This post compares the advantages and disadvantages of titanium and carbon saddle rails.
The table below compares the weight of saddles with carbon and titanium rails.
The total weight of a saddle doesn’t depend just on the rails, but it’s not possible to isolate the rails from the saddle for maximally accurate comparison.
|Selle Italia SLR Boost Kit Carbonio||129g||Race Face Aeffect||240g|
|Specialized S-Works Power Mirror||190g||Specialized Power Pro Mirror||245g|
|BEAST Components Pure Saddle||87g||Specialized Phenom Expert||248g|
|Ritchey WCS Carbon Streem||145g||Selle Italia SLR Boost X-Cross||186g|
|BEAST Components||87g||Procraft Race Titanium II||235g|
|tune Komm-Vor Carbon||98g||Selle Italia SLR Superflow S||185g|
|Fizik Antares R1 Versus Evo||179g||Selle Italia Milano Flite||230g|
|Ergon SR Pro||175g||Selle Italia Flite Boost TI316||194g|
|Selle Italia SLR Tekno||110g||fabric Line Shallow Race Saddle||250g|
|Fizik Aliante R1 Open Saddle||205g||Spank Spike 160||250g|
Conclusion: On average, saddles with titanium rails are 86 grams heavier. The total weight depends on the particular model and in some cases, a titanium saddle could weigh a bit less than a carbon one.
If the user is trying to minimize the weight of their machine, carbon rails will facilitate that goal.
Recreational riders, however, will not feel a difference even if they decide to choose the heaviest rails on the market.
The term compliance is used to describe a material’s degree of bending. Ideally, the material will flex just enough to soften the ride without compromising performance.
Both carbon and titanium are fairly compliant materials and thus reduce the vibrations reaching the rider.
That said, it’s difficult to determine which type of rails will be more compliant/comfortable for two main reasons:
- Saddle rails are short and do not flex much, to begin with.
- The flex of the rails depends on their thickness, position, the saddle’s architecture, and the weight of the rider.
Consequently, it would be inaccurate to say that one type of rails is definitively more compliant than the other.
Rail Flex vs. Seat Post and Saddle Flex
It’s also worth mentioning that the seat post and the shell of the saddle provide more flex/compliance/comfort than the saddle rails.
In some cases, a rider might switch from carbon to titanium rails or vice versa and report increased comfort and conclude that the change is coming entirely from the rails even though the saddle and seat post are responsible for the new performance.
That’s why it’s advisable not to look at the rails in isolation and take into consideration the seat post and the saddle itself.
Here are some of the parameters that need to be examined:
- Saddle architecture (e.g., cutout, no cutout…etc.)
- Saddle shell material and padding
- Saddle size (is the saddle the right size for the rider)
Theoretically, both titanium and carbon can be insanely strong. However, the final strength of the rail depends on the entire setup and the quality of the production. Thus, one cannot say definitively that one material is stronger than the other.
That said, there is anecdotal evidence that titanium rails snap more frequently.
If strength is the ultimate goal, then steel rails beat all the competition while also being the cheapest. Why? Because steel is both ductile and strong and is more likely to bend than to snap.
Resistance to Clamping Force
Carbon does not like to be clamped and has poor resistance to squeezing force. Hence why it’s important to have a torque wrench when installing different accessories on carbon components.
That said, carbon rails are not hollow like carbon frames for example. Consequently, their resistance to clamping pressure is greater and one is unlikely to crush them, especially when paying attention to the clamping limits listed on the rails/saddle.
Seat posts with carbon rails tend to be more expensive. Of course, the final price depends on the particular model.
Given that the weight savings from using carbon are not perceivable because the extra weight is close to the middle of the bike, the additional cost will not be justified when building a bike on a budget.
Of course, titanium rails aren’t cheap either and don’t suit a budget built well. If money is an issue, a saddle with steel rails makes the most sense, at least in the beginning.
It’s also worth mentioning, that saddles are among the most frequently stolen components on a bike. Locking a bike with a quick-release seat post and a USD 300 saddle could result in an unpleasant financial loss.
Thus, it’s not recommended to install fancy saddles on lock-up commuters. If you want to add additional cushioning to a commuter, you can do so by using wider tires running at lower air pressure or by getting an affordable suspension seat post.
Road vs. MTB Use
The durability of the saddle is highly dependent on the riding discipline too. For example, a road bike saddle does not see the same stress as an MTB one. Consequently, road saddles can save weight by using less material.
Summary: What You Need To Know
- The main differentiation point between carbon and titanium rails is weight. Saddles with carbon rails tend to be lighter.
- On average, saddles with carbon rails tend to be more expensive too.
- Both titanium and carbon rails are very strong. However, both are prone to snapping unexpectedly. Or in other words, they are super strong until they aren’t.
- Both titanium and carbon rails are fairly compliant. That said, the flex of the rails is only one parameter determining the overall comfort offered by the saddle. The saddle material and architecture as well as the seat post matter too.
- Most people will not report a difference in feel between carbon and titanium rails.
- People can wrongfully conclude that the rails provide a lot of comfort when the overall architecture and the quality of the saddle are making the difference.