Wolftooth Camo Chainring System AndrewM
First Look

3 New Products For Spring

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Jun 7, 2017

Three Things

A saddle for bad backs. A pair of shoes for wide or awkward feet. A chainring system for riders that eat chainrings - with an oval option. 

In all three cases it's too early to make any pronouncements about durability or to fully evaluate features. Conversely, all three products offer something unique so I want to bring them up now at a time of year when a lot of riders are updating their bikes and kit. 

SQLab 611 Saddle

SQLab is one of the biggest saddle names in Europe and possibly the biggest when it comes to ergonomic saddles. I know, the word 'ergonomic' usually makes me scroll through as well, especially when the company makes bars with crazy back sweeps, weird shaped grips, and bar ends. Please, hear me out.

There is nothing ridiculously weird, or 'ergo', about the SQLab 611 Ergowave Active - as long as you don't count the name. It's firm & supportive with a comfortable pedaling pocket much like the Chromag Moon and WTB Deva saddles that are my go to options. 

Like the Moon the entire 611 saddle lineup has a long nose to use as a perch when cranking up steep climbs. It's definitely a feature I like on full suspension bikes with slacker seat angles. 

SQLab 611 Saddle AndrewM

Comfortable pedaling pocket, excellent support and a long flat nose that comfortable to perch on for super steep ascents. The big news with this model of the SQLab 611 is the way the shell is uncoupled from the rails. 

I've already been asked once if the Ergowave is a "suspension saddle" from a keen observer who noticed the elastomer out back and the answer is most certainly no. The fore-aft support is on par with other performance saddles meant for a fairly aggressive climbing position.

The swap-able elastomers control the amount of flex the wings of the saddles have since the rails are supported off a central tower instead of the outsides of the shell making for quite a bit of potential flex.

SQLab 611 Ergonomic Saddle AndrewM

Multiple elastomer options control the force necessary to flex the 611 saddles 'wings'. The fore-aft support is of the firm variety. 

Why does it matter? Because I know two people on these saddles who swear by the difference it made in lower back pain when riding - in both cases from previous injuries. $190 (USD) is a lot of money to spend on a saddle unless its a product that makes a difference in the length of rides you can do or is the difference between being able to do back-to-back days of riding.

I've tried the medium and soft elastomer options and settled on the soft. I like a saddle with firm support but the flex at the wings of the shell during long in the saddle efforts really does make a difference to comfort and fatigue on a long ride.

I only have a few hours on the saddle at this point. As mentioned, it's too early to talk about durability or to recommend it overall but I think anyone who finds that back pain decreases their ride time should check this out. If it works it's a small price to pay to get out on the trail more. 

Lake MX332 Shoes

Lake has been making cycling shoes since 1982 and they claim a few firsts. They were the first company to market with mountain bike shoes, the first to make winter shoes, the first to make heat moldable shoes and the first to use BOA adjusters which are now ubiquitous on high-performance road and mountain shoes. 

They are premium shoe company; their best selling model is the MX237 at $300 USD and in addition to quality a huge part of that is the variety of sizes they produce. In almost every model they offer from size 36 to size 50 in half sizes and both standard and wide models. Some come in three different widths and as the standard shoes are already wider than most companies. 

The Lake MX332 shoes I'm testing are a premium product; carbon soles, heat moldable heal cup, natural rubber sole and a real leather upper chosen for durability and breathability. Once I've beaten the hell out of them I'll be reviewing them for what they are.

The reason I mention the shoes is that my weird-wide-voluminous feet fit very few XC style shoes without lots of hot spots and discomfort. Especially as I need to run an insole with some arch support* which takes up more space. I know lots of riders who fit Trail' or Enduro shoes (like my current favourite Mavic Deemax Pro) but what about those looking for a racier option?

The Lake shoe line is built on 11 different lasts so where many brands have a certain fit (I.E. a rider may be a Specialized fit or a Giro fit or a Diadora fit) there is a lot of variation between different Lake models in terms of fitting higher or lower volume feet or those whose feet are simply weird. If you have a hard time finding clipless shoes that fit well try and track down some Lakes to try on. 

Wolftooth Camo System

SRAM, RaceFace, Specialized, Cannondale and E13 cranks are all supported by Wolftooth's spider and ring Camo system. What's unique about the system is that the unique 5-bolt ring actually sits on posts on the spiders meaning the bolts themselves are under no sheer loads.

The five alloy bolts are light and very quick to remove and install for fast chainring swaps as necessary. This a great feature for riders looking to get the most out of their 1x drivetrains by swapping rings to vary gear ratios for different terrain.

My real interest in Camo lies in the availability of both round and Oval stainless steel rings at approximately half the weight of a direct mount stainless chainring. I eat chainrings so provided the stainless Wolftooth rings survive as advertised they have the potential to be an excellent value/investment for my usage. 

Wolftooth Camo Chainring System AndrewM

Wolftooth's Camo system is available with round or oval rings in aluminum or stainless steel. As someone who eats chainrings and loves oval the stainless elliptical option has a potential to be a great long term value purchase. 

The spiders are also relatively cheap so even though it's a proprietary system, moving my stainless steel investment from one crankset to another is a lot less painful that I would have expected.

I know it's a seemingly uncharacteristic choice for someone advocating GX drivetrains and SunRace cassettes but my hope is to enjoy a life way beyond the Renthal 1XR I was so impressed by without a significant weight increase and with my preferred oval option. 

I'm months away from being able to truly report on the return on investment that a stainless Camo setup offers but I know a lot of riders frustrated by the limited lifespans of narrow wide rings - particularly the oval models on the market - so I want to put this option out there now. 

Future Reviews

I'll go deep bike nerd on all these products in the future once I can fully talk about performance and longevity but I wouldn't mention them if I wasn't satisfied thus far. I think these products have the potential to improve some riders' experiences now.

If you have any questions I'll answer them as best as I can now and follow up as I have more information and feedback.  

For more information:

SQLab is here
Wolftooth is here
Lake Footware is here

*I run Specialized's Body Geometry +2 or SQLab's 215 insoles for the record. 

Comments

bart
+1
bart  - June 7, 2017, 8:33 a.m.

For the record, I have been quite surprised by my SQlab saddle, less back pain for sure and you totally don't feel the flex while riding.  Settled on the soft as well and I feel fresher on those longer rides.

Reply

jeffgicklhorn
+1
jeffgicklhorn  - June 7, 2017, 8:43 a.m.

I also have the SQlab 661 active saddle. Have a minor lower back injury and from a few years ago and this has helped immensely. I also seem to have less butt fatigue overall on longer rides, even though I don't really notice that until after 20+ miles of riding. I originally went with the medium elastomer but ended up dropping to the soft as well.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - June 7, 2017, 8:57 a.m.

So I went Soft and then recently - with permission from SQLab - took the elastomer right out. I like the soft on the suspension bike I've been riding it on but naked is definitely best for my hardtail. The support is still excellent.

Reply

Endur-Bro
0
Endur-Bro  - June 7, 2017, 10:57 a.m.

I'm mildly interested in this SQ Labs saddle now.  Any chance we can see a review of their new crazy backsweep wide handlebars? I'm intrigued by them and wonder if they'd help with my tendonitis and other arm/hand issues.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 7, 2017, 11:12 a.m.

@Endur-Bro, would you be considering the 12-degree or the full 16? 

I like that they come in multiple rises and a proper 780mm width. The aluminum models are well priced for a low volume product. 

The 16-degree was definitely too much for me but I could get used to a 12-degree after a few rides.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 7, 2017, 11:14 a.m.

Actually... I say that and then I road a Jones bar for a couple of years so maybe I could get used to a 16-degree?

With serious elbow/wrist/etc pain I'm pretty sure I could adapt to anything that kept me riding!

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - June 7, 2017, 8:59 a.m.

I definitely have to get to the 1-1.5hr mark on the ride for the difference to be notable.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
0
Tjaard Breeuwer  - June 11, 2017, 7:55 a.m.

If you are looking for a wide(ish) handlebar with more back sweep, have a look at Syntace too.

I rode a Answer 20/20 for a while, but wanted wider and less sweep for aggressive riding, but at the same time, with my narrow shoulders the straighter bars were uncomfortable on long, easier rides.

Syntace make a 12degree back sweep, 780mm bar in many different rises (even negative, in case your short and riding a long travel 29er).

As an added benefit, their bars are the strongest, most reliably tested bars available.

No, I am not affiliated! ;-)

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 15, 2017, 9:26 a.m.

Hi Tijaard,

Syntace makes great product and I road their stems for years. 

SQLab passes the Zedler test for bars (those Germans...) so I don't know that I'd buy one bar over the other in terms of strength/testing/fatigue life. 

Where Syntace falls behind SQLab in North America is poor product support (and availability). Anywhere that Syntace products are readily available I agree their huge selection of sweeps, rises and widths combined with the quality of their products (carbon and aluminum) makes them a great choice.

Reply

wncmotard
+2
WNCmotard  - June 8, 2017, 9:15 a.m.

I'd love to try one of those saddles, but at that price, and knowing my history with saddles, it's a gamble I'm not willing to take. Saddle manufacturers should have a demo program where you pay for the saddle up front, ride it for a month then send it back for a large percentage of your money back if it doesn't agree with your backside. I tend to prefer a saddle that from the side has a nice dip or pocket when you sit most of the time as well, and that one looks relatively flat.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 8, 2017, 9:34 a.m.

Where are you based WNC?

I had a good chat with SQLab USA a few weeks back and they have a demo program in the works where you would pay a small fee (rental) to try a saddle out if you don't like it.

They know a lot of people are in the same boat - fine with spending the money if the saddle is going to work for them.

I'll have more information - the details are being finalized - as part of my review.

Reply

wncmotard
0
WNCmotard  - June 11, 2017, 10:09 p.m.

Drew, I'm in western NC. And, yes, I'm fine with spending a good sum on a saddle that suits me for sure. Thanks for the heads up on the upcoming demo program.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 8, 2017, 9:36 a.m.

Re. The dip - myself as well. I blame my photo as the seat definitely has a notable pocket and then the long nose (similar to Chromag Moon).

Reply

jeffgicklhorn
+1
jeffgicklhorn  - June 8, 2017, 9:41 a.m.

WNC, the 661 Active is the most comfortable saddle I've tried. I have wide sit bones and so have the 15cm wide model. Your sit bones rest on the back of the saddle, rather than rest on the curved sides of the saddle as with many others. I find this better for the more upright riding position for mountain biking. For the crouched position while road riding I prefer a narrower saddle. 

Andrew, great to hear that SQlab has a demo program in the works. I think a lot of riders could benefit from more comfortable and ergonomic saddles. Now if they could only trickle down the tech to a lower pricepoint like drivetrains . . . .

Reply

wncmotard
0
WNCmotard  - June 11, 2017, 10:10 p.m.

I'll look into that one as well. Currently, I'm a big fan of WTB V series saddles, most comfortable I've tried so far.

Reply

radsporter
+1
Kenny Roberts  - June 9, 2017, 10:52 a.m.

Hey WNCmotard - Kenny with SQlab USA here. We hear you and we are working on a demo program which is in beta mode here in the US. It allows a person to try a couple saddles for a small fee. We expect to have it up and running sometime this summer. Not sure when we'll implement that in Canada or if it will be the exact program but it's definitely on our radar.

Reply

wncmotard
+1
WNCmotard  - June 11, 2017, 10:11 p.m.

That's excellent news! I'm in western NC, not too far from places like Pisgah, so it would definitely get some good test miles. I'll keep an eye out for the demo program. Thanks!

Reply

kboss
0
Kirk Bothwell  - June 8, 2017, 1:45 p.m.

Great article, Andrew! Curious how you decided on the width of saddle. Did you creep on a Specialized dealer with one of those foam indentation pads? :) I'm trying to think of an easy way to accomplish this.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 8, 2017, 1:52 p.m.

Thanks Kirk,

In my case I had a really good idea of what my size would be - having ridden a lot of saddles and fit a lot of saddles for people - and then reinforced it using the tools SQLab provides.

They have a method of duplicating the sit bone tools shops use with a piece of 'measuring cardboard' but it actually works well to duplicate it with a piece of corogated cardboard and a firm surface.

I'll talk about it as part of the full review but you can check out all their math here:

https://www.sq-lab.com/en/sqlab-ergonomics/sqlab-concepts/sqlab-the-way-to-the-perfect-saddle.html

Let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to help.

Reply

Ninjatarian
+1
Paul T-Rex  - June 9, 2017, 7:26 p.m.

Honest question- Isn't the new Wolf Tooth Camo system just a re-iteration of the spiders that cranks used in the past?  I guess I just don't fully understand the advantage this has over the older spider system if only swapping the ring is your goal.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 9, 2017, 8:41 p.m.

Hi Paul,

It's a totally fair question and I'll be addressing it with specific comparisons in my review. I'm running Camo on a RaceFace Turbine Cinch crankset. This is my line of thinking:

Q) Why not just run a fixed spider Shimano crankset with a four bolt spider and stainless Wolftooth Stainless N/W ring?

A-a) I like the flexibility that a direct mount crankset gives me and the Cinch interface is so good I don't see any advantaged to a fixed spider.

.

Q) Okay, in that case why not just run RaceFace's spider on the Cinch crankset with a Wolftooth Stainless N/W ring?

A-1) The Camo spider uses posts that the Chainring sits on instead of a standard chainring bolt and nut interface. The bolts themselves are under no sheer loads allowing for the use of alloy bolts for a lighter system that is at least as secure but much faster to change rings on. 

A-2) RaceFace cranks are sold a-la-carte and purchasing a RaceFace Cinch 4-bolt spider and a Wolftooth 4-bolt stainless N/W ring is the around the same price as a Camo setup.

A-3) Stainless Steel vs. Stainless Steel the Camo system weights 1/2 as much as a stainless steel direct mount ring with no penalties I can perceive in performance (comparing a Camo aluminum setup with an aluminum direct mount ring does not yield a similar benefit). 

.

If you're not sold there a range of colourful bolt kits are available for $5 a kit (half joking). 

.

If you're running round rings the Camo spider also fits down to a 28t which is a nice feature for folks swapping rings around regularly (quick and wide range of availability).

I hope that's a good explanation (still a work in progress). 

Thanks for engaging and please let me know if that makes sense!

Reply

Ninjatarian
0
Paul T-Rex  - June 11, 2017, 5:28 p.m.

Thank you very much for the reply.  I think you bring up a good point about the minimum ring size which is more important with modern cassettes.  I also particularly like the fact that you don't have use chin ring bolts; I did always think that was a hokey design.

Reply

JSinclair
0
JSinclair  - June 13, 2017, 3:33 p.m.

I have been riding the SQ Labs seat for a year now and love it. I was having numbness and pain issues on longer rides and did the research into Sit bones and seat design. I ended up measuring my sit bones using cardboard (15) and then measuring a number of seats at shops and in my garage. I found that for me, most seat designs were too narrow, putting pressure on the pudendal nerve, and making life in the saddle a misery. I took the plunge and haven't looked back. It was a big cost (for a seat) with a risk, but the gamble ended up paying off in spades. I legitimately haven't had any issues with comfort or pain since switching. I am running the stock elastomers but might try the soft ones after reading the above just to see if I'm missing something. There is definitely a pocket in the seat design as well as a height difference between the area your sit bones rest on and the nose of the saddle. This is one of the best things I have ever bought on a bike.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - June 15, 2017, 9:21 a.m.

Thanks J,

I'm thinking of including some testimonials in the final review. I really like the saddle but it isn't a "game changer" for me the way that it is for some riders. I've had a lot of comments/messages talking about how the saddle has changed riding for folks.

I'd highly recommend pulling the elastomer out entirely - this is approved by SQ Lab - and giving it a go. The difference between medium and soft is notable on a long ride but fairly subtle. The amount of support from the saddle is still awesome with the elastomer removed and it's a more notable difference (in terms of seeing if you're missing anything).

Thank you for sharing your story; please let us know what you think of the softer (or no) elastomer.

Reply

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