Selle Italia Transforming Saddle Sector?
ROSSANO VENETO, Italy – Are major changes about to take place in bicycle saddles? Are foam covers a thing of the past? And is consolidation setting in? Looking at what is going on at Selle Italia this is about to happen and is even already taking place.
The question is also if Selle Italia is reinventing itself? In particular as the Selle San Marco take-over, which took place last January, and the new NET production technology looks to bring drastic changes to the company. Is Selle Italia turning from a specialist sport saddle producer into a mass manufacturer?
Combined Selle Italia & Selle San Marco
The take-over of over 50% of the Selle San Marco shares by Selle Italia President Giuseppe Bigolin brings a combined Selle Italia and Selle San Marco that has an annual turnover of some € 30 million. 85% of that value comes from export to all major bike markets in the world.
On Selle Italia’s new NET production technology in relation to the Selle San Marco take-over President Bigolin says, “The NET system is a Selle Italia start-up, an industrial project that could also be applied to Selle San Marco. We are still evaluating how to apply it to the Selle San Marco products.”
The NET saddle technology is according to product director Piet van der Velde, “A game changer for Selle Italia. It allows us to present OEMs with a better product, with a more flexible product, and with a product that can be mass produced.”
All these aspects have to do with the NET technology that does away with saddles made with thick layers of foam, glue and toxins. Selle Italia is replacing this messy to produce material with layers of what it calls ‘mesh’. These are polypropylene layers with holes – offering ventilation, breathability, and waterproofing, as rain can drip through it. NET saddles have 3 polypropylene layers; the 1st for presenting a strong structure, the 2nd is a softer EVA foam for providing comfort (like the Crocs shoes), and the 3rd layer is a special mesh overlay that is printable and customizable.
Selle Italia claims the polypropylene layers are virtually indestructible and much more resistant to UV radiation, abrasion and wear, compared to traditional saddle covers. It’s 50% stronger than any vacuum Gel saddle with regard to puncture or rupture damages.
“The NET construction method makes the products almost indestructible and resistant to the most rough city or off-road use. NET is totally waterproof thanks to its innovative construction method and retains its cushioning and elastic properties for a time that is usually longer than that of a traditional saddle,” says Selle Italia.
NET saddles are manufactured through a new robotized process. That process slots together the various parts without using any bonding materials, or other toxic equivalents. The NET saddle is very easily produced. And the special mesh overlay is printable and can be easily customized.
“The production process is also very mobile. NET saddles can be made anywhere,” says van der Velde. “Next to that the design is also very flexible. We offer OEMs choices for adding colours or customizing the saddles according to their design. For that product managers can log on to our (netsaddle.com) website and make their own saddle. How the prototype will look like is shown directly and the order can be prepared in minutes.”
Product director Van der Velde hopes that NET will turn Selle Italia into a volume-maker with millions of NET saddles per year. President Bigolinh says on this, “I expect a remarkable growth of both Selle Italia and Selle San Marco companies, better control of the markets and more synergies in all sectors. This partnership, if well managed and thanks to the new ongoing projects, could lead to a 20% increase in market shares; for both brands.”