Looking for a way to make his frequent bike journeys a little less arduous while assisting rural village development in Kenya and Uganda, veteran frame builder Paul Barkley found that existing spring seats just didn't offer the kind of action, adjustability, performance and comfort he was looking for, so he set about designing one that did. When he discovered that the first prototype worked much better than expected, he set about refining the design. After spending more than a year riding, testing, racing and tweaking, he teamed up with keen cyclist Charlie Heggem to form Cirrus Cycles and bring the BodyFloat to market. The seatpost suspension system is claimed to smooth out the terrain below by levitating the rider above the bike, resulting in a comfortable ride and allowing for a smooth, comfortable and efficient pedal stroke without bounce, flex or wasted energy.
"BodyFloat works by levitating a rider over their bike and terrain via our patent-pending undamped dual spring (meaning no elastomers, oils, air or other substance), dual parallelogram system," Heggem told Gizmag. "No damping and the horizontal configuration allows for straight vertical travel over a controlled sweet spot that is tunable to any rider, bike or terrain. Vertical travel allows the BodyFloat to actively isolate the rider while maintaining critical frame fit geometry. Minimal vertical compliance of the rider allows natural movement that we believe aids in bio-mechanical performance, improves comfort and aids in energy conservation within the body."
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"The concept is not new ... as Softride pioneered the 'Suspend the Rider' idea in the late 80s and 90s with the 'Beam Bikes'. Many other companies followed suit. Both myself and my business partner Paul Barkley (the inventor of the BodyFloat) came from a Softride lineage, with him being the original frame builder and I was a pro-level mountain bike rider. Our goal isn't to suspend the rider, however, it is about isolating the rider within the controllable sweet spot (the ideal combination of spring rate and pre-load). Tuning the BodyFloat allows it to perform over any terrain and under any rider on any bike."
Two versions are currently being offered to backers via a Kickstarter funding campaign. BodyFloat 3.0 is primarily constructed using 2021 aluminum machined in-house with a carbon seatpost. Steel springs and sealed bearings round out the main parts. BodyFloat 2.0 uses 6061 aluminum, a highly efficient bushing system and an alloy seatpost. Both models will ship fully assembled and pre-configured to the customer's weight and stated riding style.
The suspension system allows up to 1.5 inches (38 mm) of true vertical travel, with the option to pre-load down to less than a quarter of an inch (6.4 mm). Pre-load can be user-adjusted for fine tuning on the fly, and springs swapped out if desired.
Future versions of the system are in the works to cater for mountain-specific applications and will have over three inches (76.2 mm) of available travel. Current models are available in 27.2 mm and 31.6 mm seat post diameters (with shims for other sizes), making it compatible with most bikes, but are supplied without a saddle – although a model with seat included is very much on the "To Do" list.
The funding campaign on Kickstarter has been successful ahead of schedule but, you can still get in there and back the project if you're quick. Otherwise, BodyFloat will be available for US$349 (version 3.0) or $199 (version 2.0) after the campaign closes. Heggem told us that "additional models (1.0 and 4.0) are in the works to be released in 2013. Our 3.0 will begin shipping in December 2012, followed by Model 2.0 in February 2013."
Have a look at the following video to see the BodyFloat in action.