Tioga's innovative Stratum Spyder saddle derives part of its name from having a striking 'webbed' appearance. However, that unique construction also holds the keys to its performance and comfort – which, as it turns out, are much better than you might expect.
- Highs: Great price-to-weight ratio, surprisingly comfortable, innovative design
- Lows: Narrow suggested rider weight range, relatively short lifespan, coarse shell texture
- Buy if: You're a techy weight weenie looking for a novel option for road or XC riding
Whereas Tioga's original Spyder saddle was built using a single density, fiber-reinforced nylon shell that the company admitted would eventually sag and/or crack, this newer version uses a harder and more durable material for both the outer perimeter and strategically placed spars in the middle. Laid over the entire shell is a second layer – called SpiderWeb, of course – made from a much softer and more flexible blend.
Taken in combination, the effect is akin to sitting on a hammock – albeit an exceedingly light hammock that happens to weigh just 124g with carbon rails or 186g with chromoly ones (actual weights).
The Tioga Spyder Stratum saddle looks weird but it feels quite normal for the most part
Three months of testing on both the road and trail have demonstrated the Spyder Stratum to be nearly as comfortable as one, too. Compared with many race-oriented, lightweight saddles that go with the firm-but-fair supportive route, the super flexible Spyder Stratum is shockingly soft.
"We find that paddings for saddles are inefficient shock absorbers because [their] level of absorption is proportional to [their] mass – more absorption requires thicker and heavier padding," explained Tioga USA's marketing director Kai Cheng. "As most performance saddles use padding of well less than 15mm thick, and then factoring in the padding compression once you sit on it, there’s not much shock absorbing value left to take on the hits."
Despite this, we wouldn't have minded a more finely patterned SpiderWeb top layer – a thicker chamois is almost a prerequisite. This isn't so much to provide padding – after all, the shell is the padding in this case – but to insulate your bony bits from the multiple exposed edges.
Although the striking 'SpiderWeb' upper layer is very soft and flexible, you can still feel the edges if you've got the wrong pair of shorts on
Longer road rides in a pair of ultra-cushy Assos shorts, for example, were totally pleasant and uneventful. However, a seven-hour mountain bike race wearing a more minimal chamois was a slightly different story. We thankfully didn't suffer any saddle sores, but we never forgot that we were riding a saddle with a bunch of giant holes in it, either. We'd also avoid using the Spyder Stratum on more technical trails – both the nose and tail are very hard and unforgiving.
Tioga also admits that the Spyder Stratum's unique construction has some limitations. Although the chromoly version has no rider weight limit (and the carbon one is approved up to 109kg / 240lb), the flex is preset and tuned for a 68-83kg (150-185lb) rider so it's unlikely you'll get the intended ride quality if you fall outside of that window. As with most predominantly plastic load-bearing structures – reinforced or otherwise – the saddle will eventually start to sag, and Tioga quotes a relatively short lifespan of two to three years with regular use. Finally, the Spyder Stratum is offered in just a single, rather narrow, 185mm width.
Even so, the price-to-weight ratio is compelling, especially for riders on a budget who are still interested in shaving grams without giving up much in terms of comfort. We still like the Spyder but, as with most quirky products, it's best applied to certain niches. Regardless, Kudos to Tioga for rolling the dice with such a novel design.