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An illustration of a bicycle saddle, with the left half of the image showing the 3D-printed padding lattice, and the right representing custom pressure mapping, with high-pressure areas in red and lower-pressure in blue.

How far would you go for the perfect perch?

Fizik’s new One-to-One program offers a custom saddle with padding tuned to your body – if you can afford to find it.

Joe Lindsey
by Joe Lindsey 19.06.2024 Photography by
courtesy Fizik
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Since a saddle is one of three contact points on a bike (five if you count each hand and foot separately), there are few other components where personal fit is so crucial. But because saddles are so defiantly personal, the process of finding one that works for you is often a matter of long, and sometimes costly, trial and error.

Fizik might be on the cusp of changing that with a new program announced today. The One-to-One service essentially takes the brand’s range of Adaptive saddles and customizes them through a sophisticated, multi-step fit process and 3D-printed padding.

Perhaps most intriguing, the pricing for custom saddles in the program starts at US$499 / £459 / €459, which is wildly expensive but A) includes the short fit session and B) is only $10 more than Posedla’s custom Joyseat 2.0 and $50 more than the most expensive stock saddles with 3D-printed padding like Specialized’s S-Works. (It’s $100 more than the most expensive stock saddles in Fizik’s Adaptive line.) And the thing about saddle comfort is that it might be worth just about anything to a person truly in need.

More broadly, we’re interested in anybody using 3D printing to custom-tune what was previously un-tuneable.

But there’s a small hitch. You’ll note that pricing structure doesn’t include Australia. That’s because One-to-One relies on an in-person fit and, at launch, Fizik’s partner network is extremely limited: just 21 dealers worldwide. Thirteen are in the European Union, which leaves two each in Japan and the United Kingdom, one in Canada and Dubai, and just five for the entire United States.

“For 2024, the selected dealers have exclusive rights to the project,” said Fizik’s sales manager, Nicola Poletti, in an e-mailed response to a request for comment. “After that, we will open the possibility of other dealers/bikefitters to join One-to-One.” 

How it works

One-to-One customers set up an appointment with a participating dealer, where they’ll get a fit session that starts with measurements and a question/answer session that helps the fitter identify the most appropriate base shell in the Adaptive line as a starting point. Adaptive saddles are offered in three broad shell shapes – Tempo, Vento, and Antares – which each come in two widths that vary depending on the shell shape. It’s important to note the session is not a comprehensive bike fit; it’s considerably shorter and focuses only on the saddle component.

The special sauce is a partnership with bike fitting experts GebioMized that offers custom analysis of how a rider sits on a bike. That process is based on two relatively short pressure-mapping sessions that take place in a single visit: first with the client’s existing saddle, and a second one on a stock Adaptive saddle with the new base shell identified in the measurement portion as the ideal shell.

A pressure-mapping saddle cover sits on a bike seat during a fit session. The cover has purple dots that correspond to pressure sensors.
The pressure-mapping system was created in partnership with GebioMized, which pioneered pressure-mapping fits more than 15 years ago.

The resulting pressure map is sent to Fizik, which uses it to custom-tune the thickness and density of the padding. Clients can also choose between metal Kium rails or carbon rails. Fizik says saddles will be made at its Italian HQ factory and should ship to customers roughly two weeks after the order is placed.

The science, and the competition

German bike-fitting experts GebioMized are a solid partner for Fizik’s foray into custom seats. While saddle pressure research has been around for more than two decades (Frank Sommer’s blood-flow studies at the University of Cologne were instrumental in Specialized’s development of its Body Geometry line), GebioMized pioneered commercial pressure-mapping analysis more than 15 years ago and says its fit database has more than 50,000 saddle analyses. Numerous shops use GebioMized’s overall bike fit methodology. Fizik has also done its own testing on more than 100 subjects, said product manager Alex Locatelli.

Fizik’s approach fits a compelling niche between Posedla and GebioMized’s own offerings. Posedla’s Joyseat 2.0, which debuted in 2022, also features 3D-printed padding, but the fit process uses a simpler ship-to-home kit and questionnaire. That makes it more accessible, and Posedla offers custom shell widths between 130-170 mm, and some tuning of stiffness. But because there’s no pressure mapping, the padding itself isn’t customized in the way that the result of Fizik’s One-to-One process is. 

GebioMized offers some stock saddles based on its research, as well as a custom-saddle program through its fit partners, but those seats don’t use 3D-printed padding, which limits to some degree the customization produced by the padding map.

A worker's hands are shown as she fits a 3D-printed padding cover to a saddle shell at Fizik's HQ factory.
3D printing is an ideal technology for saddle padding as it allows mass customization.

That highlights one of the most compelling points about 3D printing technology: the ability to make truly custom products. That can range from custom frames, like Colnago’s custom version of its C68, with 3D-printed lugs, or the variety of custom extensions for time trial handlebars. As a touch point, however, saddles are uniquely suited to benefit from the technology because 3D printing can vary the density and thickness of the padding with almost infinite variation. Fizik is the first to deploy it to make truly custom padding patterns.

Questions remain

Fizik’s program offers a lot of potential, but it’s not nearly as neat and straightforward a process as the company portrays.

First of all, not all saddle issues arise from a bad saddle-to-butt interface. If you’re having issues with pain, numbness, saddle sores, or other concerns relating to contact points, your absolute first stop is to schedule a comprehensive fit with an expert fitter if you’ve not already.

That raises the second point: the shops selected as initial partners for One-to-One. I’ll focus on the US market as that’s what I’m most familiar with, and the first obstacle is simply the number and location of them. 

With just five shops across the entire country, there are going to be hard choices about who was part of the initial debut. But in selecting its US partners, Fizik offers one shop in Southern California (Velo Pasadena), two Mike’s Bikes locations in Northern California, and the Chicago-area Trek Highland Park shop and Mack’s Cycle and Fitness in Miami. Massive stretches of the country, including the most densely populated cities in the Mid-Atlantic and NY/New England area, are more than 700 miles from the nearest dealer.

A bike fitter consults his phone to read pressure-mapping software as Visma-Lease a Bike pro Dylan van Baarle looks on while pedaling a bike during a fit session.
Is your fitter as good as Dylan van Baarle’s? That’s maybe an unfair question, but your butt deserves no less than his.

As well, I’m not sure if Fizik nailed its customer market here. There are likely two main types of customers for a custom seat that starts at $500: riders who have struggled for years with saddle pain and related fit issues and have tried numerous solutions without success; and riders who want a truly unique ride and are drawn to the idea of custom everything, whether there’s a physical need or not.

And while the shops selected are all quality operations that do bike fits and sell premium bikes and equipment, they are not specialty in their emphasis. There are no boutique shops like Marin County’s Above Category or New York’s Savile Road that specialize in gorgeous, creative custom builds down to the most minute detail. There are no fit specialist shops like Phoenix’s Cyclologic or Fit Werx (in Vermont and also suburban Boston), and there are no individual expert fitters like Ivan O’Gorman, who operates studios on Colorado’s Front Range, in San Francisco, and near Montreal, Canada.

That’s important because One-to-One’s success relies at least partly on expert fitters who are properly trained in a sophisticated fit methodology. I’m not sure I see a well-heeled custom aficionado willing to travel for a bespoke bike picking a Trek shop for the high-touch experience he’s looking for. I’m really not sure that a rider who’s long struggled with saddle issues and has likely been through multiple unsuccessful fits before is willing to trust that a chain of shops – even a high-quality one like Mike’s – is the right pick to finally end her years of pain and discomfort on the bike. Neither of them wants to spend $500 or more to be the test subject as a fitter learns the technology.

Which raises the last question: what if you buy one and don’t like the result? Posedla offers a 60-day satisfaction guarantee, but when I asked Fizik about its position, the response had more caveats. “As an option, cyclists will be able to go back to the dealer and compare the result [of the first fit session] with the custom saddle,” said Locatelli. “The control compares improvements on peak pressure reduction, left/right balance and loading surface. If none of those parameters shows improvements, a new custom saddle will be offered free of charge.” 

That’s a good start. And Poletti, the sales manager, said Fizik would work with dissatisfied clients and offers a two-year warranty on “product integrity and functionality” (aka materials and craftsmanship). But that’s not quite the no-questions-asked guarantee Posedla offers, and it requires a return trip to the shop, at the customer’s time and expense if they travelled for the fit.

One-to-One is absolutely a promising and intriguing option. It may help riders finally find comfort when existing options have failed, and even for those of us just looking for a saddle that fits and performs well on rides of any length, it’s not priced so far out of range to high-end stock saddles that it’s a huge reach.

But until the network expands to include more dealers, in particular those known for high-end custom work and excellence in bike fit, One-to-One may remain an inaccessible curiosity for many.

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