If you have any other questions, please email them and we will do our best to answer them.
As many of us have found, the standard seats available for most recumbent bikes aren't ergonomically designed for power, comfort under power, or aerodynamics. The RailGun seat is the first seat designed to support the body when under power for both short and long events and to clean up much of the turbulence under and behind the seat that is created by the stock seats.
John Tanner (LMT, trainer) and I were the first stickbike riders to experiment with low seat angles in an attempt to solve the problems caused by the poor design of these stock seats. We recognized the sacrum, hamstring, power transfer and other problem issues involved early on and pursued different ways of accomplishing the same results. At the same time, I was investigating the turbulence issues caused by the stock seats in order to provide improvements there also. After experimenting and comparing notes for several years, I designed the shape of the RailGun prototypes and discussed the changes with John to validate the modifications. After two very successful years of ultra and shorter distance racing on RailGun prototypes, small-run production molds were made and RailGun seats were born.
We firmly believe the RailGun seat is a major improvement in recumbent seat design, whether you want greatly improved aerodynamics, greater comfort under power or faster sprinting and climbing. The RailGun seat tends to provide the greatest improvement when used by a strong rider though. In general, the lower the seat angle, the more comfortable a RailGun seat will be.
Making a mold while a person is relaxed does not end up with a seat made for power. It will not support in the correct places and will interfere with the body when under power. Knowing where support needs to be and getting the seat out of the way otherwise results in a better seat. RailGun seats are made to fit a wide range of riders when under power.
We contend that good climbing (fast, slow, short, long) is affected greatly by body control. The better support your seat provides to allow you to relax your body and allow your legs to make good power while not sacrificing control issues, the better you will climb. Power and control can be largely independent of seatback angle when the issues that affect power and control are adequately accounted for. Providing solutions for these issues was the main inspiration for the RailGun seat and we believe the seat has been wildly successful in solving them.
The RailGun seat was designed to provide good support under high power, especially for climbing and power climbing. We have seen no other seat that is even close to providing this level of support.
We contend that a properly designed seat shouldn't require one to raise up off of and push against the back of the seat in order to create power for accelerating or climbing. For hard, fast accelerations, the rear of the RailGun seatpan is shaped to lock your pelvis into the seat (no more head bobbing up and down) and the rib is designed to efficiently transfer that power to the drive-train. The response you can get from this is where the RailGun name comes from...
Another way to look at this: If bridging allows you to make so much more power, why doesn't your seat allow you to remain in that position all of the time? Imagine you are bridging but the seat raises up to conform to your body so you can relax those lifting muscles. That is a RailGun seat!
If your seat is shaped correctly, it can even be easier than sitting upright. If you make close to half of your power pulling with one leg while pushing with the other or if you don't have to push your upper back into the seat to make power, as with the RailGun, you can slightly arch your back and clear the chest cavity and diaphragm to easily pull in more air.
Almost all of our riders have commented on how shocking the difference is in accelleration and climbing as related to peak power. The stronger a rider is, the more likely the difference will be because you have far better support in the places where it is needed which also results in much better body stability and far less power loss through excess body movement and stress.
What aspect of the human frame above the pelvis is well suited to transmitting force? We found that involving anything above the pelvis tends to decrease the force that the legs can provide when they are anchored well at the pelvis, which is what we believe we have accomplished quite well. Let your upper body do well what it does best : power generation (taking fuel, water and air and turning that into fuel for your leg muscles) and don't try to include it in power transfer.
Check the RailGun Howto for more information on how to make power on a RailGun seat.
When set up correctly and with a reasonable amount of training they can be more comfortable and stable than high seat angle arrangements. We try to make sure a RailGun seat is appropriate for its owner and set up correctly. Don't expect a new recumbent rider to be able to jump on one and take off with no problems, though that certainly does happen with some riders.
On a smooth and flat surface you should be able to easily and smoothly launch a RailGun-equipped bike with less than 10 watts of power. Launching is a skill issue, not a power issue. Practice low-speed drills such as pedalling at low speeds with your right leg only in a counter-clockwise circle. Let your left leg hang to the inside and relax your upper body. Lie down on the seat when launching so you can more readily receive feedback from the bike regarding it's stability. Sitting up may help initially but will hinder further improvement. A tiller-equipped bike generally works better when you keep a very light hand on the controls. Support your arms against your sides, especially at speed. Do not grip the bars tightly. If you are experiencing headshake, you are most likely inducing it.
Yes! The muscles you use to pull on the pedals (hamstrings/glutes) are the largest muscles in your body. Why not use them? (I personally make upwards of 70% of my easy cruise power using my glutes). Pretend you are a on stretcher and someone rolls you up to a flight of stairs. You now need to pull yourself up those stairs while on the stretcher by lifting one foot up and placing it on the top of a step, pulling down and back, then placing the other foot on the next step and pulling down and back. Doing the little pelvic tilt and lifting your feet over the top of your crankset and pulling down and back, instead of pushing though the crankset, lessens stress on the knees and helps provide a more constant and powerful pedal stroke. Yes, the RailGun seat was intentionally designed to promote precisely this.
Lack of training and improper fit are what prevent people from making great power by pulling on the pedals. The RailGun seat can help provide the proper fit. It is up to you to provide the practice.
Possibly. It is designed primarily for high-performance riders who are able to generate a good amount of power at low seat angles. If you aren't a power rider, you may still derive benefits from the seat but the results most likely won't be as remarkable. The RailGun is made for seat angles below about 15 degrees and works best at about 5-10 degrees. The shallow seatpan is not appropriate for higher seatback angles.
We should be able to support most stickbikes and s-frame bikes. Our rib design is what makes the seat so strong and aerodynamic but it does pose difficulties in fitting bikes that are made for the standard carbon seats. It is best if we either have the bike in hand or have sufficient information to fabricate a proper mounting mechanism.
One size fits almost all. RailGuns are primarily for mid-sized to larger riders. The RailGun shape is more open, especially at the back, so doesn't have the limitations on fit that standard seats have.
Several prototypes were made to try to address the problem of attaching the tailbox with embedded water bottle holders to the seat. The final version addressed the different problems by flaring the seatback so the tailbox could wrap around the bottle holders and connect to the seat adequately. This accidentally provided a far more comfortable seatback for our larger riders.
The seatpan is not intended to be used when under power. It is primarily there to support the rider while stopped and to aid in getting on and off of the bike. A wider seatpan would simply get in the way.
While primarily designed for high performance use we have also built custom seats for people with special requirements not met by any other seat such as custom ribs for heavier and more powerful riders.
RailGuns are hand made to fit specific rider requirements so each tends to be slightly different. This takes a lot of time. The tailboxes require much more handwork to fabricate than most of the seats.
RailGun tailboxes are intended to carry two water bottles externally and some needed extra gear internally for non-faired events and is intentionally made to not offer an aerodynamic advantage. We can assure you that the box does not create additional drag to the seat or as compared to any other non-faired fuel-carrying capability we have seen so far.
The amount of drag reduction the tailbox provides on an M5 CHR is on the order of using a rear disc wheel instead of an open spoke faired wheel, which is quite minimal on an M5 CHR with a RailGun seat (on the order of about .3 mph at 30mph). For a strong rider trained to use a RailGun seat, the seat itself can offer an order of magnitude greater improvement in speed than the tailbox. If you believe you are noticing an aerodynamic advantage on a RailGun-equipped M5 CHR, it is not due to the tailbox but due to the seat itself. We have a good amount of power/speed data that confirms this. The move from our previously hand-sculpted laminate ribs to our new rib mold design provides a noticeably larger speed improvement than the tailbox does for our CHR seats.
Each is hand-made from carbon fiber material and in the case of through-seat mounting, a top layer of aramid/carbon fiber weave for greater strength in handling the mounting hardware. The rib is made from different structural materials, depending on the design requirements in terms of power, weight, seat angle and bike frame. Most ribs are hand shaped from laminated structural foam and carbon fiber. Our M5 CHR ribs are typically made from vacuum-bagged carbon fiber like the seat and tailbox. The RailGun tailbox is hand-made from a one-piece mold for the shell with bottle holders made separately and bonded to the tailbox. The tailbox is bonded to the seat flange made especially for that purpose.
Yes. We have two main wheel well molds that can be used to provide more clearance when needed. This can be both horizontal and vertical needed clearance. Even with a fairly appropriate wheel well, a flexy wheel may allow the tire to rub the side of the wheel well. As an example, a Zipp 808/25c will rub the side of the large M5 CHR tailbox when power exceeds about 600 watts. We recommend you run a stiffer wheel.
The idea for the holders came from Bent Up Cycles' Aero Bag. (Thanks Dana!) While an excellent bag, low seat angle riders have trouble keeping the bag off of the rear tire, thus the RailGun tailbox. The RailGun bottle holders are rigid and are tilted to provide a longer, elliptical hole for the bottles to enter. This makes it easier to extract and replace bottles. The lid opens from the front to make it fairly easy to extract some items from the tailbox while riding.
As a former research scientist, I am very familiar with what would be required for me to prepare and run an investigation into the pertinent issues to meet my standards as a scientist to publish such a scientific paper. I am retired and living on a modest budget and can't justify the required expense.
I am very familiar with the methodologies a scientist uses to prepare such an investigation, which has to start with determining boundary conditions that would affect the experiments. For the past six years I have been informally attempting to identify what those boundary conditions might be and have come to suspect these initial steps in setting up an experiment were not successfully done in many cases by others in the past, often providing misleading results.
So no, I do not have publishable results for my suggestions and suspect I never will. What I have is a wealth of fairly good data and experience with making small changes and noting the results repeatedly under many different situations. I do believe I am starting to form a decent framework for evaluating how things tend to interact under the typical SWB situations. As is typical of these situations, the more I study the more I find there is to learn. So the search continues.
One can often run across statements such as :
etc. etc. These incorrect statements are based on sample sizes that are far too low (often just a handful). It only takes one person to invalidate these hasty generalizations and several of us have invalidated these statements time and time again. What one possibly should say instead is "I have trouble performing this activity on this bike under the following conditions. What does it take to improve?". That is what we have been doing for a number of years and are continually doing. RailGun seats and other ongoing developments are a result of attempting to answer these questions.
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May 17, 2016