Drastic improvements to contemporary gravity bikes have been accompanied by longer adventures to reach higher trailheads. All of that steep pedaling time led some riders to point their saddle nose-down, to remove pressure from their perineum and other soft body tissues. The only problem with that forward tilt is that it also raises the rear of the saddle, leaving it higher and more snag prone for your shorts on the way back down. Aenomaly Constructs owner, Noel Dolotallas, noticed that many of his friends from all around around British Columbia were bowing their saddles down, and he was inspired to find a better solution. To kowtow toward a climb is one thing, but we don’t have to do it uncomfortably.
Enter, the brand’s first product, called Switchgrade. It’s a jewelry-polished collection of six parts that replace the head of your seat post, allowing for a 1° effective angle adjust on-the-fly. That angle shift not only points the saddle up for max drop on the descents, and down for max comfort on ascents, but there’s a neutral position for flat and undulating terrain. The three locked positions are actuated by a lever beneath the saddle that can be mounted at the front or rear as riders prefer.
Replacing the upper and lower saddle-rail clamps, SwitchGrade dropper-post heads add roughly 100g to the weight of a seat post, and increase the post’s stack-height between 8 to 10mm, depending on the dropper model. Riders with shorter legs will want to make sure that they can fit a touch more post in the frame before switching to this adjustable head. The rearward descending position does add some effective drop to the post, so you actually gain a bit of leg space with the saddle down, while the tipped-forward position effectively moves the rider’s seated position forward, which should be a sweet treat for bikes with slack seat tube angles. Also, foregoing numbness on the climbs sounds like a welcomed benefit.
As seat tubes have grown steeper a lot of folks are placing pressure on different parts of their bodies than they had with previous frame geometries. Through market research Dolotallas found that some folks are experiencing additional soft tissue pain from the upright position, and others mentioned an accompanying wrist soreness with the new posture. He also learned that a lot of women are even more sensitive to that soft tissue pressure than men, further pushing him to get this product dialed to make the ride better for everyone.
Folks are pretty stoked to experience this invention, and the three different SwitchGrade models fit with a wide variety of seat posts. Dolotallas says that the variation between seat posts is vast, and every little curve and angle has to be considered in order to reach proper compatibility. The engineers went through loads of prototypes before landing on the finished iteration, though they started off by manually adjusting their saddle angles at the base and peak of every trail to find the right amount of saddle angle and test the true necessity of their design ideas. They also chatted with friends at various Canadian bike and component brands to get a feel for what the industry response might be.
Dolotallas isn’t a mechanical engineer or product designer. He is a mountain biker with more than 30 years of trail time who likes to jot down ideas and questions for deeper thinking and solution exploration, as the company’s somewhat philosophical name suggests. He started to make prototypes for a different product several years ago with a different product. He took a trip to visit his uncle in the Philippines who was able to create the first usable prototype in his machine shop. The trip doubled as Dolotallas’ first time visiting family in the country, making it quite a special excursion. He held onto the idea for this recent innovation for quite some time before quitting his job as a software executive to start the business and follow his passion. The pandemic arrived shortly after, and the corresponding bike-buying boom meant they sold the first batch of SwitchGrade components rather quickly. Don’t worry, there are more on the way.
One unforeseen benefit of the SwitchGrade came from talking with e-bike riders who tried it out. The motorized MTBs are able to climb far steeper pitches than muscle-powered bikes, making the forward saddle angle all the more relevant. Also, with the added torque of an e-bike, a good saddle angle to push against and manage front-to-rear tire traction is key. More specifically, he notes that “from a bio-mechanical and ergonomic perspective, the biggest advantage of the SwitchGrade is having a posterior anchor so that you have a push-point to climb on.” Having the human side of that push-point be your sit bones instead of soft-tissue, seems like an important potential advantage. Dolotallas chatted with 2020 DH World Champ Reece Wilson via Instagram who mentioned seeing the benefits of a SwitchGrade for Ebikes and standard MTB’s because of the increased traction and balance
Looking further down the brand’s roadmap, they may be partnering with some OEM dropper and bike brands, and they have a few innovations on the list that move away from the dropper. All of the current product is manufactured by a Whistler-based machine shop specializing in MTB components just down the road and they hope to keep those processes close to home moving forward.