So Wrong It’s Right

So Wrong It’s Right

We say not to judge a book by its cover. It’s an admonition not to jump to a conclusion, or several of them. I’ve learned not to do that with shifting systems, tires, helmets and, more recently, saddles. If I’m honest, I still struggle with it with regard to saddles. I’ve had so many experiences where I’ve given a saddle a try even after thinking, “Hmm, that looks problematic,” only to have my suspicion confirmed that I’ve declined to ride some saddles.

Last spring I encountered a new saddle brand, SQlab (say SQ Lab). They offer saddles in a variety of carefully considered shapes and in multiple widths. It’s an objective response to saddle design, much the way the Specialized Body Geometry saddles are. They even have a little kit for riders to make a rear impression to allow the fitter determine what size saddle is proper for the rider. You can even get a low-key version of the kit for home use.

The shape was a surprise. I’ve not seen anything quite like it. It has a rather significant recess and enough of a scallop from front to rear that it seems more a saddle than a seat. The nose is surprisingly broad and flat. This is the basis of the Ergowave shape.

This spring I began riding the SQlab 612 Ergowave Titanium Active Saddle. It comes in four widths: 12, 13, 14 and 15cm. I’ve been riding the 14cm-wide version. True to the specs, mine weighed in at 214 grams. It’s a reasonably long saddle at 275mm. It does have a max weight rating of 100kg (220 lbs.).

What caused me to select this saddle from their many offerings was “Active” component of the saddle, which includes an elastomer damper that presses into the rear of the saddle where the rails meet the shell. If this was a saddle that is recommended for both road riders and mountain bikers, I figured it would be good for use on an adventure bike.

As happens to us all from time to time, I was right.

The elastomer damper should not be confused with a shock absorber. It doesn’t cushion a rider from shock, but it does reduce the amount of vibration that gets transmitted to your stern. The saddle comes with three different versions of the damper which can be removed and swapped based on your weight. Because I’m around 160 pounds, I used the middle one, which is gray. There is a white for hummingbirds and a black one for the Clydesdales.

According to SQlab’s marketing materials the center depression relieves perineal pressure by 60 percent over a standard saddle, but I’m not sure what they compare to. What I can say is that I find the saddle to be stunningly comfortable. I’ll admit that I’m always a bit surprised when a saddle with an unusual shape turns out to be comfortable for me. Most of my faves tend to have pretty organic shapes. For me, the magic position was to tilt the nose upward some so that I didn’t constantly slide forward off the back of the saddle, which I did if it rose much above the front of the saddle.

Interestingly, one of my favorite features of the saddle is its broad, flat nose. They term it the MaxContact nose. I’ve ridden some ridiculously steep climbs on the bike to which this saddle is mounted and it’s nice to have a bit more surface area when I slide forward to keep the front wheel down.

When it comes to value in saddles, I tend to go for those models in the middle of the price range, the ones where some lightweight materials have been used (like tubular titanium rails), but they haven’t gone full gravity nut. I don’t want a boat anchor, but I don’t particularly want to drop $400 on something that will eventually wear out. The 612 Ergowave Titanium Active Saddle goes for $189, which is what I paid for my first Flite, way back in 1991.

Final thought: Some surprises can delight.

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  1. Pat O'Brien

    That is an interesting saddle, and at reasonable price. I need to look into it. Do you notice any saddle movement at all, from the elastomer insert, when on rough and bumpy roads or trails?

    1. Author

      No, I don’t detect any movement at all. It just doesn’t feel stiff like a lightweight carbon frame rolling on 23mm tires pumped up to 120 psi.

  2. Moritz B Haager

    Hey Padraig,
    As someone who keeps searching for that elusive saddle that you just don’t think about, consider me intrigued. Do you know what your sitz bone measurements are? Have you ever tried Giants saddle test system? Where do you call on that?

    1. Author

      I don’t recall my exact measurement, but it’s in the 140-145mm range. Haven’t tried Giant’s system yet, but I’ve been meaning to.

  3. MidTNBrad

    Thanks for the review….I’m going to give SQLab some serious consideration as I’m in need of a new saddle.

  4. Les.B.

    Interesting design. Something I’d like to try.
    Noticed on their web site: “developed in a research project and in collaboration with the University Hospital of Frankfurt”
    Gives me the impression they did some solid physiological science in the design of this.

    1. Author

      Yes, SQlab saddles were developed in conjunction with University Hospital Frankfurt. What I should probably clarify further is that the Ergowave Active design is intended to relieve pressure on the sit bones and spinal column. I’ve got pelvic misalignment and it may be that part of the comfort I’m experiencing is the way the saddle accommodates my twisted butt.

  5. Jim

    I have found that saddle adjustment can be the deal-maker and deal-breaker for almost any saddle. And saddles that feel good on a racing geometry frame don’t always feel good on a more relaxed geometry bike and vice versa.

  6. Jeremiah

    Do you know if all of their saddle offerings have the 100 kg upper weight limit, or was it the Ergowave Active specifically?

    1. Kenny Roberts

      Hey Jeremiah – This is Kenny from SQlab USA. Yes, the performance saddles have a 100kg weight limit on the alloy (S-tube) rails and 90kg on the carbon rails. The weight limit is higher on the trekking and comfort saddles. Lots of products have weight limits but many are not listed someplace obvious.

  7. Ed

    Now that a little more time has passed, do you have any longer term impressions of this saddle? Is it still a winner?

  8. The_D

    Interesting. I’ve been chasing used non-Evo/non-gel, Ti-railed Romins all over the internet. Love that saddle, but they don’t make it any more and it doesn’t last for crap unless you get it custom-redone, which I have for one of my bikes. Your written description about pelvic imbalance makes it sound like you and I have a similar issue – torqueing at the pelvis causing discomfort unless the sit bones are supported “just so.” Will have to check this out when the recently acquired Romin fails on the new bike.

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