By Vernon Felton
Tested: Tioga Spyder Stratum
Price: $125 (chromoly rails)
It doesn't look comfortable. Not by a long shot. The new Tioga Spyder Stratum saddle looks more like a sexy cheese grater than a comfortable saddle and most of us are loathe to rub our tender bits on cheese graters. Looks, however, are deceiving. The entire point of the Swiss cheese-style saddle is comfort. To wit, the dual-layer mesh is designed to flex beneath you as you turn those circles. The top (lighter colored) mesh acts as a spring, while the darker bottom layer serves as a reinforcement and controls exactly how much the upper layer flexes. This model here has that svelte, old-school Selle Italia Flite look to it and while cross-country and trail riding are its designated niche, I've been running it on both trail and all-mountain bikes.
More importantly, however, I've been surprised by how comfortable it is. For a saddle that weighs this little (just 190 grams), the Spyder Stratum dishes out a fairly comfy ride. It's not barcalounger soft and squishy, but I immediately forgot that I was riding an ultra-light saddle, riddled with holes, within minutes of kicking off for a ride. I've put in all-day grinders on the Tioga and never once found myself wanting anything more comfortable.
Did I notice if the saddle was truly flexing and absorbing impacts? That's hard to say. At times, I felt a bit more give than I'm used to experiencing from a saddle, but then again, I was riding the Tioga on full-suspension bikes, which likely contributed a bit to that feeling. I can say this, however, the saddle was more comfortable than plenty of conventional, padded seats I've ridden over the years. Frankly, that surprised me. If you are pining for an even lighter saddle, Tioga sells a version with carbon rails that weighs a mere 120 grams, but costs an additional $65.
A few caveats: I don't rock the sausage pants (I'm a baggies kind of guy), so I can't say how the Spyder Stratum feels beneath bare Lycra. Likewise, my testing period stretched from early Spring to mid-summer. I didn't get a chance to ride the saddle in muddy or wet conditions. I can't say whether or not the comfort level decreases when the underside of the saddle is doused with muddy, rear-tire spray. We'll see. In fair weather riding conditions, however, the Tioga Spyder Stratum delivers.