AENOMALY CONSTRUCTS SWITCHGRADE REVIEW
SWITCH SADDLE ANGLE TO THE TRAIL GRADIENT.
Review by Robert Johnston
We’ve been thoroughly enjoying dropper posts becoming commonplace on our mountain bikes over the last years, with drop lengths increasing to give us the ultimate in freedom of movement on the descents without compromising on climbing performance. Specialized went a step further a few years back with their Command WU dropper, which featured saddle tilt adjustment that was controlled by the height to which the dropper was extended – nose up for the descents, and the desired seated position when fully extended – however, this never really caught on. Aiming to reopen the saddle angle conversation and optimize the position of the saddle for every situation on a ride, is Aenomaly Constructs. Founder Noel had the idea some 20 years ago but bringing the concept to a reality proved to be tricky, and with a successful career at risk he wanted to wait until the right time and ensure he had the right product. The SwitchGrade is that product, and now is the time. Robert has been putting one to the test over the last half a year, and the merits are undeniable, but it may not be for everyone.
The SwitchGrade by BC-based Aenomaly Constructs is a unit that in basic terms allows you to adjust the angle of your saddle between three positions (Climb – Neutral – Descend) with the simple press of a mechanical lever under the saddle. The theory is covered in detail here, so we’ll stick to a brief overview and focus on the ride impressions of the patent pending tech in this article.
These three positions are provided by the SwitchGrade to tailor the saddle angle to specific scenarios on the trail. The Climb position tilts the saddle nose down by 10 degrees, with the effect of steepening the effective seat angle by around a degree. This allows you to naturally exert more weight on the front wheel when seated and tilts your hips into a more natural and favorable position to pedal on steeper uphills. The Neutral position is for flat pedaling efforts, or for a set-and-forget position on highly undulating terrain. The Descend mode tilts the saddle nose up 12 degrees, giving that sloped-back, downhill style descending position that lets the rider get their body behind the saddle easier, and just looks badass.
The Switchgrade replaces the saddle rail clamp on top of your seatpost, adding around 100g of finely machined 7075-T6 and 6061-T6 aluminum (and stainless-steel hardware) in the process. There are currently five options of fitment for the SwitchGrade, to fit the specific saddle clamps of the common dropper posts on the market, meaning it is not universal and so must be purchased with a particular dropper post style in mind. There is around 5-15mm of saddle stack height added, which needs to be factored into your purchase as your dropper will likely need to be lowered the corresponding amount in the frame. It’ll work with just about any saddle with standard 7mm tubular rails, except for those with exceptionally low stack heights.
Designed in the North Shore, machined in Whistler and assembled in Vancouver, BC, the SwitchGrade is available in all black or black and gold colorways, with colored anodized saddle clamps available separately, and retails from $245USD/ £170/ €198 depending on fitment and color.
From the get-go there was absolutely no doubt about the craftsmanship behind the SwitchGrade. From the super clean machining to the smooth and precise feeling lever action and “click” of each mode, it’s easy to see how it could justify its £170/$250 price tag – it’s certainly not a throw-away item, rather a work of mechanical art. I opted for the OneUp dropper version, which will also fit a PNW, Pre-’21 Fox Transfer or TransX dropper and some less common others. With the help of the clear instructions, things were mounted up quickly and without stress. All the tolerances on the hardware were reassuringly tight, and the saddle rails “snapped” into place in a satisfying manner. The way the SwitchGrade separates the fore-aft adjustment and the saddle angle adjustment to two distinct operations means you can easily and quickly switch saddles without messing up your adjustment, as well as making small adjustments slightly easier.
Setting up the initial saddle angle I mimicked the slightly nose-down position (-5 degrees) I was previously running on the same dropper, however since I was using this position to aid in the steep climb comfort, it produced an overly extreme position for my typically mid-grade climbs in “Climb” mode. This extreme position rendered it uncomfortable until I reached the rare “walk zone” steepness of climbs in my area and reduced the usefulness of the SwitchGrade. Tilting the saddle back so that the Neutral position was flatter opened up the use of the SwitchGrade to considerably more trail scenarios, making that Climb position more accessible and the Descend position more effective, so I ended up settling on a -1 degree saddle angle (nose tilted down by one degree) for the neutral setting. Once this angle was dialed in, it was time to log some miles to become familiar with the SwitchGrade and figure out how it could improve my ride experience.
One thing is without doubt. Nose-up descending is awesome, especially if your dropper isn’t ultra-long. I spent some of the testing period with the SwitchGrade mounted to OneUp’s longest 240mm dropper (review coming soon), which I ended up having to shim down to 230mm to squeeze in the extra stack height of the pairing. With 230mm of drop, the saddle is slammed so far out of the way that it stops being such a hindrance to your movement when descending, and so the need for a tilted-up saddle is reduced, but not removed. In the steepest trails when performing the most dynamic movements, I still felt the benefits of being able to slide off the back of the bike in hard compressions, with the added benefit of a bit more saddle nose to work with when the knees desired it. But it’s certainly not as pronounced of a benefit as when it was fitted to a 180mm seatpost, where the SwitchGrade was notably beneficial to improve my descending mobility. If you’ve already got a totally slammed seat on a long travel bike, especially in a smaller frame size, you may find the ~20mm of drop of the rear of the saddle may lead to the rear tire buzzing at full compression, so it’s worth checking your current setup to ensure you’ve got some room to work with.
Nose-down climbing is an absolute pleasure on ultra-steep climbs, too. But in reality, I don’t tend to subject myself to that kind of suffering on an analogue bike too frequently. This is where my biggest revelation about the SwitchGrade quickly came into fruition – it’s an eMTB’ers dream. Seriously. When you’ve got that assistance at your toe-tips, you find yourself picking out the steepest and most tech climbs to get up the hill faster and make best use of the motor, and the SwitchGrade is a serious asset to improving comfort and control on the bike in these situations. This is more pronounced on bikes with a slacker seat tube angle, but even on the steeper new school eMTB’s it really aids in the ability to relax and focus on line choice and timing pedal strokes instead of fighting the front end and using your core to keep you on the seat. It’s seriously awesome, and I think the North Shore puritan in Noel of Aenomaly has prevented him from fully realizing and pushing the marketing for this.
On an analogue bike, I was still reserving the nose-down mode for more extreme cases in the largest cog or two of the cassette. I could certainly see value in having adjustability of the degrees of tilt in each mode, but it would require extra complexity that would likely be unwelcome for many. I tried to tilt the nose of the saddle further up in the neutral position but going past the position I settled on led to less comfort on the flatter sections of climb for me. Much like the shape of the saddle itself, a comfortable saddle tilt varies from rider to rider, so it’s possible I’m an outlier in wishing for slightly less tilt in the Climb position.
Operating the SwitchGrade is very simple in theory, and fairly simple in reality, but definitely has a learning curve before you can get the saddle tilted quickly and safely while moving. The obvious solution to this is to stop, adjust the angle, then get back on. But that’s not something that I like to do too often, so on-bike adjustment had to be nailed down for the times that it was safe to do so. Finding the lever was never an issue through the testing period – it’s fairly large and very tactile – and depressing it is easy too. Once you have the lever depressed, you have two options for changing mode – staying on the seat and using your butt to control the movement, or standing tall and doing it all with one hand. The former was what I tended to do more often as I’d typically change modes when the dropper was fully extended, but when the dropper was already dropped then adjusting by hand proved to be the easier solution as you might expect. By hand, it was always clear when the seat snapped into one of the positions, but there were times that I’d accidentally go past neutral into one of the tilted modes and only find out when sitting down. When adjusting while seated, I had a much better idea of the saddle position, but my weight would sometimes prevent the mechanism from locking fully in place (instead sitting in between two positions), and then “drop” into one position randomly and with some force, feeling like the world was falling away momentarily. So I learned to give the saddle a tug on the nose after adjusting in this way to ensure it was firmly locked into place, and am yet to suffer from the issue again.
Over the course of testing, the SwitchGrade has only lost a very small amount of its positive “snap” to indicate it’s locked into the desired mode and continues to pivot smoothly without any hint of crunching roughness – quite impressive considering it’s seen it all from dusty park laps in the Alps to disturbingly sloppy Scottish pedal missions. It’s quite telling of the build quality that Aenomaly Constructs have achieved, and a nod to their PNW testing grounds in its mud resilience. The SwitchGrade is absolutely not a small investment, but there’s some real riding benefit to be had through its use, and so long as you don’t change your dropper post type too often, I can’t foresee it becoming obsolete.
The Wolf’s Last Word
With some undeniable benefits that can enhance the seating dynamics of mountain and especially electric mountain bikes, the Aenomaly Constructs SwitchGrade is an incredibly exciting product that packs the build quality to serve for the long haul, albeit with a high price tag to match.
Price: $245USD/ £170/ €198