By Brandon Bilyeu
612 ERGOWAVE R:
612 ERGOWAVE active 2.1:
- Wide range of saddle widths and padding thickness available
- Excellent quality
- Center relief channel
- Unisex design
- Active saddle elastomer is extremely difficult to install and remove
- Shape limits ability to move fore/aft on saddle
612 ERGOWAVE R – $180
612 ERGOWAVE active 2.1 – $170
How obtained: review sample from SQlab
Available: retail, online
RBR Sponsor: no
Tested: 350+ hours
First, a Disclaimer
Saddles are a very personal contact point with the bike. Everyone’s body, and thus saddle needs, are different. What is comfortable for me might be the world’s most perfect torture device for you. That said, I will do my best to describe what saddles generally do and do not work for me so you can make the most of this review.
SQlab – Ergonomic Focus for Comfort and Performance
Living and riding in Germany I noticed that many road cyclists were using a saddle with a very distinct shape. I finally asked someone and was introduced to SQlab, a Germany based company with a wide range of cycling products including saddles, pedals, clothing, stems, and handlebars. Given the saddle’s popularity I reached out for a sample and SQlab kindly sent over a couple 612 series saddles. The 612 R is an aggressive racing saddle while the 612 active adds more cushion and a suspension system.
The 612 road saddles are built around SQlab’s Ergowave technology. The “wave” is visible from the side of the saddle where the rear is raised and then transitions to a flat forward section. You are meant to sit right at the intersection of the raised rear and flat sections. The rear support stops you from sliding backwards while the flat section supports your sit bones.
Side-to-side the 612 profile is much flatter than many saddles which provides great support while avoiding a high center that can press into perineum soft tissues. To further reduce soft tissue pressure there is a relief channel in the center of the saddle.
The saddles are also available in a wide range of widths to better match everyone’s sit bones. SQlab provides a free kit for measuring your sit bone width and detailed information on how to use this measurement to pick the correct width saddle. Part of this process is using your posture on the bike to pick a suitable saddle. Each saddle model comes with a useful pictogram to show what postures it is designed for. For example, the 612 R saddle is designed for time trials and road racing as shown by the highlighted aggressive positions:
While the 612 active is designed for a slightly more upright but still aggressive position:
My Saddle History
I spent a decade trying to find a comfortable saddle. Along the way I learned a lot about what works for me and what does not. I quickly determined that I did not like thick padding and a center relief channel / cutout was an absolute requirement. I gravitated towards wider saddles even though my sit bones are not especially wide. Even with these requirements comfort was still elusive as I tested numerous saddles. I spent the last several years quite happy with the Specialized Power saddle in 155mm width and had one on each of my three bikes.
The Ergowave technology checks all my boxes, but my sit bone measurement pointed me to the smallest saddle width at 12cm. Wanting to properly review SQlab’s system I nervously selected the 12cm width. Setting up the SQlab saddles on two bikes with the Power saddle on the third I was able to easily swap between saddles for comparison. The biggest difference for me with the SQlab saddles compared to the Power saddle was a reduction in soft tissue pressure and discomfort. I see now the problem with the Power saddle is its curved side-to-side profile that puts the highest point of the saddle right in my soft tissues (this probably explains why I liked wider saddles as this presented a flatter contact surface on the narrow portion I was using). The flatter 612 saddles don’t ‘high center’ me and thus reduce center pressure.
My New Favorite
The 612 saddles were comfortable enough that I bought a 612 R to replace the final Power saddle and after a year of riding my bottom is quite happy. The two 612 R saddles are on my road bikes. The R version mates the Ergowave shape to a very thin layer of padding that provides excellent comfort and support. The 612 active saddle takes the same Ergowave shape but uses thicker padding and an elastomer system at the rear that allows the saddle to move with your hips as well as provide some shock absorption. I mounted this active saddle to my gravel bike and I appreciate the extra cushion over the bumpy roads. The saddle comes with three different stiffness elastomers so you can find what works best for you.
It’s worth noting that the Ergowave shape creates a small sweet spot on the saddle and moving fore/aft from here reduces comfort. Moving backwards onto the raised portion comes with higher pressure directly on sit bones while moving forward increases soft tissue pressure. Overall, I was comfortable in the sweet spot and could easily tolerate short stints outside this zone.
After a year of use spread over three saddles and riding in all conditions the saddles still look new. The top covers have proven very robust without any wear evident, and the elastomer has not permanently deformed. It’s good to see these saddles will last a long time as they are not cheap, but certainly good value for the money.
The only true negative experience I had was changing the elastomer on the active saddle. It was impossible for me to do with my bare hands, and I resorted to using pliers to push/pull the elastomer while using a screwdriver for leverage to spread the rails. This resulted in minor cosmetic damage to the underside of the saddle, but no impact on performance.
SQlab saddles are well made and are ergonomically designed to work with your body to provide comfort and support. Saddle comfort is very personal, but SQlabs is a good option, and they provide lots of knowledge on their website to help you find the right model and size.
Brandon Bilyeu is an avid recreational roadie who lives in Regensburg, Germany. He’s a year-round bike commuter and is a mechanical design engineer by trade. Click to read Brandon’s full bio.