Dash Cycles is becoming a major force in the boutique cycling market. Their product lines have expanded from hubs, to saddles, to integrated seatpost combos, and now complete wheels with Dash rims (a review on those is coming soon). Their products are exquisitely crafted, unbelievably light weight, and adorn some of the snazziest builds around. The price of this amazing tech has historically been quite high, commensurate with the upper echelon status of the gear. But now, for the two most popular Dash saddles, that is changing. Dash is introducing lower-cost versions of its amazing Stage.9 and Strike.9 saddles, simply called the "Stage" and "Strike," respectively (in case it isn't clear, these budget versions lose the numerical suffix of their higher-priced siblings).
The Tri.7 and Stage.9 saddles have been my go-to seat since I first rode one three years ago. The Stage design is just like the Tri design, except it features a longer tail to make it UCI legal. The seating area is identical. And as it turns out, the longer body makes it a more versatile saddle, since the rail section is correspondingly longer, and allows more fore-aft position adjustment. The Strike is a more road-specific design, but would probably work well with people who prefer a slightly narrower front. Its slightly wider rear and narrower nose makes it fit a bit more like a traditional road saddle, but with the split-nose advantage for more aggressive positions. If you're a fan of the Bontrager Hilo, you might prefer the Strike over the Stage. Personally, I get along better with the wider design of the Stage for both tri and road use, slapping a Tri.7 onto my beloved Project Liberty road build.
The beautiful, one-piece carbon construction on the shell bonded to the kevlar rails
This is just personal preference, and for those of you who don't know which you might prefer, Dash offers a really good testing/exchange program to make sure you find the right seat for you. My only note about Dash saddles and their comfort is that they're a bit more sensitive to position adjustments, due to their slightly firmer construction. That is, even with the foam padding, you only get a couple mm of travel on the saddle surface, meaning you really need to dial in the height, setback, and tilt in order to hit your sweet spot. Saddles with thicker padding can get away with more play in the position, since the padding can "soak up" some amount of error in position.
The Stage and Strike sell for $299 each, which puts them well in the range of higher-end standard saddles (compare, for example, the $249 Adamo Attack). And they keep all the great Dash features that makes them so awesome. In fact, they're basically clones of the $465 versions, just without the customization options. First off, they're still insanely light: a target weight of 130g per saddle (mine came in a bit lighter), using the exact same mold and carbon layup as the custom versions. They feature the same beautiful design, same four-layer padding and leather upper, and same integrated rail construction with no after-bonding. The rail material is slightly different - these versions are actually more durable, using a complete kevlar sleeve rather than a kevlar/carbon mix on the more expensive versions.
The more expensive rails save a couple grams (as in, literally a single-digit number of grams), but are slightly more sensitive to ham-handed wrenching. So these robust all-kevlar rails may even be preferable. Personally, I like the look of them a lot, and it's nice to know they won't suffer if I accidentally over-torque things. Also, these standard Stage and Strike saddles come in black or white, but no custom colors. Most people won't care, but if you want custom, you can pay the $165 premium and get a slightly lighter version as well. Personally, I think a LOT of new customers are going to be heading the Dash way with these more affordable versions. They're simply amazing, and now much less expensive. I can't recommend them enough. And to be clear, I don't have ANY financial stake in Dash. I just absolutely love what they do, and think they're a really important part of the triathlon and cycling industry. I'm proud to be able to show off their spectacular work.
For me, the Stage is where it's at, for road and tri alike. Your mileage may vary!