Meld Solutions Custom Built Saddles
Finding the right saddle for any type of bicycle is a necessary step to take when beginning to ride, but it is particularly difficult to find the best saddle that checks all the boxes when it comes to comfort on the road. Both men and women will deal with pain or pressure if the saddle doesn’t fit properly, I have met few people who haven’t changed saddles more than once because of fit issues. Manufacturers have attempted to accommodate or adjust to rider’s particular needs, but it’s practically impossible to make a saddle that works for everyone.
Meld Solutions was founded in 2015 by Ethan Ee, he wanted to “test the feasibility of mass customization and maximize individual riders’ potential.” Ee’s background at Google may have familiarized him with cloud computing technology, but otherwise, the web interface is totally unique to Meld. Starting at meld3d.com, you create your account, chose the kind of saddle you want – an option for endurance riders who require added padding and flexibility is the Alps model – Meld then ships the impression mold that captures your imprint when you sit on the foam block with bibs on.
The foam is delicate, so move slowly as you lower your body onto the block, and be sure to center your bottom over the foam before sitting on it. I sat too close to the edge on my first try, attempted to make a better imprint on the opposite side, and caused a crack in the block. Not to mention I didn’t use all the shipping materials they sent me which caused it to crack further during delivery. I was a little embarrassed, but Meld sent me another foam with no problems. When I returned my impression mold, the scanned imprint went the online database, which uses an algorithm to create a 3D saddle model that molds to the posterior, adjusting to an infinite number of sit bone widths and pelvic floor lengths. Furthermore, your anatomical geometry and past inputs are stored in your account, making the need for another foam imprint unnecessary for purchasing additional saddles for the n+1 number of bikes in your stable.
If you feel like you have your optimal fit and you are loyal to your brands, a custom saddle may not appeal to you. If you’re the type of person who prefers the hands-off method and would rather pay someone to design the saddle for you, this may not appeal to you. However, if you’re the type of person who has given up hope regarding saddle comfort, this saddle may answer your quandaries. If you enjoy having more control over your purchases, then you’ll enjoy the Meld Solutions customization process.
From start to finish, the entire process took about 3 weeks, which also accounts for my own issues with the foam imprinting. Along the way, I received email updates each time progress was made regarding my saddle. From when my order changed as “digitally processed” to “shipped” and “saddle completed”, and eventually to “shipped”. When I received my saddle, it was unbelievably light, I weighed it to know exactly how light it was, 130 grams to be exact. My carbon saddle had my initials, an American flag and the BICYCLIST logo stamped on the seat, a choice I had made during the customization process. During that process, I also chose to adjust features like padding thickness, rail materials, the presence of a channel or cut-out in the seat, and color.
Want a Meld Solutions saddle of your own? Head over to Saddle Survey page for a chance to win a custom fit saddle.
The User Experience
In my experience, most saddles are not built to accommodate women and our lack additional anatomical-type cushion. Both men and women will deal with pain or pressure in the genital region if the saddle does not properly fit, but it can be more difficult for women as original saddle design was built to accommodate men’s anatomy. Not to say that a standard saddle can’t be comfortable for a woman, but the general consensus is that saddles cause discomfort.
I’ve experienced discomfort when riding on the various saddles I’ve had throughout the years – I realize now that I had become accustomed to being uncomfortable on the bike. I tried several different ones before I started using my Meld saddle. My last one, being the most comfortable of all my saddles, had a slot cut in the center, which made my position on the saddle feel more flexible and supported. It was a huge improvement from my very first saddle, but I did endure a level of discomfort while riding my bike.
Perhaps I have some type of “Princess and the Pea” syndrome, but I never felt truly comfortable until I started using the Meld Solutions custom saddle; it was a totally unique experience for me. The best way that I can describe the feeling of riding with the Meld custom saddle is security – I feel “connected” to the machine. Being pain-free, and setting all my weight on the bike even after 5 hours of riding was a new experience for me.
Rather than noticing discomfort or pain throughout the ride, I feel relaxed and secure, which allows me to focus more intensely on pedaling and breathing. One aspect of my riding that I am working on improving is my posture on the bike, and the stability of the saddle makes a noticeable difference.
When they offered me the chance to try an Alps model – a more flexible version of the carbon shell and the addition of thicker padding (3/16″ vs 1/8″) – suitable for longer distance riding and touring, I jumped on the opportunity (and the bike). In having a perfect saddle fit, plus more padding, I was able to reach longer distances because I felt more confident. Though I’ve only ridden with the Alps model for a few months, it has joined me on some major milestones.
For cyclists who have built up their endurance and who regularly surpass 40 miles, the Alps shell is your saddle – the extra padding is welcomed for long hours in the saddle. If lightness is your game, the standard model is an excellent choice with the benefits of a custom fit for only $250. And that cost is in-line for a standard, non-custom enthusiast road saddle with such feathery weight characteristics.
Starting out with a custom saddle will give you a lot of leverage as you focus on improving your fitness and building up those “base miles” (see podcast episode 62). It took me a long time to build up to riding over 40 miles in one sitting; I suspect I would have saved a lot of money in castaway saddles and anguish if I had started with the Meld Solutions saddle from the get-go.