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.