A unique saddle design
Cycling’s natural platform and ergonomics
Cool, ventilated and not a big cushion
Made in Scotland
Designer Jonathan (Jon) Catling is cycle-obsessive, he decided to take on the bicycle saddle so he could be comfortable at last, riding in the place he loves most.
Avoiding car ownership in Cambridge, where he was born, Jon loved the freedom of cycling, and just for being sublime machines for living in a city. Fun, and supremely efficient, perfect for the city, and beyond.
As primary transport, cycles provide cleaner, safer cities, arguably increasing a city’s financial health. This was part of the motivation to find a far better seating platform. MANTA saddles revolutionise the riding experience and feel.
To achieve this, it had to be unique.
In contrast to bicycle efficiency and the development of modern bicycles, cycle seating has been much the same since its inception.
Not supportive enough, and not supportive in the right places. Whereas wide comfort saddles are too restrictive, and they still compress nerves and arteries (too wide, inflexible).
Pain is a body’s way of saying something isn’t right. It affects endurance and enjoyment. You think you get used to it, but you go numb, and this isn’t good. Eventually, parts that should be soft, become calloused.
The MANTA is designed to suit all riders, from 10 years on. Anecdotes suggest riding a MANTA is therapeutic, from the increased bloodflow.*
*the MANTA is unique in increasing arterial bloodflow during cycling.
The MANTA saddle was visualised, prototyped, and tested on the Isle of Skye, northwest Highlands of Scotland.
In the late ’90s, Jon cycled on amazing, potholed, hilly, and twisty Skye roads. His new mindscape gave impetus to take on bicycle seating, he knew it needed to be far better.
Developed on a combination of sea and hill paths.
“Cycling was always a passion. I was aware of how pain impacts endurance; the legs are good for more miles, the backside just isn’t.”
“On a beautiful island, in an old stone fisherman’s cottage, I found myself with perfect dream time, a totally tranquil space…”
“…as it turned out, having plenty of time was just as well, the design required a huge amount of development. The design was eventually taken to the mainland, to seek industry and cycling expertise.”
It has complex kinetics but it was clearly the way ahead.
“Manufacturing development was pretty involved, due to the complexity of forms required for precise articulation, to follow a seated human form perfectly, crucially, in motion.
Existing comfort saddles are compromised. They lack the form and function to support a human body, as it must be supported.
Movement is restricted from adding width, leading to chaffing, worse, to nerve compression. When the pudendal arteries are not affected by a saddle ‘nose’, pressure increases elsewhere, often in critical areas, such as a nerve. It has been a tradeoff. The support area of ‘conventional comfort’ seats is little better than a conventionally narrow sports seat (which we prefer to just wider TBH).
“The design priority wasn’t just to provide ‘a perception of comfort’, i.e., a temporary soft feel, it was to provide an absence of what causes discomfort, zero peak pressures, even distribution, over a far larger area, none in the pudendal zone.
Our parameters were to maximise support, with no loss of motion.
“I contacted BBC Tomorrow’s World, who then had an open innovations programme, I was advised not to go public with a design, they saw it had “commercial potential”, so until a patent was at least applied for, nothing happens.
“Several years were spent on searching patents, then talking to the innovation investors, NESTA, about prototype market trials, this seemed a great cost for rough prototypes, for one day’s feedback, at a shiny venue.
“My brother, Paul (with business experience), and I were obliged to form a limited company as part of NESTA negotiations.
“We decided to go ahead with our own product development for manufacture and public trials – based on a real product – trust to real-world cyclist’s feedback. It worked, very well.
“This was achieved with the assistance of many good friends, and riders, manufacturing experts, DuPont, Velo Ent., others in carbon fibre (Lola). Relative cost and access meant we accepted an offer to work with Protomould, Fife. Introduced to us by Edinburgh Business Gateway, we met Bill Scott, Protomould’s wizard. It was clear he was perfect to work closely with and produce final, quality tooling, for an initial production run.
These, various, processes took about eight years.”
During this time Jon’s home paid for patents, to provide security. He was, then, committed (or should be). Beyond that, his family [bravely] stepped in to keep their family business independent, even during proof-of-concept. Scary really, but all involved were confident of the design following many, varied trials.
“What fed our motivation, was the contrast in experiences – and increasing evidence of damage caused by conventional nosed saddles – the feedback from early takers was quite something.
“Conventional saddle design has barely changed from the very beginnings of the bicycle, the ability to support the human anatomy has become less, in real terms. I think we just changed that.” – Jonathan (Jon) Catling, designer
MANTA's other significant investors...
The MANTA design, our independant manufacture, it is their legacy...
All at MANTA love cycling, as a thing. Quite as perfect, as machines can be. Quote from Steve Jobs: “I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species… the Condor used the least energy to move a kilometre. Humans came in with a rather less impressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. But then someone at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency for a man on a bicycle – a man on a bicycle blew the Condor away” – fit cyclists can ride about twice as far as a horse’s average 50miles/80km a day.
Every MANTA began its travels crossing Skye's bridge to the mainland, now we are based here - ¡Buen viaje!