Nick Gosseen - State-of-the-art cycling shoes


Like so many high-performance sports, cycling requires materials that can keep up with its athletes – ultra-light for speed and ultra-strong for protection. Nick Gosseen leads teams at Specialized Bicycles in building innovative products to send cycling into the future. For example, their S-Works 6 is the lightest, yet most rigid, cycling shoe they’ve ever created – a high-performance machine made possible with Dyneema®.

Please introduce yourself, and tell us why you do what you do.
I’m Nick Gosseen, the Director for On-Rider products at Specialized. I head up the design and building of products meant to be used on the body: helmets, apparel, shoes. I also work on saddles, grips, tape and bags. 

How deeply does cycling touch your personal life?
Cycling touches nearly every part of my life. While you’ll rarely see me for race day, cycling has become an integral part of my professional and personal experiences. It allows me to reset and focus clearly on what I need to focus on, whether it be creatively or personally. It keeps me balanced, whether I want to briefly disappear into nature or share a new experience with my children. There’s nothing like seeing the excitement young kids get from being on a bike.

Cycling is a positive influence, regardless of age. I believe that with more people on bikes, more people are happy. We all benefit from that.

What was the first cycling innovation you remember that really impressed you? 
Full-carbon frames. I think the change was logical, given the pioneering that had already been done in aerospace. Still, breaking through the mechanical and mental barriers to build these products was massive. I remember riders vowing they would never ride “plastic” frames on roads or mountains. Now to see athletes using carbon frames on the road and down mountains, in races like Paris-Roubaix, is incredible. 

What led you to seek out a Dyneema® Composite Fabric to use in the S-Works 6 shoes in particular?
Our aim is to make shoes as light and comfortable as possible, without sacrificing any power transfer from the athlete into the machine. The foot is highly sensitive. It has significant variance between riders, and after three or more hours of riding, every millimeter of how the shoe interacts with the foot becomes critical if it is to not create discomfort.

Our innovation is focused on taking a soft, sensitive foot and locking it into a high-performance machine, all while allowing the athlete to feel comfortable and powerful. 

S-Works combines world-class design with cutting-edge materials – with no sacrifices. And after hearing about Dyneema® in 2012 or 2013, we started to explore the material’s strength-to-weight properties. It became clear that we needed to find a way to bring it into our shoes. The suppleness and non-stretch properties suits our application exceptionally – Dyneema® fabrics and the S-Works 6 were a perfect match.  

Do you have any plans to introduce Dyneema® Composite Fabrics into other areas of Specialized – Dyneema® Carbon in bikes, for example?
I can’t say much about where we are headed. However, we keep pursuing the highest-quality and highest-performing materials we can find, and Dyneema® fabric is certainly in that category.

"Our aim is to make shoes as light and comfortable as possible, without sacrificing any power transfer from the athlete into the machine"

Please give us some insight into the process of working with a material as strong as Dyneema® fabrics.
In early trials our welding process added stiffness and doubled the weight of the original Dyneema® fabrics – it was not as functional as we had hoped. Then, after several months of engineering and prototyping we discovered a solution to minimize the weight of the system and increase suppleness around the foot.

Overall, we feel that the product performed at a higher level than ever achieved in cycling footwear. Many of our world-tour athletes feel the same way.  

The S-Works 6 has received fantastic 4.5/5 star reviews. What sort of testing do you put these shoes through before they make it to market? 
An immense amount. We recruit riders from around the globe to test our products, which ensures we test every riding condition and as many foot shapes as possible. Additionally, our top-level athletes are brought in for early feedback throughout the development stages.

We test a range of prototypes with athletes that allow us to leverage their insights and refine before bringing the product to the market. Many riders will use a single pair of shoes for thousands of miles and in all conditions, so our testing needs to ensure we can meet those demands and outperform both competition and expectations.

How would you like to see the S-Works 6 develop into the next model? And do you see this technology trickling down to less premium offerings than the S-Works?
Dyneema® Composite fabric has helped us approach cycling footwear in a new way – no doubt about it. I’d love to see S-Works become even lighter, more efficient and more comfortable. And I’m optimistic that Dyneema® can help us get there. As for integration into other models or new developments… Stay tuned!  

Finally, would you share with us which innovations outside of your immediate profession you're most excited about at the moment?
Watching technology collide with everyday lifestyle products really intrigues me. Products that are simple, beautiful and refined but technically advanced and functional, grab my attention. Advancements in material technology and integrated electronics are being combined with fashion to make some truly inspiring and innovative combinations.

As materials get smarter and sensors get smaller, opportunities for innovation will be unlocked. It’s going to be an exciting time...

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