Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Boutique Comfort: Dash Stage.9 Saddle

I admit to being a bit of a weight weenie. That is, I like my equipment to be as light as possible, especially when it comes to my TT bike. TT bikes in general aren't light, so any opportunity to shed a bit of extra weight will make it easier when it comes to those uphill portions on the course. You might not think a few grams here and there is much, but it all adds up. Carefully looking at each piece on the bike can save you pounds off a complete build.

The Dash Stage.9 saddle
But it's no good having super-lightweight parts if they aren't functionally useful. And one of THE most important parts when it comes to functionality is the saddle. If you can't sit comfortably (a relative idea when it comes to the somewhat painful discipline of time trialling), then you are going to lose valuable power and time.

For the past few years I have been a big fan of the Adamo TT saddles. They are much more comfortable than a conventional bike saddle and allow me to sit in the TT position for a lot longer than I ever could before. But they have one major drawback: they weigh a ton.

So last year when I was looking for ways to lighten up my TT bike in preparation for the hilly TT course in London, my research brought me across a company call Dash Cycles ( They are a bit of a boutique operation out of Boulder, Colorado in the USA. They have built up a reputation for creating extremely lightweight hubs/wheelsets and saddles. And I do mean LIGHT.

Dash managed to do what no one else could do; take the best parts of the Adamo saddle and improve on it. And then cut the weight significantly. Dash first came out with their Tri.7 saddle – a kind of mini-Adamo. And it weighs all of 79g. Compared to the boat-anchor weight of an Adamo (close to 300g), that's a savings of almost 1/2 pound of weight. The only problem with it... is that it's too short. At least when it comes to UCI regulations. And so... the Stage.9 was born.

More comfortable than you might think
The Stage.9 saddle is UCI-compliant in it's height and width. And at a mere 99g it still is super light (that's with the standard triple layer padding, but you get the double layer padding version at a skinny 91g). But as I said before – what is lightness if you can't use it? Well, I can honestly say that not only did it tick the 'lightness' box, but it is actually MORE comfortable to use than the Adamo! This may be due to the better nose area or the carbon rails, I'm not sure. All I know is I found I could ride it for hours without the chafing/rubbing on my inner thighs that I got from the Adamo.

It gives a firm but comfortable ride. There is enough flex to soak up road noise while still providing a solid base to push against. It uses the same principle as the Adamo – namely that it supports your weight on your sits bones using two 'prongs', but unlike the Adamo the two prongs are joined together with a recessed carbon 'bridge'. Furthermore, the prongs are curved and passed so that you can rotate your weight forward easily and comfortably, allowing you to get into the TT position with ease... and to stay there.

Carbon rails
If you've ridden an Adamo before, setting up the Stage.9 is almost the same. In fact, all I had to do was swap out one saddle for the other with no further adjustments needed. And from the first ride onwards, I have been pleasantly surprised. 

The quality of the build reveals top hand-made quality and craftsmanship. It appears to be one bonded piece of carbon fibre, wrapped in sturdy leather. I have been riding mine for several months with no issues whatsoever.

When I first used the saddle in competition at a UCI World Cup race last year, the UCI commissaires were so intrigued with it that they are all taking photos of it! Even a representative from Selle SMP (another brand I ride on my road bike) was at one race and came over to ask me loads of questions. It may not look comfortable, but it does look sleek and sexy! At the Paralympics, once again the commissaires were looking it over and I had to convince them that it wasn't custom-made for me (and was commercially available, as per UCI rules!). 

My full TT rig with the Stage.9 perched on top
Dash offer a demo program for their saddles, so if you're interested in trying one out before making the leap, I'd highly recommend it. Because the one and only drawback of these saddles is the price of $465US (£295). I realise that the majority of readers just tuned out or thought to themselves 'holy cr@p!!', but if you value your rear end and are serious about performance, it's worth it. Every penny. To be honest, if I could afford it, I'd have a second one on my track bike and I'd be using their new disc wheel! But that's a different story.

I'm happy to say I am NOT sponsored by Dash, I don't get paid to write the review and I believe 100% in their products. I will never go back to riding a different saddle on my TT bike now that I've tried the Stage.9 – it's that comfortable. Dash are now even offering a custom program – where you can get your saddle wrapped in different coloured leather to match your ride. And in addition to the Stage.9 they also offer a range of road saddles (do you fancy a 59g road saddle!?) and some additional TT/Tri saddles. If you're serious about performance, give Dash a look.

Monday, 29 October 2012

1409 Days to go...

1409 days to go. Yes, that's correct. 1409 days until the start of the Rio 2016 Paralympics. It seems a lifetime away (and in sporting terms, especially for me, it probably is). But that's the goal and we start preparing for it today.

London 2012 was a bust. So many things went wrong for me and as a result I missed out on the medals. In one instance by a mere 1/10th of a second. That is something that will live with me forever. But I can't change that now – I can only use it to drive me on and try and make up for it in the future.

I can't say for certain if I'll make it all the way to Rio. But I'm going to try my hardest to get there. And win a medal. Because I have unfinished business. But first... I want to retain my World Championship titles in the Time Trial and Individual Pursuit. (The TT is in Canada in August 2013 and the Pursuit in Italy in March 2014)

Despite the failures of London, I am still the reigning World Champion in both these events, so from today my training starts again in earnest to keep ahold of those titles. Win... and I carry on. Lose, and it'll be time to reassess my future in the sport. But I am 100% committed to winning.

So, as training for my 2013 season begins, I want to thank all my sponsors that are sticking with me and hopefully I can get a few new key ones on board. I'll need all the help I can get.

As with previous years, I'll continue to document my journey and the struggles (and joys) I face along the way. Thanks for taking an interest... and strap yourself in for the ride. I think it may be a bumpy one!