Tioga Undercover Stratum TI Review
Cons: No tail protection
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Undercover Stratum is a new model in Tioga's line of bike saddles. Their mountain bike saddles have traditionally had a unique design and look but the Undercover Stratum is a departure from that with a more "normal" looking seat cover that hides the SpyderWeb shell. That shell design gives it a slightly suspended feel that helps make this one of the most comfortable saddles in this review. Combine that high level of comfort with a nice snag free shape, a pressure relief cutout, and excellent power transfer, and this is an excellent saddle for any type of riding. It's also impressively lightweight, and at only 202g it is the second lightest model in our entire test. The Undercover Stratum impressed our testers in nearly every way, and it bumped the Specialized Phenom Comp off the top step of the podium and earned our Editor's Choice Award.
Testers were pleasantly surprised by the overall comfort of the Undercover Stratum. In fact, we've ranked it as one of the most comfortable saddles we tested, tied for top honors with the WTB Koda Team and the Specialized Phenom Comp. While it scores the same as these other saddles, it achieves its comfort in a slightly different way.
The Undercover Stratum has a very unique design with SpyderWeb shell that is designed to flex and provide a somewhat suspended feel that takes the edge off of high-frequency vibrations. On top of that shell is a layer of medium density Bio X-Pad ReActiv cushioning covered with synthetic leather. This cover makes this saddle and look and feel a lot more like a traditional saddle than the Tioga Spyder Outland which has a similar spiderweb shell design and significantly more polarizing looks. Appearance aside, the design works as advertised and our tester's found this saddle to provide lasting comfort on even the longest of rides.
It has a very agreeable 140mm width that will be suitable for a large portion of the mountain biking population. This width works best for those with medium to wide sit bones, so it is worth mentioning that if you have narrow sit bones, it might be a little bit too wide. It has a relatively flat profile from tip to tail, and it is designed to flex just slightly when you are seated to give it a little bit of a scooped shape. The side to side profile is relatively flat in the middle with a gradual curve down to the edge that allows for an unrestricted pedal stroke.
The back 2/3 of the saddle has a full cut out that is intended to reduce pressure on the perineal area. Testers found this cutout to work effectively and never complained of excessive pressure on their sensitive parts. This cutout combined with the side to side profile of the saddle results in your weight supported by your sit bones, which is precisely how you want it.
Testers found little to nothing to complain about in terms of the performance of the Undercover Stratum on the trail. It's clear that we found it to be highly comfortable, but it also delivered in many other ways. It has an excellent shape, like a teardrop with a tapered tail that allows for snag-free freedom of movement. The synthetic cover is relatively slippery which also helps for friction free movements and pedal strokes. Tioga has applied a little bit of anti-slip in the form of some lettering on the top of the nose of the saddle to help keep you in place when you get way forward during steep climbs.
The medium density Bio X-Pad ReActiv cushioning strikes a good balance between the super firm and unforgiving saddles and those that are soft and comfortable to the detriment of their performance. The Stratum is highly comfortable, yet it doesn't feel as if you're ever losing any energy in your pedal stroke due to the padding or the suspension feel of the SpyderWeb shell. This design helps keep you comfortable and may help to keep you performing better for longer as a result. The saddle is also well shaped and assuming the width is appropriate for your sit bones it allows for an unrestricted pedal stroke.
The Undercover Stratum held up well throughout our testing. It appears very well made with a cover material that wraps around the edge and is secured under the shell with a clean and seamless construction. The seat rails seem strong and well connected and made no noises or creaks to speak of.
It doesn't have any reinforcements on the wings of the tail like some of the other models in this test, so if you are prone to crashing catastrophically, it could be susceptible to damage in those areas. Otherwise, we have no complaints about the durability of the Undercover Stratum and we feel it should last for several seasons of riding assuming you don't crash very often.
Testers found the Undercover Stratum to be a highly versatile saddle. While Tioga claims it's designed for trail and all-mountain riding, we feel that it's suitable for all disciplines of mountain biking. The shape of the saddle makes it easy to move around, and it also allows for excellent power transfer with no interference of the pedal stroke. The 202g weight of this saddle will also likely appeal to weight conscious riders and even XC racers. There's also no reason you wouldn't want to clamp it on your gravel or road bike, especially considering the high level of comfort and the slightly suspended feel it provides.
The Undercover Stratum is only available in a 140mm width which will be suitable for a large number of riders, but might not be appropriate for everyone. People with narrower sit bones or who prefer a narrower saddle may be better off looking elsewhere. If you like the lightweight, shape, and suspended feel but need something narrower then perhaps the 125mm wide Tioga Spyder Outland would be a better bet.
Tioga claims the weight of the Undercover Stratum with Titanium rails to be a shockingly light 190g. When we weighed the brand new saddle on our trusted scale, however, we found it to weigh 202g. We can't account for the 12g discrepancy, and while we wish it weighed the advertised 190g we can't complain either because it's still impressively lightweight. This is one of the lightest saddles in this review, bested only by the Tioga Spyder Outland which tips the scales at 178g without pads and 202g with the pads installed. The WTB Koda Team weighed in just 1g heavier at 203g.
The majority of the saddles we tested weigh between 230-260g which seems to be the sweet spot for mountain bike saddles that don't completely break the bank. The Undercover Stratum isn't likely to win a Best Buy Award anytime soon, but it is competitively priced for how lightweight it is.
At a retail price of $125, we feel the Undercover Stratum is a good value for a lightweight, comfortable, and high-performance saddle. We recognize that's no small potatoes, but if you're looking to shave some grams off the weight of your ride and not sacrifice on comfort, then we think this is a good place to start. If you can't possibly justify spending that much then we'd steer you towards our Best Buy Award winner, the WTB Volt Race.
We awarded the Undercover Stratum TI with our Editor's Choice Award for its outstanding level of comfort, performance, lightweight, and versatility. This saddle has an excellent and comfortable shape that supports your weight nicely on your sit bones, assuming the 140mm width works for you, with a full cutout for perineal pressure relief and a unique suspended feel built into the SpyderWeb shell. It has a tapered tail that allows for snag-free freedom of movement, plus the teardrop shape and somewhat rounded side to side profile allow for an unrestricted pedal stroke and great power transfer. It's also impressively lightweight at just 202g, making this a solid option for all types of riders from XC racers to enduro smashers, it's even a solid choice to throw on the gravel or road bike. We loved the Undercover Stratum and we think you will too.
Tioga makes a full line of saddles for all disciplines of cycling. They make three versions of the Undercover Stratum, including the Ti model we tested, that all share the same overall design and shape but come with varying rail materials and in different weight and price points. The Undercover Stratum CroMo comes with CroMo rails and is the least expensive and also the heaviest version at 240g. The Carbon railed model is the most expensive and is correspondingly lightweight with a claimed weight of a mere 150g.
Tioga also makes several versions of their unique Spyder saddles including the Spyder Outland which is also reviewed here.
— Jeremy Benson