Everyone is different. A sentence that everyone would probably sign. For the company Sqlab, based in Taufkirchen, it is a kind of engine. She has been making ergonomic saddles and other bicycle accessories for around 20 years. “Similar to shoes, saddles must also fit the body perfectly,” says Tobias Hild, founder and managing director of the company. Lots of good ideas, a motivated, sports-loving team and constant tinkering with innovative products have brought the company quite a long way. According to Hild, she now sells 300,000 saddles a year and has a turnover of 20 million euros. The increased demand for bicycles during the Corona period also gave the company a tailwind.
Hild’s own enthusiasm for cycling and a serious accident led to the start of the company. Hild and the head of product development, Mitch Schlecht, were already on the road together with mountain bikes as school students. Hild later drove a lot of downhill and was a test driver for that Bike magazine. Motocross driving had also done to him. He seriously injured his spine in an accident. “When I was able to cycle again after a year and a half, I noticed that after ten minutes everything was going to numb – toes, genitals, fingers,” says the 51-year-old. He consulted his old friend Stefan Staudte, urologist and even extreme mountain biker, who told him that his nerves were now on a narrow path and that he felt everything was falling faster. After studying the human anatomy, talking and tinkering intensively, they came up with the idea of sitting on corrugated cardboard and using the impressions to measure the sit bones. They found that the range was much larger than what the mainstream anatomy books say. “That’s when we knew it was going to be exciting,” says Hild. They measured more and more people, tinkered with saddles with different widths. According to its own information, in 2002 the company – at that time still based in Straßlach – was the first to develop a standardized measuring system for saddles with sit bone measurement.
For ergonomically individual saddles, the company doesn’t just look at the width. To avoid numbness, Hild and his team sit on steps in the saddles, the saddle nose is a little lower. “This takes the pressure off the perineum area,” says Hild. Another technology enables the saddle to follow the pedaling movement, “increasing comfort and relieving the load on the intervertebral discs,” says the managing director.
For its concept, the company also got the expertise of spinal surgeon Markus Knöriger, one of the first Eisbach surfers, as Hild says. Again an old friend, again someone who is enthusiastic about sports himself. In addition to ergonomic saddles for all areas from mountain bikes to triathlons, whether sporty or comfortable, the company also develops accessories such as grips, handlebars and insoles that cater to the various anatomical needs of different people. If, for example, the fingers become numb while cycling, it is determined which nerve is affected and which grip then fits. The company has long since developed a sophisticated measuring system with which the performance of the individual muscles can be measured while pedaling.
“Our aim is to develop innovative products and to solve cycling problems,” says Hild. There is constant further tinkering, measuring and research. The company often takes part in scientific studies. In a research project with the University of Applied Sciences and the Frankfurt University Hospital, the forces that occur between the person and the bicycle saddle were calculated down to the deep structures of the body. Hild herself also uses almost every mountain bike tour as a test ride. “I always have three or four saddles, different handles and sandpaper with me,” he says. With the latter, he can rub the handle at any time if he has the impression that the pressure is not ideally distributed.
The company does not sell its products directly, but rather sells them through specialist dealers and trains them in how to measure the sit bones. Soon they will also have surveying software at hand. The Taufkirchen-based company also offers its ergonomic bicycle accessories via an online shop, but recommends going to the dealer because they can advise you. Quite a few cyclists also rely on the company’s saddles and accessories, “over 100 professional riders worldwide,” says the managing director. The Austrian mountain bike star Fabio Wibmer is one of them.
Because the company in Taufkirchen is always going on, work is already underway on the next projects. Hild is currently working on an ergonomic concept for car seats. How long does it take? How long does it take to finish a bicycle saddle? “It takes as long as it takes,” says the 51-year-old. They don’t play with them. “You have a certain responsibility,” he says. The company also needs logistics space for all new products, and it should also become more international. So it stands to reason that she should team up with others. In spring, the company “Boards and more”, which is partly based in Oberhaching and whose focus is on surfing, but which is already active in the cycling clothing sector with the Ion brand, bought Sqlab. The two want to complement each other in the future.