TLRC reviews the SQlab 60x: One saddle to rule them all?

Taking rides and all the kicks was so…precious Pretenders

In the early days after damaging his pudendal or whatever it was, The Logging Road Cyclist tried any and all saddles that might allow him to ride again. This included one of the SQlab models, either a 611 or 612, he can’t recall. As he remembers, the saddle almost worked, but not quite enough. In fact, since the saddle wasn’t of use to him, he tore off the cover and padding in the front to see if that helped. It didn’t, but this exercise led him to the idea for his own saddles, described elsewhere in the site.

Nevertheless, the impression of a saddle that almost worked remained embedded in the mind of TLRC, so when he entered last winter’s saddle-trying frenzy (an annual bout of mania that TLRC allows himself), he looked at the SQlab website to see if anything new was afoot. There was! Two models!

The 610 and the 60x looked to be that SQlab saddle with the “more” that TLRC had wished for 5 years ago.

SQlab 60x

A brief anatomy of an SQlab saddle is called for. There are three levels to the upper surface. The rearmost is the highest and is both something to push against and an index to get one’s sit bones in the right place. The midsection is lower, and is the platform where the sittin’ gets done, and spans a groove-divot which provides the critical perineal relief. Finally, lower still, is the front/nose section. The idea is that by raising the sittin’ place above the nose place, and adding the groove-divot, almost all of the pressure is on the sit bones and very little is on the delicates.

This actually works, which still amazes TLRC when he considers how little difference there is between the 3 levels. Plus, it is actually a very comfortable saddle.

SQlab offers these in widths of 13, 14, 15 and 16 cm, and one chooses which is right by measuring one’s sit bone width (their website tells how to do this) and then referring to a chart they provide:

Oops, not that one, this one:

So, the idea is, to one’s sitbone width (11cm to use TLRC’s skinny old ass as an example), you add the number of cm in the chart that corresponds to one’s riding style. TLRC is in either the +2 or +3 category, so he qualifies for either a 13 or a 14. He in fact tried those and a 15 before really figuring out these saddles and settling on a 13. One thing he found is that a too wide SQlab chafes behind the uppermost part of the thigh, just as did the ISM. 13 works great for him. The message here is that both TLRC and Gnat took a while to figure out which width to use, so try to order from a place that will allow you to return a slightly used saddle.

There are a couple of additional choices . SQlab has what they call an “active” system. This means the wings of the saddle can flex, dampened by an elastomeric insert (one of 3) that is selected based on the rider’s weight. They also sell non-active (i.e. normal versions) of the 610. The active is $140, inactive $100. TLRC has only tried the active, and has taken to riding with the middle-level elastomer instead of the stiffest one that is specified for his weight. TLRC has no idea if the active saddles are actually superior to the non-active ones. The other saddle considered here, the 60x ($170) is only active.

TLRC started out working with the 610, mostly based on cost, but Gnat kept bugging him the try the 60x, so TLRC borrowed one from him, tried it, and hasn’t looked back. In the opinion of both, the 60x is markedly superior. TLRC isn’t sure why, but the feeling of the saddle and how it protects the soft tissue is somehow more definite, or crisp. Hard to define, but once tried, not denied, for TLRC at least.

So there it is. The final saddle for TLRC? Is his long search over? TLRC is so sick of fiddling with saddles and saddle adjustments he could scream out loud. For so long, he just wanted to ride, dammit, without always having a wrench to had to tweak the saddle that one-final-time so he could just go for a ride. Both he and Gnat have been fiddling with these saddles for a few months now, and they seem to have stuck. Check ’em out.

TLRC’s Final Comments On ISM Saddles

In a post about 18 months ago, The Logging Road Cyclist shared with you his thoughts on the ISM line of saddles, in particular the PM 2.0, their MTB specific model. Let us be clear: for relieving pressure on the perineum, these can’t be beat. TLRC made a bit of a fuss about getting the saddles set back far enough to work properly, given that he had to spend a lot of green on various setback posts for his collection of bikes.

ISM has a lot of guidance about how to set up these unique saddles, but TLRC found it rather vague, especially the setback. His best fore-aft starting point after a lot of experimentation was surprisingly simple: set the ISM so that it’s widest point is as far back as the wide point of your existing standard saddle.

ISM also say that the saddle should be perhaps 5mm lower. While fiddling around with this, TLRC found good advice on (of course) YouTube for setting saddle height in general: Set your saddle so when your heel is on the pedal your knee is locked out (a pretty standard seat height trick), then lower the seat 2-3 cm. This will likely feel way too low. On a ride, slowly raise the seat until it feels right. TLRC found that it is pretty obvious where that is.

As for tilt, TLRC put the nose down and raised it bit by bit until he felt that he wasn’t sliding off the front.

Even with a lot of experimenting over a long period, TLRC was not able to get any of the ISM saddles (and he tried almost all of them) to work satifactorily. His problem was chafing not between the thighs (the most common complaint leveled at ISM), but rather behind his thighs at the very top and towards the midline. After a lot of effort he determined that it was not the width of the twin noses of the saddles causing this, but rather the width further back: the saddles did not taper fast enough towards the front from their wide point.

Hoping that their narrow PN saddles might help, he tried a few of them and found a different problem. The noses were quite narrow, but hit TLRC at a sensitive spot on his pubic ramii causing him some disturbing and lasting pain that eventually dissipated.

Now, this sounds like TLRC is really raining on the ISM parade. He most emphatically is not. ISM makes saddles that do not crush the delicate structures in the perineum. They do this very well, and perhaps better than any of the other several thousand saddles TLRC has tried. They just happen not to fit TLRC very well, something that he regrets. They are a well designed and well built product that do exactly what ISM claim. If you have damage “down there” or wish to prevent it, ISM should be one of your first stops.

Luckily, TLRC has lately tried new models in the SQlab line with excellent success and he will be reviewing those as soon as he has some more experience with them.

French Press Time Machine

Nearly a quarter century ago I bought a french press. It was Lexan, unbreakable, meant for camping. I bought it because I had acquired a drift boat, and I was suddenly unshackled from the onerous weight restrictions imposed by doing river trips in kayaks or canoes. Indeed, at the same time, I bought a Stanley thermos to keep the coffee hot, and a large, comfortable chair in which to enjoy the hot coffee by the river in the morning.

Over the years I’d done a lot of raft trips, private and commercial, but my heart was in hard-shell boats, and both performance and inclination kept things light. On Sierran overnight exploratories we used our Hollowforms, 3-meter 40-pound pointy tubs of lard whose only real virtue aside from momentum was that, generally speaking, they didn’t break. Once the excitement of having a pretty much indestructible boat died down, the drawbacks of their propensity to get pinned by the nose or wrapped from the side became apparent. For doing a 3 mile hike to the put in followed by a couple of nights out on a class V exploratory, weight became a primary concern. We brought almost nothing: no tent or stove, no utensils (we ate with sticks), certainly no coffee makers. Our doctrine was harsh and pure.

Multi-day canoe trips were much the same. As the whip hand on some of these with (ex)wife and a friend I demanded that they stick to the stern terms of my glorious past and drink cold instant coffee shaken with powdered milk rather than “drag a goddamn stove and pot down the river”. I’m not sure they got where I was coming from, but they did as they were told. Whence the (ex)?

The drift boat was another matter. I wasn’t about to go rafter whole hog with degenerate bourgeois comforts, but certainly a french press, stove, thermos and chair, even a tent big enough for me and my dog, and yeah, even a medium sized dog didn’t rise to apostasy? That I was a good twenty years on from the kayaking golden era might excuse some of this.

The coffee maker served me well. I honestly can’t count the number of 5-day John Day and 3-day Rogue trips I did with Buffy all in comfort and ease, just the two of us.

Drift boating was a good thing to take up near the end of my whitewater years. Getting a drift boat through Class III or even IV took all the river knowledge I had, and had the added spice of being unforgiving. I did many runs on the North Umpqua in both aluminum and wood boats and each time I had to mentally gear up like I would for a much harder river in a kayak. Besides being new and fun, I could take my dog, and even other people!

This was a fun time in my life. Without the stress of boating class V in a competitive setting, I was actually enjoying myself on the rivers. These solo (w. dog) trips on Oregon Rivers that I knew well and loved are a treasure.

This week the crack in the bottom of the press finally gave way. It had been there for a long time, maybe years, but never seemed to be a problem so I ignored it. When puddles of coffee started to appear beneath and around the press, I at first attributed it to spillover out the spout from pressing, which is commonplace. But after a couple of days of careful rinsing and pressing, I realized the jig was up, the crack was through and through.

As I stood in the kitchen, dead press in hand, this wave of memories, of rivers and rapids and dogs and people and trips and boats bought and built, holed and repaired, swept through and over me and has stuck with me through the day. Maybe this is why we resist losing materials from our past that we have stuck away in closets and boxes and haul these things around with us for years. For myself, lately, seeing more and more of the people that I know succumbing to illness and age, I have taken to letting go of these materials and instead keeping the feelings within me. Maybe I’m wrong; the press makes me consider it, but it’s out the door…