You should know by now that I love Dash Cycles. Whenever they tell me they have a new product coming, one of my eyebrows goes up. When they tell me it's a tri product, both eyebrows go up. Last month, they said they were expanding the Tri.7 saddle line, and introducing a version that's both UCI-legal, and has an integrated hydration solution. I had a facial contortion trying to raise my non-existent third eyebrow. But that's not even the interesting part of this story.
My opinions on hydration are somewhat draconian. In many cases, I come out against fancy setups in favor of cheap solutions involving zip ties. My primary bottle is alsays a BTA bottle. And after that, I look for the best place to put a secondary/reserve bottle. One good spot is right behind the saddle, with a bottle sitting right in the aerodynamic shadow of your rump. Cervelo has gone on record saying that these systems are aerodynamically pretty good, as long as they don't stick out and grab air. So, a very good solution is the Lieto-style mount, with a single cage pointing backwards. That's how Crowie set up his bike when he took the win at this year's Ironman World Championships, and his Performance Advisor Mat Steinmetz told me that they basically found that with the cage in this position, there's zero added drag.
This kind of bottle is usually pretty easy to mount - you just have to be creative with the zip ties. But that brings us to the present situation. Dash's triathlon saddle, the Tri.7 is incredibly short, and it would be very difficult to mount a bottle cage to it, even with lots of zip-tie Kung Fu. So Dash set out to create a Tri.7 with an integrated bottle holder. And THIS is where our story gets really good.
Dash Be Nimble, Dash Be Quick
Dash's philosophy is to listen carefully to input, and respond quickly. They produced two successive prototypes in just a couple weeks, refining and perfecting their design.
A couple weeks ago, the Dash guys sent me their first prototype saddle for testing. It had a very cool-looking rear bottle holder. The cage was integrated into the shape of the saddle. It was basically like a piece of modern art. Blow it up to 20x the size, and it would have been fitting as an installation in most metropolitan cities. The problem was that it wasn't that great at holding a bottle. For one thing, it sat too close to the rider's butt. Since the Tri.7 is so short, this meant that it was easy to bump into the bottle while riding. The other problem was that it didn't have a good retention tab, and was prone to launching bottles.
I was a bit disheartened, because I wanted to like the product, but couldn't in good conscience recommend it as is. It was a bummer, because I knew Dash had already spent a lot of time making molds for the product, and it was ready to go. In fact, they briefly posted it for sale on their website. I told them about my qualms, and told them how I would change the product if they were ever to revisit it. My biggest suggestion was to create a solution in which the user could mount their own bottle cage, because different people have different preferences here. And in any event, there are already some fantastic cages out there for this purpose. This is when Dash did probably the coolest thing I can think of. They pulled the product from their site, and emailed me right back, saying they were going to revise the product. They trashed their old mold, and built a brand new one that basically perfects the design.
That's huge. Not only did they take every recommendation I made, but they got their new molds done in a hurry. It was probably a week between the time I complained, and the time they had prototype number two in my hands. Dash is very serious about making quality products, from design to construction. As I'd suggested, Dash took the cage off the saddle entirely, and instead, built a set of standard bottle bosses right onto it. And the bottle sits perfectly, at a shallow angle keeping it out of the wind. It's perfect. Now, a rider can pick their favorite bottle cage and bolt it right on. No zip ties, no hassle, and it's integrated into what has become my favorite saddle design of all time.
The Dash TT9 Saddle
The best part is that you can use any bottle cage you want, and it bolts right on. No need to worry about zip ties.
So how does the new saddle perform? Well, the seating area is identical to the glorious Tri.7. It's an excellent split-nose design created to be two things: light, and comfortable. Its predecessor weighs in at 79g or less, while the TT9 is guaranteed to come in at 99g or less. My sample is actually much lighter, at just 86g, and that's WITH all the padding (but without a cage attached).
With the cage attached, the bottle points backwards, out of the wind and out of your way when you are trying to mount or dismount your bike. It has plenty of clearance and won't interfere with an aero seatpost. The only drawback of this position is that it's slightly trickier to grab or replace a bottle here than if it pointed straight up. But with practice, it's not a big deal. One thing to note is that the boss position was designed to provide lots of clearance for aero seatposts. You can see there's about an inch and a half gap between the bottle and the back of my Speed Concept seatpost. What I will do here is drill new holes in the bottle cage to tuck the saddle in as close as possible. But even if you don't go that route, practice will make things easier. And as I mentioned above, this is best used as a "reserve" location anyway. Your primary bottle should be a BTA bottle, or something like the TorHans Aero 20.
Of course, you don't have to use the TT9 for hydration at all. You could put your flat kit into a bottle and just leave it in the cage permanently. There's also a little nook created by the shape of the rear fairing that might also be a good storage location for ... something. Exactly what, I don't know yet. But there are plenty of you out there who are smarter than I am, and you'll probably come up with something fantastic. And if you're a UCI rider, you might not care as much about the storage itself, but rather the fact that you can now ride Dash product in your local TT.
Of course, like other Dash product, this one doesn't come cheap. It's a very high-end product for the rider who wants the very best. Dash does offer a demo program so you don't have to risk dropping a bunch of cash on a saddle that doesn't fit you. They tell me that the program has been quite successful - that is, a lot of people who demo the saddles choose to keep them. Ultimately, the big story here isn't just the final saddle itself, but the path Dash took to get there, and what it says about their company. They are innovating in the best ways, and I'm thrilled to see them doing their thing in the tri space.