Fraunhofer researchers have developed a functionally-integrated bicycle seat post from carbon fiber composite materials that is ultra light and extraordinarily effective. This new technology promises to make mountain biking a smooth experience
While spring-loaded seat posts, which absorb the worst shocks, and make the ride more comfortable for the back, have long been in the market, but they have not been too friendly for an average buyer's pockets.
But the new CFRP seat post makes sure that rising a bike on the most diffcult of terrains could be a cake-walk.
"A hardtail mountain bike with this new kind of CFRP seat post rides as if it were a full suspension bike," says triathlon world champion Daniel Unger after a test drive.
In September, the component earned the Eurobike Award at the Eurobike 2009 trade show in Friedrichshafen and in Stuttgart, the high-tech post has been nominated for the 2009 AVK Award for Innovation.
The seat post was designed at the Fraunhofer-Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal as part of Fraunhofer's innovation cluster known as "KITe hyLITE - Technologies for Hybrid Lightweight Construction".
"The impetus for this came from our colleague and bicycle enthusiast, Sergei Belaew. The component is based on two CFRP profiles that work like laminated springs. In this respect, the spring rigidity was calibrated to keep the deflection within the 10 to 15 millimeter range. That tangibly augments rider comfort," said group manager Oliver Geiger, who handles the implementation of the flexible seat post in Professor Frank Henning's department.
Until now, the only seat posts to feature this structure were exceedingly pricey.
But, the Fraunhofer invention has an edge over other designs in how the unique characteristics of carbon fiber composites are combined with a keenly intelligent construction approach that delivers noticeable added cushioning and resilience.
The deflection of the CFRP profiles influences the motion of the seat tip, and under ideal conditions actively supports pedalling.
In addition, the post alleviates peak loads, even around minor superficial bumps - tar spots, damaged street surfaces and manhole covers are barely noticeable. "More ride comfort at 30 percent less weight," said Geiger.
The prototype of the CFRP seat post was manufactured through a Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) process. "
Currently, experts are working on optimising the tool engineering and manufacturing process for the production of a larger number of units.