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Kickstarter campaign helps cyclist create new saddle company

Published April 25, 2019

FRISCO, Texas (BRAIN) — Sometimes finding the right product requires sitting down and designing it yourself.

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Especially when that product is a comfortable yet high-performance bike saddle.

Just ask Jon Marceleno.

After a futile search for a saddle that didn't cause soft-tissue pain in the perineal area, Marceleno, a self-described "tinkerer" and son of an engineer, went to work. The result is his grassroots saddle company 3 West Design, which currently has three models. All feature a patented three-quarter-inch dropped middle section and a V-shape notch that mimics the shape of the male perineum.

Officially in business since 2016, 3 West Design is the result of a Kickstarter campaign started in 2014 that raised $34,000 to get the company off the ground. No other investors are involved. The saddles are targeted to all levels of road and gravel cyclists, mountain bikers and triathletes.

"I've ridden (bikes) forever," Marceleno, 51, said. "The pain you have to get use to, the soreness in the perineal area ... You do get use to it. It's like a badge of honor to endure pain. I thought I could start something better."

Marceleno, who lives north of Dallas in Frisco, Texas, with his wife Angie, said the company is "very healthy," and he's sold 400-plus saddles with most of his profits invested back into research and development and new models.

"All the focus is on growth," said Marceleno, who came up with the name for the company from the first apartment (3 West) that he and Angie shared. "Calculated growth in areas we feel the market needs it most.

"We really don't have a real sales goal. We just need to get the word out, but $100,000 a year would be great."

But Marceleno didn't fly by the seat of his pants with his design. He met with Taiwan's Velo, which is the world's largest manufacturer of dealer-quality saddles, and together they came up with the unique design after three years of research and development. Most of the saddle is manufactured Taiwan with a few small parts assembled in Frisco.

The original design, the Reprieve ($175), features the patented and fully adjustable Air Chamber, running along the nose of the saddle. A hand-held pump included allows the rider to inflate the chamber to the desired firmness.

Marceleno didn't stop there. He soon followed the Reprieve, which weighs 265 grams and is 143 millimeters wide, with two other models forgoing the Air Chamber for a foam insert for a flatter profile and lighter weight. The Halcyon ($155) weighs 252 grams and is 143 millimeters wide, and the Trinity ($155) weighs 254 grams and has a 155-millimeter width. Both feature hollow titanium rails.

He said his saddles have been well-received by other cyclists, who like him, almost gave up trying to find the right one.

"You don't think of money when other cyclists come up to you thanking you for making a better saddle," Marceleno said. "It makes your day, and you want to make better saddles because of it."

3 West Design also offers a $30 discount for military, police, fire, EMT and other first-responders.

Initially targeting the high-end racing cyclist, Marceleno said 3 West Design has appealed to all cyclists while attempting to price it competitively. "We didn't want a gimmick saddle," he said. "We want to prove this saddle at the highest level."

Not surprisingly, Marceleno said he is considering sponsoring a team this year and offering cash bonuses for top finishes. And other than a small ad running on the Bikerumor.com the past month, 3 West Design has been marketed mainly by word of mouth and does not employ any sales representatives, he said.

Currently, the saddles are available only online at www.3westdesign.com and two local bike shops: Richardson Bike Mart in Richardson, Texas, and Scott's Bicycle Center in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Scott's Bicycle Center owner, Doug Coulter, said the Reprieve has been popular with road cyclists and triathletes.

"There's a 62-year-old triathlete here who loves it," Coulter said. "I'd say 75 percent of those who tried it love it. The mountain bikers not so much because it's harder to move around on it. Maybe cross-country riders would find it works better. They're a great company to work with."

There are no plans to make the saddles available OEM because that would mean using inferior materials, Marceleno said.

"We wanted to make a saddle people are proud of."

3 West Design offers a 30-day free trial and two-year warranty on everything, including the air bladder on the Reprieve. He said he's only had two returns, both because of a manufacturing defect.

The company's first women-specific models, the Grace (with the Air Chamber) and the Trust (with the foam insert) should be available in the next couple of months. Both will be 160-millimeters wide. Marceleno said a triathlete-specific model, the Halo, will be available soon as well.

 

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