SQlab is one of the most renowned brands regarding ergonomics on the bike. The company was founded in 2003 by Tobias Hild and specialized in the three contact points of the bicycle (hands – pelvis – feet). For example, a bicycle saddle must fit perfectly to the male and female anatomy and distribute the body weight well. The grips should prevent numb fingers due to their excellent fit and be easy and sturdy to install. Finally, the feet must be well in the shoes and stand on the pedals to optimize the power transmission.
We interviewed SQlab founder and director Tobias Hild from the company’s headquarters in Taufkirchen and gained important insights into the development and production of their ergonomic products.
What was the reason/trigger to start making ergonomic products?
As with many companies in the bike business, I originally come from moto cross and Downhill and used to be, among other things, a test rider for BIKE Magazine and already had a brand that produced DH parts back in the days. One day I had a Moto cross crash where I destroyed a few lumbar vertebrae, and when I could eventually ride again, everything started to become numb after 15 minutes. Two friends of mine, Dr. Stefan Staudte who is a Urologist and Dr. Markus Knöringer who is a spine surgeon, then taught me everything about the human anatomy and the neural pathways in our bodies. As a Urologist and marathon biker, Stefan already had some saddle concepts in mind which we then developed together and brought to market.
That was 20 years ago! The two are still actively involved in every development. The heart of SQlab – the ergonomics laboratory – has now grown to over 12 people who only research, measure and conduct scientific studies and go extremely deep into every single product that we develop.
When and with which product did you start?
Over 20 years ago, the first thing we developed was the idea to measure the sit bones and determine the saddle width. The first saddle was a special prostate saddle and the second one was an MTB race saddle. Since then, we have always had a sortiment ranging in many different areas of use. We put a lot of energy into our Performance Line, because the right ergonomics not only provide more comfort but are the basis for racing success, whether in Marathon or in Downhill. At the same time, those who use their bike to commute to work or for other daily purposes are just as important to us.
How does SQlab implement sustainability?
This is part of our DNA – we have always put a lot of emphasis on quality, durability, and good function and fit. Our goal is that our products are used as much as possible and for a long time with a lot of pleasure. The development of the saddle width system 20 years ago has also helped to massively reduce incorrect purchases.
Recently we started to build up a saddle production in Germany. This has been running since last fall and there are two more models coming this year and more products will follow, as we are working to increase our production in Europe. We were also the first to leave out the polybags and optimize the packaging at some suppliers in Asia. It is a constant process to optimize all steps from raw material to finished product.
Apart from improving our products, we have always done very little field service. Instead we focus on ergonomics seminars for our dealers where we get a lot of dealers together, which saves us a lot of mileage on the road but also time. To reduce this, we have also developed an eLearning App so that the sales staff in the stores can always use our latest findings in their advice.
SQlab already has an extensive collection of bicycle products. Can we also expect SQlab bike frames shortly?
No, nothing is planned in that regard at the moment.
What is your vision for the future, both for SQlab and cycling in general?
I’ve been in the bike business since I was 20, so for over 30 years, and it’s great to see how strongly the sport of cycling and the industry have developed since then. We are heavily committed to the preservation of our local MTB trails, but it is just as important to us that we in Germany finally follow the example of the Netherlands, and expand the bike lanes and increase the proportion of bikes in traffic. It will certainly happen, I would only like it to go a little faster.
For SQlab we have achieved many goals, we have a company in which it is fun to work and in which a lot of research is done. We have been under the umbrella of Boards & More for a year now and use the logistics and international strength of the group there. This allows us to focus more on three major projects that we have been working on for many years. One is a Bikefitting app for specialist retailers, one has to do with helmets in particular, and the third is a modular saddle concept that takes function and sustainability to a new level while being very simple and straightforward.
For more information about the products, visit the SQlab website.