The SQlab Ergowave 611 Active 2.1 is very comfortable with the added benefit of a tuneable flex at the rear which can help alleviate lower back pain. Its raised rear and dropped front provides both good support for pedaling and easy body adjustments when the trail gets technical. The dipped recess ahead of the raised rear provides relief in the perineal region for both sexes. It’s not cheap but it’s a little bit more special than your average option and a worthy consideration among the best mountain bike saddles.
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SQlab 611 Ergowave Active saddle - Technical details
SQlab has put some serious research into the 611 Ergowave saddle design enlisting not just one but two universities in Frankfurt to work out what is happening when you sit on a saddle. The team’s research was even funded by the Federal government to help find what is happening inside your body and the maximum load between the cyclist and the saddle.
The investigation produced many prototype saddles and approx.100 international riders were invited to trial the different designs in real-world conditions to see which design performed best. Those final saddles were put back into lab tests to evaluate their pressure and performance metrics. You can read more about the full study here but suffice to say SQlab has done pretty exhaustive testing to create this design.
The result of such in-depth analysis is the Ergowave design which allows the rider to spend longer in the seated attack position on the bike without creating lower back pain.
The Active part of the design allows the rider to optimise the degree of flex their saddle delivers by changing the elastomer at the back of the saddle to provide more or less movement depending on the hardness you pick. This is the 2.1 version and is slimmer and lighter than before and is unobtrusive under the saddle – in fact, it is hard to see even if you are looking for it.
SQlab doesn’t offer ladies' saddles rather the brand prefers to measure your sit bone width, discuss usage and offer you a saddle that fits your skeleton rather than your sexual orientation.
The 611 saddle is available in 13, 14, 15, and 16cm widths and is suitable for stretched to moderate seating positions, i.e. suitable for MTB and presumably adventure gravel if that works for you. Non-active versions are available with carbon, alloy, and CrMo rails. The Active is only available with hollow alloy rails.
SQlab is making some big claims with this saddle and I was keen to get using it to see if I could tell any difference over my previous Fabric Line Race saddle which I enjoy using.
SQlab 611 Ergowave Active saddle - Performance
If you suffer from bad back issues this could be a game changer for longer rides on your bike. The rear of the saddle flexes up to seven degrees with each pedal stroke as your legs spin around. The idea is to control that amount of flex with the different elastomer options and provide just the right amount of intervertebral disc movement which, according to SQ Lab, helps minimise pressure on the sit bones.
I get a lot of pain if I sit for too long, it’s an old injury and affects my riding on longer rougher rides. Gravel causes some issues especially descending and mountain biking can be rough or fine depending on the terrain, so anything that can help is worth a try.
So it was with some enthusiasm I met up with SQlab in the office where my sit bones were measured with a stippled board and a piece of paper. I came out with a narrow 10cm sit bone width. Flip the paper over and SQlab suggests adding extra centimetres depending on your riding style, Race – add zero centimetres, and for upright Dutch commuters add four centimetres. Somewhere in between sits the mountain bike and adventure position which is add two. I should have gone for a 12cm width Active saddle but SQ Lab only starts the Ergowave Active range at 13 so that’s what I have here.
The shape of the 611 Ergowave Active saddle is a little different from most, it’s not traditionally flat nose to tail or scooped rather it has a slightly stepped progressive wave shape (hence the name) from the high padded rear to the low nose with a small bump and recess dip in-between which is really hard to explain but appears to work beautifully once you sit on it.
It’s certainly an odd feeling the first time you try it. SQ Lab recommends dropping your saddle height a smidgeon and trying the saddle a little further forward than normal. And boy does the wave shape feel unusual. Not in a bad way, just different from other saddles I’ve tried. You can feel that little middle step under you and the recess doing its job of keeping pressure off your perineal region.
The flat raised rear with that stepped profile means you naturally rotate forward so that your sit bones are firmly planted on the flat top with the most padding and your soft tissue is protected by the recess regardless of whether you are male or female. The padding on this mountain bike version is still minimal and described as superlight foam but that is fine by me and the way I like my saddles.
When you need to move around on the saddle, it's easy to slide forward onto the low nose. The surface may be non-slip but it doesn’t snag onto your baggy shorts as some do which can be awkward.
I’ve been using this saddle regularly for about six months and it shows little wear even to the microfibre top or the Kevlar corners, helped no doubt by my lack of big stacks. Still wear from my shorts, rain, and grit have left little impact on the surface which is impressive.
It is most definitely advisable to play around with the elastomer options as initially I spent too long with the softer middle setup and started to get increased back pain. Eventually, the light bulb flickered at the end of the tunnel and I swapped for a harder elastomer with instant improvement and comfort again. And it has continued to be comfortable - I guess my sensitive back provided an excellent test for the Ergowave Active system as long as you choose the right level of flex.
The actual swapping of the elastomer was a difficult thumb and finger strength game. It’s a lot of wriggling and pushing as it is very tightly fitted in its channel but I managed it without loss of skin or blood so all okay.
One thing that I have never paid attention to before as I have never had any uber carbon/3D printed saddles, is that this saddle has a Maximum load of 100 kg so if you’re riding with a heavy pack for all-day adventure in the Highlands then you might need to consider this.
SQlab 611 Ergowave Active saddle - Verdict
The 611 Ergowave Active weighs 238g complete with the hardest elastomer installed, which whilst not super lightweight, is far from heavy. The saddle base is made from a glass fibre-reinforced polyamide. The rails are 7mm and round and made from an unspecified hollow alloy which, while they have shed their paint from multiple post swaps, should mean they are compatible with most posts on the market.
At £143, it's a decent chunk of cash for a saddle but compare it to buying a Cane Creek eeSilk+ road seatpost at £225 or a Redshift shockstop at £230 and whilst they do provide relief by their slight movement they are not ergonomic just slight back and forward and weigh a lot more than a normal post PLUS you still have to add a saddle.
The closest rival is from a brand no longer in existence called Morgaw which road.cc reviewers rather liked although one of their designs appears to have popped up on a German parts specialist called bikeyoke.de in the shape of a Sagma saddle
So despite the high price if you are suffering from lower back issues this saddle might well be worth a go. Even if you just set it as hard as possible it’s a comfy saddle with an effective pressure relief zone. There are also slightly narrower and lighter gravel and road versions available for the same money with slightly different performance characteristics to try as well.
I found the SQ Lab 611 Ergowave Active saddle to be a comfortable supportive saddle once set up with the correct elastomer insert for my back. The padded rear of the saddle and the wave profile design naturally helps rotate your pelvis into the correct position for maximum seated comfort and the deep recess provides excellent relief on long rides. Definitely worth a try if you are struggling with back issues, just make sure you try the different elastomers.