This post compares the advantages and disadvantages of titanium and steel saddle rails.
The table below compares the weight of saddles with titanium and steel rails.
|Ergon SM Pro||235g||Race Face Aeffect||240g|
|3min19sec||256g||Specialized Power Pro Mirror||245g|
|Specialized Power Comp||247g||Specialized Phenom Expert||248g|
|Selle Italia Flite Boost||248g||Selle Italia SLR Boost X-Cross||186g|
|PRO Turnix Performance||206g||Procraft Race Titanium II||235g|
|Selle Italia SLR Boost TM Superflow||208g||Selle Italia SLR Superflow S||185g|
|Selle Italia Novus||306g||Selle Italia Milano Flite||230g|
|Chromag Trailmaster DT Saddle||305g||Selle Italia Flite Boost TI316||194g|
|Selle Italia Flite Boost TM||230g||fabric Line Shallow Race Saddle||250g|
|Chromag Juniper||282g||Spank Spike 160||250g|
Conclusion: On average, saddles with titanium rails are slightly lighter. The difference isn’t substantial to a recreational rider and matters only when building a very light machine.
Difference In Ride Quality
The comfort of a bike depends on many parameters. Saddle rails material is only one of them and doesn’t rank high.
Before the vibrations generated by the road can reach the rails and then the rider, they first have to pass through the tires, rims, frame and the seat post. The aforementioned components are part of a chain and if all of them underperform, the effect of fancy saddle rails is inconsequential.
It’s also possible for one component to mask the effectiveness of the rails. For example, if the user switches to a new saddle and wider tires running at a lower air pressure, it’s possible to conclude that the new saddle rails are more compliant than the previous ones even though the difference comes from the tires.
One of titanium’s advantages over steel is that it doesn’t corrode/rust. That said, saddle rails are among the most protected bike parts even during rain, especially when running a rear fender, and rarely rust to the point of failure. Very often the rust on them is superficial (surface rust).
Titanium is more difficult to work with. Thus, saddles with titanium rails tend to be more expensive, although the final price depends on the model. There are luxurious saddles with Chromoly rails that cost more than a titanium model.
Both steel and titanium are compliant materials that flex and reduce vibrations.
That said, titanium rails are expected to flex more and make the ride more comfortable. The extent of this effect depends on saddle’s architecture too.
The lifespan of saddle rails depends on three factors:
- The rails’ quality
- The saddle’s design
- The exploitation of the bike
Titanium is an outstanding material that’s simultaneously light, strong, and compliant. However, it’s also brittle and prone to snapping. Hence why many people have reported snapped titanium rails over the years.
Steel, on the other hand, is less brittle and is less likely to snap completely. Instead, it deforms. From that perspective, steel is simply tougher.
The tables below compare the metal properties of steel and titanium.
- Modus of Elasticity
The modus of elasticity is a measurement revealing a material’s resistance to elastic (non-permanent) deformation under applied stress. Or in other words, the modus of elasticity shows how stiff a material is.
|Material||Modus of Elasticity|
|Steel||200 GPa / 29000 ksi|
|Titanium||116 GPa / 16800 ksi|
Steel has a higher modus of elasticity than titanium and can consequently face greater stress before deforming. Titanium, on the other hand, flexes and can deform more easily.
- Tensile strength
The tensile strength measures the maximum stress that a material can withstand during stretching or pulling before breaking
|Steel||350 MPa / 50800 psi|
|Titanium||140 MPa / 20300 psi|
Steel has a much greater tensile strength than titanium. Hence why it’s the go-to material when extreme strength is the goal.
This may seem surprising to some because titanium is often presented as stronger than steel even though it isn’t.
This misconception happens because titanium has the highest strength-to-weight ratio thanks to its low density.
A titanium element can match the strength of a steel one while weighing substantially less. In that regard, titanium is essentially an upgraded version of aluminum.
Summary: What You Need To Know
- Titanium has a greater strength to weight ratio than steel. Consequently, titanium components can match the strength of steel ones while weighing less. For that reason, saddles with titanium rails tend to be lighter. However, the weight savings aren’t phenomenal.
- If the user is looking for a light saddle, titanium rails help, but even they aren’t as light as carbon.
- Steel rails are cheaper and easier to find.
- Saddle rails are only one of many parameters determining how comfortable a bike is. There are many other factors such as tire width, air pressure, frame size, frame material, seat post length, seat post material, saddle position, saddle architecture…etc. that have a direct influence on comfort. The material of the saddle rails does not rank that high.
- Both titanium and steel rails can snap, but there’s anecdotal evidence suggesting that titanium ones do so more frequently.
- If ultimate strength is the goal, steel wins. Steel has greater tensile strength than titanium and can offer more robustness, albeit at a higher weight.