned for a first-ride review in short order.