By now, it should be no surprise that Dash Cycles is serious about triathlon. In less than a year, they've introduced two tri-specific saddles that are, in my opinion, some the best saddles ever made. And now they're unveiling a third one.
Their latest addition to the saddle lineup is the Stage.9, which is essentially a Tri.7 with a longer tail. It maintains the same design philosophy and other-worldly low weight, but it's UCI legal (just barely!), with a length of 245mm (the minimum allowable length is 240mm).
Like all the saddles in the Dash lineup, the numerical suffix in the name refers to the saddle's weight. Each Stage.9 will come in an incredible 99g or less. The Tri.7, by extension, will clock in at 79g or less. It's incredible to hold any of these models for the first time, especially when you consider that each one is fully padded and topped with a durable, easy-to-clean synthetic leather upper. Actually, I'm still impressed when I pick one up. They're simply wonderful.
To get a good idea of what this saddle is all about, you should first read my review of the Tri.7 on which this saddle is based. The Stage.9 basically just a longer version of that saddle. The front portion is the same, and to make the Stage.9, they basically just added a tail. Where the Tri.7 ends at its widest point at the rear, the Stage.9 continues, tapering back into a slightly more narrow rear section. It doesn't matter too much, since you sit on the front third of the saddle anyway. But to reach a UCI compliant length, the tail had to be added.
The only functional difference is that because the Stage.9 is longer, it also has slightly longer rails, which means the saddle shell flexes ever so slightly more. But the difference is basically imperceptible. And the longer rails actually represent an additional advantage to this saddle: the Stage.9 has a greater range of adjustment than either the Tri.7 or TT.9 do. This isn't a huge issue if you're riding a bike with a lot of adjustment built into the seatpost, like a Shiv or Speed Concept. But if you're riding something that limits your ability to move the seatpost clamp, then the additional rail adjustment may be a big benefit.
However, there is an element of this particular Stage.9 whose fit is new to me. That is, I got this saddle in the 'standard' width instead of the 'wide' that I normally ride from Dash. You see, Dash originally created the Tri.7 with a fairly wide front. For me, that size fit beautifully, but it turns out to be a little too wide for some riders. So Dash, consistent with their philosophy of really, truly listening to their customers, designed a second version that's narrower. In fact, the narrow version turned out to be more popular, so it's now referred to as the "standard" width, and the other version is the "wide" version. You can purchase any of their split-nose saddles in either width.
Since I hadn't ridden the narrow version before, I decided to give it a go. And for me, the narrow version is actually still very good. In fact, it's probably better than almost any other saddle, except for Dash's own wide version of the same tri saddles. It's just a little on the narrow side for me, and I found myself scooting backwards on the saddle to find a portion with the same width as my sit bones "want." I find the wide version to be more suitable for me. But the real takeaway is that both options are available, and both are good. Dash has a great demo program in their online store, so you can try either or both versions out without committing to buy.
I've written a lot about Dash product. Their tri saddles are without question my favorite saddles ever built, and probably my favorite piece of tri bike equipment overall. Your saddle is the most critical contact point on the bike, and in my experience, it becomes harder to find a good saddle as your position gets more aggressive. For me, these saddles fit the bill perfectly. In addition to their uniquely good fit, they're also well-designed, beautifully constructed, and unbelievably light.
Of course, all of this comes at a price. Dash is making the most expensive tri-specific saddles on the market, at $495 each. They soften the blow by offering a demo program so you can find out whether they're right for you, but five bills is a lot to pay for a saddle. For me, it's tempered by the fact that this may be the last saddle I need. I will be taking these from bike to bike, reupholstering if necessary, and I expect them to last basically forever. If I'm right, then the price isn't so bad after all. But keep in mind, saddle fit is so very personal, you might not fit on either the wide or narrow version of the Dash saddles. But when set up properly, I think they make a really good fit for most riders.
If you need UCI compliance, snag the Stage.9. Otherwise, you can save 20g and get the Tri.7. Dash has done an incredible job with these things, and if you have the good fortune to ride one, I think there's a good chance you'll see what I'm talking about.