Finding the best saddle: Specialized Power Comp vs SQ Lab 612 Ergowave Active vs Brooks C17

which is the most comfortable?

According to this Cervelo diagram, the saddle is the second most important bike part in terms of bike compliance. So it is about time to find out what comfort improvements can bring three of the best saddles currently available.  

Let’s start with the Brooks C17 saddle. This is my primary saddle since March and I did more than 2000 km on it so I know its strengths and weaknesses quite well. Brooks saddle is recognized as one of the most comfortable on the market and this was the main reason I decided to buy one. But Brooks saddles, especially leather ones are also known from the adaptation time that is needed to make the saddle fit your particular bottom. My Brooks C17 Cambium All-weather saddle is made from vulcanized natural rubber and according to Brooks it is ready to ride from the first minute. Yet my experience was different and I needed some time to adapt to its unique shape. It is not flat like most of the saddles but curved so your sit bones somehow slide on it and not simply lay down flat like on a standard saddle (which is the main problem for many riders who experience a lot of discomfort from sit bones constantly hitting the surface of the saddle when pedaling). Then there are rivets that are protruding from the rear of the saddle. If you seat wrongly on the saddle (like I initially did) you will feel them and thus it will create discomfort. But if you overcome the initial challenges this saddle starts to truly shine. Now I find the shape of Brooks C17 very comfortable. The longer you ride the better it feels which is a true testament of its greatness from my perspective. This comes not only from the shape itself but also from the unique construction. Brooks C17 is like a flexible shell that you sit on (similarly to today’s 3D printed hollow saddles) so it has a very nice dampening effect as well. It was the most apparent when I was testing a Kinekt 2.1 suspension seatpost on the harshest settings – I literally felt and hear how it was flexing under my bottom. My vibration measurements definitely support my subjective feelings but before we go for the data lets talk about another two contenders…

SQ Lab 612  Ergowave Active saddle is a different approach to the problem I already mentioned. When you riding your pelvis is rotating from one side to other and this makes your sit bones constantly hit the surface of the saddle. The more flat and hard the surface of the saddle the more it will bother you, especially on longer rides. Brooks C17 due to its unique curved shapes helps to solve this issue but if you really like a nice, flat saddle then I believe an Ergowave 612 is the best solution you can get right now. SQ Lab put an elastomer under the rear of the saddle that combined with a unique construction of the saddle itself (one support point exactly between the elastomers) allows for a free movement from one side to the other just like your pelvis is moving (up to 7 degrees). This, in theory, but also in my practice, greatly reduces the discomfort that you can normally feel on a flat saddle. It also works as some sort of dampening solution, especially, when you put the softest of the three available elastomers.

The saddle itself is like an opposition to the Brooks C17. It feels great from the moment you sit on it – no adaptation time needed. It also encourages you to pedal hard while Brooks is more like a touring saddle for relaxing riding. It feels very good mostly thanks to the raised rear and lowered nose so you feel much less pressure to the sensitive areas (the center dip also helps in that matter). But there is also a difference in how those saddles feel after a few hours of riding (at least for me). While Brooks gets better every hour you spend on the saddle the SQ Lab (although much less than the standard, non-suspended saddle) starts to bother you slightly. I believe there is a perfect explanation of this and it has to do with the unique construction of the saddle itself. It allows for a side to side movement but the middle of the saddle is not suspended at all so when you combine it whit quite flat surface of the saddle you realize that there is still a fair amount of energy going to your bottom from hitting a bigger bumps. This is why I believe an SQ Lab 612 Ergowave saddle is perfect for road usage but for longer trips on rough gravel roads, Brooks C17 is a better choice. Don’t get me wrong though – this is by far the most comfortable flat saddle I have ridden. And you will see what I mean when we start talking about the data from the vibration measurements. But before we go there, let’s talk about the third contender…

Specialized Body Geometry Power Comp saddle is an example of a short saddle. It looks weird, to be honest, but it feels quite good once you sit on it (but only after you properly set it up which is not an easy task – you need to measure the distance between the handlebar and the widest part of your current saddle to get the short saddle like Specialized Power Comp in the desired position). For me, a short saddle has the advantage of lowering the probability of sitting wrongly on it (it may sound funny but the longer the saddle the more wrong positions you can achieve on it). You simply need to sit at the center of it to feel comfortable and that is it. Some, especially longer riders like to change the position on the saddle while riding so a short saddle like this will not work for them but this was not a problem for me. Specialized Power Comp saddle is a firm saddle but molded based on a Body Geometry so there is very little pressure on sensitive areas and, similarly to the Ergowave saddle from SQ Lab, it feels good the moment you sit on it. I did a couple of longer rides on it and did not feel any big discomfort but at the same time, I did not feel that this saddle is doing much to dampen the vibrations coming from big hits. And the data shows it…



The most comfortable saddle in terms of reducing vibrations is Brooks C17. SQ Lab 612 Ergowave Active with the softest elastomer is exactly on the same level of comfort in terms of measured vibrations but like I already said, when I was on a longer gravel trip I felt slightly less comfortable on an Ergowave saddle. Specialized Power Comp was significantly less comfortable than both of those saddles but the biggest surprise for me was when I put a very cheap Accent Furious saddle on my benchmark bike (just for the sake of the fair comparison). I found out that it offers vibration-damping properties similar to Ergowave saddle equipped with the middle elastomer. The explanation may be very simple – Accent Furious saddle is rather thick so the foam is doing the dampening work but at the same time this thick layer of foam is making this saddle much less comfortable on longer trips. At least for me…

So what I recommend for gravel riding?

I had a long inner debate about this because I really liked the feel of an SQ Lab 612 Ergovawe Active saddle. It just feels right from the moment you sit on it and with the softest elastomer, offers a huge amount of comfort (at least for a firm and flat saddle) and encourages you to ride fast. But in the end, I came back to my Brooks C17. Yes, it looks somehow outdated compared to the SQ Lab saddle, especially when the rubber starts to come off like on my saddle, but the feel, especially on longer gravel trips is unmatched. So there you have it: try the Brooks saddle first and if you will not like it after a few longer rides, then go for an SQ Lab one. You will have a very hard time looking for a better alternative…