The saddle-to-bum connection is one of the three major touchpoints between a rider and their bike - the other two being the connection between feet and pedals and hands to handlebars, of course.
When it comes to increasing on-bike comfort, a new saddle is likely one of the first considerations a rider will make. However, according to Shimano, cyclists pay more attention to their handlebar tape and their shoes than to their choice of bib shorts and the chamois pad inside, despite being a vital part of that touchpoint.
To change this, a collaborative effort between Shimano, its component subsidiary Pro, and Bikefitting.com has resulted in an all-new pair of bib shorts, to be known as Tenku, which promises new options for riders who want proper base support.
Cycling innovation thrives on data and the design of Shimano Tenku was no different, opting to use Bikefitting.com’s pressure mapping data during its lab tests to create a chamois pad that Shimano says is perfectly matched to Pro's short nose Stealth saddles.
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According to the brand, the chamois is designed to maximise comfort in the aggressive, aerodynamic position promoted by the short-nose Stealth range.
"It puts different demands on a chamois which aren’t immediately apparent but start to be noticed the longer you’re in the saddle, especially over back-to-back days," explained Shimano product manager Giovanna Dominicus. "By being highly specific on the exact size, shape and material of the saddle, we could create a far more optimised bib short.
However, not only targeting comfort over short stints in the aggressive position, Dominicus claims the shorts are ready for "longer rides at a higher pace".
“We reshaped the chamois and developed new super microfibre antibacterial honeycomb structured materials which are specifically made for longer rides at a higher pace. This wicks sweat better and even creates micro ventilation in the shorts where the anatomic cut in the Stealth saddle is. We could match the shape of the saddle exactly to the chamois, reducing chafing, creating a perfect fit and a superior garment in many ways.”
According to Bikefitting.com's Niels Boon, data collected by the brand backs up Dominicus' claims. "The research done by bikefitting.com showed that the Tenku bib shorts delivered a higher comfort level and a lower amount of overall pressure at the front part of the saddle than traditional bib shorts. This was confirmed in a representative group of experienced cyclists, in lab tests as well as during field tests under real-life conditions."
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The padding requirements for a less demanding rider, who might default to that more upright posture, is different from those committed Stravaholics – and the Tenku x Stealth is targeted at the latter.
However, Shimano's other new announcement, a new bib shorts selector, caters to anyone looking to benefit from the rich development data that Shimano has harvested.
A few elementary questions about your riding style, intensity and duration will be asked, and the responses will enter into a calculation, out of which will come a selection of Shimano bib shorts that the brand believes will be best suited to your needs.
“No matter which type of ride you prefer and how advanced your cycling performance is, it’s always worth choosing your shorts carefully, especially as you start to build up the mileage and spend longer in the saddle," Dominicus concludes.
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Lance Branquinho is a Namibian born media professional, with 15-years of experience in technology and engineering journalism covering anything with wheels. Being from Namibia, he knows a good gravel road when he sees one, and he has raced some of Africa’s best-known mountain bike stage races, such as Wines2Wales and Berg&Bush.
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