Saddle design is a sacred art. Short is the list of brands we trust to design this most intimate of components. The Ergons, WTBs, Fi’zi:ks, Specializeds and Selle Royales of our industry are in a different class than the countless others who may only produce saddles as a way to round out their portfolio or land some cheap OEM spec. I admit, I thought that Shimano’s touch-point side-hustle brand, “PRO,” was one of the latter. But then I tried their Stealth Off-Road saddle, which arrived on my doorstep (un-asked for) a few months ago. It sat unused for several weeks. It seemed too gimmicky. The relief gap down the middle was comically wide and deep. And the flat snubbed nose was so unorthodox, I wondered if maybe just being unorthodox was the whole point. Of course, I guess I couldn’t fault PRO for it if that were the case. That’s exactly what made me eventually want to try it.
I should mention I happen to get along well with saddles with prominent relief channels. That’s part of the disclaimer that goes with all saddle reviews. Your results may vary, but there’s one thing about the Stealth saddle that everyone will probably appreciate, though I assume men more than women. The saddle’s short nose made for a sensation I’d never felt before, and I can’t talk about it without getting personal. More importantly, without using the off-putting but all-inclusive turn of phrase; “junk.” The Stealth saddle is uncommonly kind to one’s junk. It doesn’t completely relieve the force on the pudendal nerve, which is arguably the center of most saddle-related discomfort. Honestly, you really do need a little bit of support under that nerve, otherwise you’ll be constantly sliding forward and relying on your arms to keep you in place. But what the Stealth design does is keep that support as minimal as possible in the interest of putting just a couple centimeters less saddle in the space where one’s junk should be (that’s the last time I’ll say that word). The effect is immediately noticeable. It still feels like a pretty normal saddle for most of its surface area, but there’s just a little less of it in an area that we may have never needed it in the first place.
Part of the effect is the wide relief channel, which does the most it can to help that drop in pressure extend back as far as possible. When you look all the way back, the Stealth saddle is on the softer side, which to many seasoned cyclists can be a turn-off. But I never found it too soft. No excess friction or heat build up, but it’s on the more generous end of the spectrum. That extends to the width, with 142- and 152-millimeter options. This happens to be the 142-millimeter (measured at the very widest part, not at the sitbones), which is probably why I didn’t find that softness to be over the top. Again, everyone’s different, but going with that narrower option helped make the saddle feel familiar in the a way that I don’t necessarily want my to change.
Beneath that width is the unique way the Stealth’s rails attach to the saddle body itself. The plastic that’s molded around the rails wrap in from the outside instead of just being molded directly to the base. The shape allows for a little bit of deflection. Not quite “suspension,” because you won’t feel any movement, but there’s enough to lessen the initial-most sting of impact. And just above that area, at the very tail of the saddle, there’s a slight upward tilt. It’s not the short curved scoop you’ll see on some of WTB’s classic saddles, but a generous, four-inch-long section that sits at a slightly different angle than the rest of the saddle. It’s visually very subtle. You have to look straight on from the side to see it, but it’s there. The benefits are obvious for anyone who climbs a lot. As your weight shifts back, there’s something there to catch it. I was able to run the Stealth saddle slightly more level because of it. Until now, I’ve been angling my saddle nose further and further down as I realize I spend very little saddle time on level ground. But mine is not a perfect solution, as nosing-down puts pressure on the hands and shoulders whenever I do find level ground. I was able to notch the nose up slightly on the Stealth saddle and still have something back there to hold me up when “up” was the activity of the hour.
And that brings us back to the nose, which is a big reason why I’ve been tilting saddles at all. The less intrusive design is another reason i didn’t need to tilt it down as much. It’s a great example of how the Stealth saddle takes a whole-body, whole-bike approach to its design. It’s proof that, although the art of saddle design should be left to the experts, it could use some fresh ideas to shake things up once in a while.
The Stealth Pro goes for $150, which isn’t cheap, but it’s got a long list of technology you’ll rarely find elsewhere. Plus, it’s on par with the somewhat similar Specialized Power saddles, whose entry-level model is $130 and is 60 grams heavier. Get a (short) list of details at pro-bikegear.com
From bars and stems to gyros and carbon DJ wheels, things are happening