It’s a mantra, almost a prayer around here, and we’ve been saying it for over two decades, inspiring innovation everywhere you and your bike become one—gloves and grips, shoes and insoles, chamois and saddles. This is how we truly improve comfort, increase performance, and reduce the chance of injury for every rider.
What exactly is the problem? How can we solve it through design? Then, how can we prove we really have solved it for our riders?
We didn’t know it then, but that’s where Body Geometry began. Our quest to improve performance, increase comfort, and reduce the chance of injury. But no wild hunches or me-too products here—anything that earns the Body Geometry name must be validated by science. Theories, testing, data, metrics, double-blind studies, and a little thing called the scientific method. It’s a simple philosophy but powerful when applied with unwavering commitment. It’s also worth repeating.
We partnered with Dr. Minkow, a world-renowned expert in ergonomics—from solutions to chronic back pain to exercise equipment to airline seats—and an avid cyclist. The first Body Geometry saddle, and Body Geometry itself, was born from this relationship.
We found a problem. Traditional saddles were causing ischemia—a loss of blood flow—that created scar tissue, which led to erectile dysfunction. To solve this problem, we designed the Body Geometry Wedge cut-out to relieve soft tissue pressure and pioneered sit bone measurement to determine proper saddle fit, ensuring the cut-out could do its job.
So, we solved ED in cycling through ergonomic design, or did we? How could we be sure? That’s where the final and perhaps most important piece of the Body Geometry method comes in—validate it with science. Working with Dr. Minkow and building off a 2002 Cologne study on the effects of cycling on male riders, we created a protocol to measure penile blood flow while riding and determined our baseline for ensuring the protection of proper blood flow to prevent injury. This is where the validation of Body Geometry saddles through science began—if it didn’t protect blood flow, it wasn’t a Body Geometry saddle. But this was just the beginning. Since then, we’ve learned to identify the early signs of ischemia, innovated in pressure mapping, and used blind comfort studies to validate our solutions.
Working with the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, we discovered that ischemia was a serious problem among female cyclists as well. But we also found that swelling in soft tissue, or edema, trapped blood flow and created additional scar tissue. We had identified another problem. Solving it through design led to the most exhaustive pressure mapping study we had ever undertaken and the most complex saddle we had ever created, with two kinds of memory foam to support soft tissue with equilibrium and a hammock structure to reduce pressure. We validated that the new S-Works Power with MIMIC solved the problem through additional pressure mapping and multiple rider studies. Then we leveraged MIMIC technology with other saddle shapes—Romin and Phenom—to serve even more riders, male and female.
After two decades of Body Geometry saddle design, pushing shape and foam to its limit, we weren’t ready to sign off and call it a job well done. Our engineers were hungry for more and determined to deliver more rider benefit. We had eliminated soft tissue issues, in large part by ensuring rider weight is carried by the skeletal system, so how could we eliminate pain at the sit bones? Garrett Getter, Specialized Saddle product manager, went on a quest to find new technologies and new materials to help push saddle design and Body Geometry into the future. The vision was simple, provide all the benefits Body Geometry saddles are known for in a package that delivers not only performance but unprecedented sit bone comfort as well. But how?
Using cutting-edge technology—3D printing a complex matrix from liquid-polymer—we were able to infinitely tune the saddle’s surface in a way impossible with foam. This allowed our engineers to create a patent-pending hammock-like matrix at the sit bones while protecting blood flow with our Power saddle shape. The result is the newest Body Geometry technology, Mirror Technology, and the S-Works Power with Mirror.
We saw a rider need—mate performance with comfort—and solved it by creating Mirror Technology, then we validated it with blind rider testing of perceived comfort, proving we achieved our goal. We’re now finding new benefits of Mirror Technology we don’t even have tests for yet, from pelvic stability to high-frequency vibration damping. This is the ultimate expression of Body Geometry, and it’s taking it into the future.
The human body evolved to walk, not pedal. Issues with forefoot numbness, “hot foot”, arch collapse, medial and lateral knee pain, and instability—all of which erode efficiency, power output, endurance, and comfort, while potentially leading to injury—occur when humans wear traditional cycling shoes, clip in, and pedal for hours on end. We set our sights on solving these problems through design and validating the solution with science. It’s the proven Body Geometry method, after all.
Working closely with the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, our in-house design squad set out to solve these issues one by one. So that we don’t stub our big toe while walking, the inside of our foot angles upward when we raise our foot. This angulation, called “varus”, is great for walking, but when riding, it causes significant lateral movement at the knee, which potentially decreases efficiency while pedaling and can lead to knee strain. It’s uncomfortable at best but can create painful injury. To solve this problem, the team developed an outsole with a Varus Wedge—a 1.5mm outward tilt to the outsole that stabilizes the forefoot during the pedal stroke and helps align the ankle, knee, and hip. Power and endurance increase, pain and chance of injury decrease.
The arch of the human foot works like a leaf spring while walking. It collapses when the foot hits the ground, absorbing the strike force, and it rebounds as we stride off the forefoot, returning the stored energy. This is a great system for walking and running, but it’s miserable for pedaling. When we pedal, we want the foot to be a rigid lever, directly and efficiently transferring force to the pedal. To prevent arch collapse, our insoles use molded longitudinal arch support. Before Body Geometry shoes, cycling shoes were stiff but flat, which allowed the foot to collapse within the shoe. Riders can take this to the next level and customize arch support with our custom footbeds.
For pedaling power and a positive interface with the bike, we need the shoe to fit securely on the foot. This can lead to a compression of the nerves and arteries between the metatarsal bones in the forefoot, which in turn causes numbness or “hot foot” or both. To solve this, we include a Metatarsal Button in the insoles of our shoes that lift and separate the metatarsal bones in the forefoot, preventing them from impinging nerves and compressing arteries.
So, did these solutions live up to our Body Geometry promise? Did they improve performance, increase comfort, and reduce the risk of injury? In 2003, at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, a study was undertaken to prove what these new Body Geometry shoes could do. Using a pool of trained cyclists, they completed a rigorous lactate and VO2 max testing protocol using traditional road shoes and Specialized Body Geometry road shoes. The results were impressive, with Body Geometry shoes improving lactate threshold by eight watts, average TT power by seven watts, and perhaps most impressive, reducing 10km TT time by 28 seconds, all validated by science.
Today, every one of our shoes delivers these same features, from our entry-level Recon 1.0 mountain shoes and 2FO trail and DH shoes, to our ultimate performance shoes, like the S-Works 7 and new S-Works Ares. Each and every Specialized shoe is scientifically proven to improve performance.
But what’s at the root of those issues? The outer fingers and side of the hand go numb when the ulnar nerve is compressed against the bar for long periods of time, while tingling can occur in all the fingers when blood flow is impaired. So, we had not only identified the problems riders faced but the underlying physiological causes of them as well.
Working with ergonomic experts, like Dr. Kyle Bickel from the Hand Center of San Francisco, we began designing solutions. To reduce numbness, our Body Geometry Gel gloves disperse pressure where the ulnar nerve runs into your fingers. By protecting arterial circulation, we can reduce tingling in your fingers. We also do this with our Grail gloves, which maintain the natural shape of your palm. To take this even further, our grips contour to your hand and our Body Geometry gloves. The result is not only more comfort and a reduced risk of injury, but it also leads to improved performance by creating a seamless connection with your bars.
It’s through these touchpoints—your hands, feet, and saddle—that Body Geometry makes you and your bike one, with products that are born from identifying the problem, solving it through ergonomic design, and validating it with science. While we know a good ride can make your heart pound and your legs burn, there is no reason your touchpoints should ever hurt. If they do, we have your solution. We’ve been working for 25 years to improve performance, increase comfort, and reduce the chance of injury, all validated by science.