A British company believes it has come up with a revolutionary seat upgrade for racetrack riders. The Chicane saddle unit ditches the traditional foam butt-pad for a series of rollers and gears to allow riders to slide smoothly from knee-down left to knee-down right in a tight series of corners without having to lift their entire bodyweight off the seat to do so. It's a fascinating idea, particularly for those of us that find track riding physically demanding on the legs - and the inventors believe it could help dampen the bowel-loosening sideways flick of a highside as well.
Motorcycle seats: they probably get less attention than any other part of a bike - at least from the manufacturer. That's why Corbin does such a great trade in aftermarket ones that are actually comfortable over the long distance. But long-distance comfort is just one thing a rider might need from a seat.
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What about racetrack riders? What are their posterior priorities? Well, most racers run a very thin foam pad - comfort's clearly not the main focus. And that's because during high performance track riding, you're pretty much constantly shifting your weight around the bike. Body position and weight balance are of such crucial importance that you spend the majority of a track lap up on your toes on the pegs, with your butt hovering above the seat so you can smoothly transition from side to side.
This kind of thing takes some pretty well-conditioned quad and calf muscles over the course of a long race or track session - and it's one of the reasons why superbike and GP racing are such physically demanding pastimes. One or two 20-minute track sessions is enough for your average unfit rider (not naming any names here) to feel the burn - and even riders in better physical condition will tire and lose performance over the course of a long race.
It's primarily this issue that Brit Brothers seeks to address with its new Chicane racing seat.
The Chicane seat does away with the foam pad in favor of a series of rollers covered by a rubber track. Effectively, the seat is able to roll sideways to let the rider move around and hang off each side of the bike without having to lift his (or her) full weight off the seat to do so.
The benefits, according to the makers, are that you can conserve energy over the course of a track session, plus that since you're not lifting your body up off the seat during changes of direction, you're able to stay lower on the bike and out of the airstream more, so the aerodynamics are optimized.
A third benefit is that if the rear tyre spins up and goes sideways, and then grabs for a highside flick, the movable seat can help absorb some of that sideways energy and potentially help keep the rider on the bike.
I'm not so sure about the second and third points - for starters, you tend to keep your head and shoulders fairly level when you move your butt about, plus, when you set your body position for a corner it's usually during or after a heavy braking period where you're using your body to catch as much wind as possible - so any aerodynamic benefits are likely to be negligible. And the highside point sounds fairly speculative to me.
Then there's the issue of mass distribution on the bike, and whether keeping the rider's weight balanced low on the pegs might make for better handling dynamics than leaving it higher up on the seat - but I'll leave that one for the physicists to argue over.
But just the thought of a seat unit that helps take physical pressure off the rider over the course of a track session - that makes a lot of sense to me. In my physical condition (to coin a phrase, I have curves in places that other people don't have places) I find the average track day (six 20-minute sessions) quite physically demanding, to the point where lap times and concentration fall off towards the end of the day. Something like this could help a lot of riders enjoy their high-performance riding a lot longer.
The Chicane saddle system is adjustable for friction and the strength of recoil back towards the centrepoint. It's not yet in production, but when it does hit the market it will likely be either as a simple seat swap for a variety of different sportsbikes, or as a track bike kit including a rear cowl/subframe. Neat idea, we'd like to give one a try.
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