Saddle Up! Riding Gravel’s Saddle Round-Up: Part 4 – by Grannygear
Well we are finally wrapping up the saddle reviews with the final three contenders. One is a real surprise and my pick of the bunch.
Fabric Scoop Race Radius: “Popular, this saddle is.” Yoda
I can see why the Scoop line of saddles gets good love from users as the shape and construction come together really well. This saddle will do well for riders who like a rounder saddle shape rather than a flat perch and it stays out of the way of inner thighs, etc. The padding is right on, firm but with nice give to it and the shell, and the nose rolls down at the tip in case you are ‘on the rivet’. The rails are long enough as well.
I can see this saddle being used across multiple disciplines and Fabric at large has many other saddles if this one is not for you, including flatter options.
It does have a bit of a “sweet spot” to it with that kick to the tail but getting it right was easy enough. On sharp hits it was very good and worked well with the semi-upright position of the gravel bike.
Where it left me wanting was for more cut out. With the rounder shape, I sat more ‘in’ the saddle and that left me with too much perineal contact and pressure. I may be more sensitive these days to that, but it was enough to shorten my time on the Scoop saddle and the brevity of the review reflects that shorter time. I have no interest in that kind of discomfort.
If a high level of center relief is not a big priority for you or you know you hate flatter saddle shapes, then the Scoop Radius is a fine place to do business.
It weighed in at 267g with the Ti rails and sells for $105.00
Spank Oozy 220 saddle: For your inner trail rider.
Another saddle in the mix that comes from the trail bike/MTB side of life, the Oozy 220 weighed in at 271g in the 143mm wide cro mo railed version.
I have some Spank Oozy parts on my MTB (bars and stem) and it is good stuff. Guitar Ted has been sampling a set of Vibrocore gravel bike bars from them and they have wheels and rims too. Spank has more of a Pink Bike appeal to their products rather than Riding Gravel, but good is good.
So, given it’s parentage, it is not a surprise that this saddle would work best with a more upright pedaling position and if that is the situation, it is quite nice really. The top view looks a lot like the Ergon we tested and that is a good thing since that saddle had a very nice sit area. The Oozy offers very good bump dampening and although It’s mostly average overall in that nothing stands out from the pack, nothing detracts either except for the overall width. And that came into play as you pedaled in a more roadie. drop bar position. Then my inner thighs rubbed on the very wide and flat nose section, a nose that would be very nice to move up onto if I were climbing steep pitches of trail. I think I would wear out Lycra shorts on it over time, just from pedaling. I felt the width too much overall and although I never hated it and came to not notice after a bit, it is not for me after riding slimmer saddles that still support me well.
Now that said, it is not an expensive saddle at $75.00 and if I was setting up a back-country bike, maybe for bike packing or exploring, and I were more upright, then I could run this for sure. Proof of that came from sitting up bit more as I pedaled where that wide feeling went away and the support and shape was a credit, not a debit.
I did notice some sharp edges on the saddle base at the wings of the saddle, enough to be concerned about in a crash. A bit of light sanding or filing would take care of that, but I would rather not have to.
Tioga Undercover Stratum Ti: Surprise, surprise, surprise.
I looked at the product flyer for this saddle and thought “gimmick”. I took it out of the box and thought “gimmick with a shape that looks too lean for comfort…but it sure is light!”.
Well I sure got all that wrong except for the “light” part. Really, really wrong.
This is a very unique saddle. It has rather minimal padding compared to many others on hand. Rather than thick padding to provide comfort, it relies on a specially made shell to flex under the rider. Tioga calls it a Carbonite Spiderweb Base. Sounds like Spiderman’s secret hideout.
And flex it does. Obviously a heavier rider will get more compliance out of it, but it is a smooth ride. Hard kicks into the rear wheel that should move right up the spine of the rider are muted in a very nice way. I think that some of the other saddles might be as good in absorbing shocks as the Tioga, but it does it with minimal padding, a very light weight, and a relatively narrow shape (called out as a 140mm by Tioga). Since the padding is minimal, you do not get any sinking in feeling or ‘perched on two pads’ feeling as the upper part of the saddle can concentrate on holding it’s shape and let the base do the hard work.
Many miles later this saddle just continually impresses me. I am quite surprised that the shape agrees with me. It looks like it would not have enough…something. Kinda’ narrow-ish, sort of thin padding wise, and with not a lot of cutout, I figured no way. But it all works so well for me. However to point out how saddles are so personal, Guitar Ted rode one and did not care for the shape at all. So there you go. But his fave saddle is a WTB Pure V which is a full figured gal of a saddle. (Editor’s Note: Specifically, I found this Tioga saddle to be juuuust a bit too narrow for me. If Tioga ever were to make this in a, let’s say, 148mm or thereabouts, I’d likely have a completely different opinion on it. But there you go, as Grannygear says…..)
I needed to test one more saddle in this series, so I moved it to the road bike for a bit to see how that was. My Orbea is not the most compliant frame and the seat post by FSA, while carbon-ish, is a bit less than supple. We shall see, but so far it seems to be an answer to my needs and it should be very comfortable over long hours. Did I mention it is light? 197g? Wow. Lightest of the bunch and it costs $135.00 Want a cheaper version? Cro-mo rails save you $40.00 and add 50g. The Ti rails could be more compliant than the cro-mo ones but I do not know that for sure. There is also a Boost MTB version and a Hers version for the ladies.
Any negatives? Well, the graphics are bit of a miss to my eyes. I swear the lettering on the top says “Udder”. I have a theory…if the customer cannot clearly read your lovely graphics correctly then you, graphics person, failed. Also, on a nice carbon road bike with muted tones I would rather not have super shiny saddle rails. Its Ti. A nice, soft brush finish would be better to my eyes. Maybe keep the shiny-shiny for the MTB related Undercover Boost version.
At The Finish: There are three saddles over this 4 part review that stand out to me besides the Tioga. The Ergon sits in 4th place only due to its tendency to rub me wrong unless I had the saddle position absolutely perfect. The WTB Silverado would be third choice and was my fave of that brand’s samples. The Specialized Phenom was likely my pic for second place.
I have to say that unless my backside is lying to me, then the Tioga Undercover Stratum Ti is my pic of the litter. In the long run I am seriously thinking of buying a couple more of these to run across my road/gravel bikes. It’s that good.
In the review I had mentioned that I would be trying it a road bike as I had been quite impressed with the tech in the saddle and how that impacted the ride quality. I moved the saddle over to my carbon road bike and did a total of about 150 miles on it over three rides, one a 4.5 hour, 70 mile ride in the high mountains. I was surprised to find that it did not work as well as I expected, however I think I know why.
First of all, the way the saddle muted sharp impacts was so very, very, good. It took a somewhat stiff bike and a rather stiff seatpost and made it feel supple. Excellent. Yet it did it all without deep padding or a splooshy feeling. That matches what I felt on the gravel bike.
However I began to notice too much soft tissue pressure after time went by and I never noticed this on the gravel bike. I think the reason is the more static nature of how you sit on a road bike where you are not nearly as active as you would be on a gravel bike, at least where I ride. I have very little flat and long sections of dirt. It’s up, then down, then bumpy, then etc. On the road bike I can sit for an hour and pedal and unless I want to, I don’t even need to stand. I do actually like to stand and climb however.
So now I am in the predicament of having named the saddle my fav and finding it not so much all of a sudden. However I will say this…I am not rolling back the review as I still think the tech in this saddle is far and away the best I have sat on for a balance of support and comfort over rough impacts. What would likely be a saving grace for me would be slightly more width or slightly more cutout. Maybe both.
Note that I am more sensitive to this now at my age and after decades of saddle time. If I were younger, I doubt I would even care. Remember that this was why I found the Fabric Scoop a bit of a miss for me.
So I wanted to mention this for the sake of transparency. I still think the Tioga Undercover Stratum Ti is the best of the bunch for what it does well, I just wish it could give me a bit more grace to the ‘undercarriage’ in the process
Note: Spank, Fabric, and Tioga sent out these saddles for test and review at no charge to Riding Gravel. We were not paid nor bribed for this review and we will always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.