1. I currently own a 2014 Kona Process 134 DL (I love this bike!). I have upgraded the rear shock to a Fox Float X which greatly increased suspension performance. I ended up increasing travel on the RockShox Revelation RC from 140 to 150mm to balance out the improved rear, but still find that the Revelation is occasionally outgunned with my riding style. I would be bolting a 150mm 27.5 Auron onto my Process.
2. I only have prior experience with lower end XC Suntour products (XCM, XCR). I currently do not own any Suntour products.
3. Intermediate / Advanced. I regularly service and annually rebuild my Revelation, and have also adjusted travel and installed bottomless tokens to adjust geometry and tune ride quality. The RC damper only has high-speed compression and rebound adjustments so I am somewhat less familiar with adjusting more tuneable forks.
4. I am and have been for about six months. I am currently considering a RockShox Pike or Yari. I feel like as my riding has progressed I need a burlier fork to match up with the Float X in the rear. I appreciate the ease of maintenance with the Revelation and Yari's motion control damper, which is a consideration as well.
5. I purchased my Process as a used demo bike but have been upgrading it slowly as funds allow (1x10 drivetrain, lighter Stan's wheelset, Float X). It's insightful to be able to compare ride quality on the same bike while only switching a single component.
6. Mini Review:
(This review was inspired by the discussion on the newer version of this saddle here: https://nsmb.com/articles/3-new-products-spring/ and to contribute my experience in more detail. Caveat, this review is for the older non-Ergowave version of the 661 Active.)
SQlab 661 Active TiTube Saddle
So flexible, so much support, best saddle everrrrrrrr. That's it, that's all you need to know. And now they have a newer model, even better!
Seriously though, this is an amazing saddle, and if you experience butt fatigue or lower back pain on longer rides an ergonomic saddle may be a worthwhile investment. At a respectable weight of 270-275g and with a good brand reputation it's hard to go wrong with this saddle. However, at a pretty wallet-attack inducing 160 € (~$178 USD) price tag, prospective buyers want to make sure that the marketed benefits will be worth it. $178 is a lot of burritos . . .
^ The 661 Active has a wide, flat base and long nose, with a comfort groove down the middle. Also note the kevlar wrapped sides for crash protection and patterning on the surface for increased grundle to saddle friction.
^ Oh that comfort groove...............
The 661 Active has a long nose for climbing efficiency. It also allows your sit bones to perch on top of the saddle base as opposed to straddling over as in many other designs. SQlab claims that sitting on top of the saddle greatly reduces ride fatigue is more ergonomic for climbing in the upright position on a modern mountain bike. To accommodate this, SQlab offers the 661 in wide (13cm), wider (14cm), and DAYUM GINA (15cm), all fit based on your hip width and riding position. However, rather than just ask for your chamois size, SQlab uses a ultra high-tech German measuring system involving space age cardboard and a titanium ruler (https://www.sq-lab.com/en/sqlab-ergonomics/sqlab-concepts/sqlab-the-way-to-the-perfect-saddle.html). Just plop your butt down on the cardboard and then measure between the centers of the depressions to determine your ideal saddle width. Add or subtract 1cm based on a more or less aggressive riding position. The advantage of this approach is obvious, a rider can quite accurately determine their ideal saddle width in the comfort of their own home (even if it turns out their hips don't lie) and order a saddle confident that it will fit their body correctly. Additionally, SQlab is in the process of setting up an old-fashioned/new-fashioned saddle demo program, whereby they will mail you a saddle to demo for three weeks for a small fee. If you then decide to purchase the saddle the fee is rolled into the purchase price. SQlab is going out of their way to make their products easily accessible to most riders, even if you live in a van down by the river (as long as you have a P.O. Box).
But what about the "active" part? SQlab employs an elastomer suspension system that allows the rear of the saddle to actuate with the motion of your hips (photos below). This allows for more hip motion while pedaling and increased riding endurance. This feature is also particularly helpful if you have hip or lower back issues, as it relieves riding pain and muscle tightness in those areas. There are three elastomers based on rider weight, white (spandex weight weenie), gray (endur-bro), and black (full downhill armor). I started out with the gray elastomer based on my weight but quickly dropped to the white for increased rear-end movement. Andrew (NSMB) even fully removed the elastomer on his saddle to be able to really lean into those uphill switchbacks.
^ Left, left, left, right, left. No wonder you didn't clean that rock garden . . . .
But how does it ride, you ask? The 661 rides better than any other saddle I have tried. The long nose definitely helps direct the bike on steep climbs. I have wide hips (apparently my middle name is GINA) and the saddle's wide base allows me to comfortably perch atop the saddle. The actuation of the saddle has allowed me to accommodate my lower back injury and regularly push into the 3-4 hour ride territory without worrying about my back seizing up. I have also put in full days with greatly reduced lower back soreness as compared to other saddles.
Is the 661 Active for you? Maybe. If you have hip or lower back issues, or simply want increased riding endurance (not in the legs, that what squats are for) this should be on your list to consider.
Is it worth the 160 € (~$178 USD) price tag? The decreased pain and soreness that I've received has absolutely made the purchase price worth it. I would recommend keeping an eye out for the SQlab demo program to test one out for yourself. And you know what they say: "you don't know what you're missing until your ass hurts like hell...." (or something like that).