Tioga's Undercover Stratum Carbon saddle is super-light, offers a unique build structure and gives potentially superb long-ride comfort – if the flat shape works for you.
The very first thing that struck me was its almost crazy lack of mass – at just 150g, it's about the same as four bags of crisps. Mostly that's due to the lack of a solid base, which is instead a spider web of what Tioga call 'carbonite'. While the rails are the familiar carbon fibre you'd expect, exactly what this is (it's probably not the carbonite made from coal, and it's definitely not the explosive or sci-fi carbonites) remains unclear.
Whatever, this impact-resistant 'proprietary material' flexes enough to aid comfort and shock absorbance, and while I wondered if the bending might cause chafing, this wasn't a problem. It still gets a central cutaway, too, though ideally it would run a little further forward, as the nose is not a comfy place to sit for any length of time.
The padding above the rail junctions is good (it's deliberately thinner elsewhere), while the ends of the rails flatten out to create some welcome damping in those otherwise very stiff carbon rails. I liked the flex of the base itself, though – the Undercover Stratum is comfy and remains so for long rides.
Tioga-Undercover-stratum-saddle-review-10.jpg, by Jim Clarkson
The downside to the web and cutaway is that there's almost nothing to protect you from rear wheel spray, leaving you damp and filthy pretty quickly. Cleaning it is also a bit of a faff, as the web holds the mud in all its corners and doesn't like to let go.
This isn't a saddle for harder rides and jumps, but for general trail riding and cross-country riding/racing, its plenty capable. It leaves you feeling very 'connected' to the bike, though the smooth top is a little slippy in bad conditions, and doesn't always keep you secure.
Tioga-Undercover-stratum-saddle-review-5.jpg, by Jim Clarkson
The shape means it's more suited to lycra or slim shorts anyway, as the nose is pretty pointy and can snag relaxed trail shorts: to be fair, the Stratum is unashamedly focused on fast riding and long distances. At least it's easy to get off the back, thanks to its rounded rear.
There aren’t that many competitors when it comes to pure lack of mass, but for this money you have your pick of carbon fibre, 200g (or lighter) seats for fast, hard riding. There are high-end versions of many of those we’ve tested – such as the SQ Labs Ergowave or the Fabric Line – as well as the more affordable titanium and steel-railed options as found in the Stratum range.
If minimal weight for long, fast rides is your main objective – and the shape suits – then the Tioga Undercover Stratum is an impressive, if costly option. Oh, and add at least one star if it never rains or gets muddy where you ride...
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