Brooks saddles... whats the deal?



fixedgear14

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Jun 26, 2009
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hey all!
im new to the whole cycling thing... the bike i ride a lot of the time (ie. whenever its not broken) is my 1970's puegeot fixed gear conversion... im only a poor high school kid so i cant afford to buy one but i have heard a lot about brooks saddles, from a few different people, including my buddy at the shop, a former olympic mechanic. im hoping to have someone by me one for my upcoming birthday... is the B17 standard saddle a good one? im looking for one thats fairly cheap and i found a B17 for about $65... does anybody have one and if so, how do you like it? would it be unnecessary or overkill for a bike that is cheifly used to toy around on... im no lance armstrong, no 40 50 60 70 mile rides for me... is there something else you would recomend? these things really are as great as everyone says they are, right?
thanks a lot everyone :)
 

oldbobcat

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Aug 31, 2003
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The worship and fetishizing of Brooks B17s by old men and retro-grouches approaches idolatry. On one forum one fan even posted a photo history of the breaking in of his B17. Weird.

I liked the Brooks Pro that came on my Raleigh International because, well, that's what came on it and eventually I broke it in and, as I much later found out, the B17 was a little too wide for my hips. Later I grew tired of sitting on rivets and got a leather-covered Unicanitor (Cinelli).

There are lots of great vintage saddles out there, many brand new and in their original boxes, many costing less than Brooks B17s, and many being more comfortable (in my arrogant opinion) than Brooks B17s. Don't get me wrong, Brooks has always made excellent cycling products, but the cult-like worship of B17s brings out the iconoclast in me.
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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Great saddles are made by companies other than Brooks. Is there something wrong with your current saddle? If there's nothing wrong with it, I wouldn't change it. However, if you need a new saddle, go to an LBS.....or two....or three....and try some saddles. Don't worry that they don't say Brooks. Whether a saddle is good or not is wholly dependent on whether if fits you or not. It doesn't matter whether that saddle says Brooks, Selle San Marco, Selle Italia, Prologo, Velo, Specialized, Bontrager, or even Performnce Bike on it.

Don't fixate on Brooks. Focus on fit, instead.
 
Dec 30, 2007
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fixedgear14 said:
hey all!
im new to the whole cycling thing... the bike i ride a lot of the time (ie. whenever its not broken) is my 1970's puegeot fixed gear conversion... im only a poor high school kid so i cant afford to buy one but i have heard a lot about brooks saddles, from a few different people, including my buddy at the shop, a former olympic mechanic. im hoping to have someone by me one for my upcoming birthday... is the B17 standard saddle a good one? im looking for one thats fairly cheap and i found a B17 for about $65... does anybody have one and if so, how do you like it? would it be unnecessary or overkill for a bike that is cheifly used to toy around on... im no lance armstrong, no 40 50 60 70 mile rides for me... is there something else you would recomend? these things really are as great as everyone says they are, right?
thanks a lot everyone :)

People either love them or hate them. Doesn't seem to be a middle ground. I have tried Brooks 3 times. Swallow, Swift and B-17. They didn't work for me.
 

chas0039

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Jun 23, 2007
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I have 7 Brooks saddles and 5 are B-17 standard. First, $65 is a very good price; many sellers are over $100. I started with just one about 5 years ago and found that they are so comfortable that I even added one on my old Bianchi that I just use to commute 5 miles a day.

Many who don't like Brooks don't give them enough time (they take 200-400- miles to break in) but I have found nothing that is so reliably adapted to my sit bones. They also have a very good customer service department and a history going back 100 years of making quality products. I can endorse them totally.
 

alfeng

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Jul 23, 2005
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People either love them or hate them. Doesn't seem to be a middle ground. I have tried Brooks 3 times. Swallow, Swift and B-17. They didn't work for me.
Peter, FWIW, I've thought about the general love-hate situation with regard to Brooks saddles because I can't believe that ONE of them hasn't worked for you ...

So, while this is probably stating the obvious, I think that it is worth noting (particularly, for other people) that the distance between the top of a Brooks leather saddle and most plastic saddles is significantly greater ... ditto for Wright, Lycett, and Fujita saddles ... even more so for Ideale saddles.

So, a direct swap of a Brooks saddle for a plastic saddle without lowering the seatpost will definitely result in an uncomfortable ride if the bike's fit has been previously optimized for a particular rider and I suspect THAT is a reason that some other people have immediately found a Brooks/-type saddle to be uncomfortable.

Of course, that may not be your situation/problem because even people who are anatomically similar will have different preferences ... my brother still prefers to use a Cinelli Unicanitor saddle, but I never thought it was a comfortable saddle and my preferred plastic saddles have always been San Marco, but not all San Marco saddles.

___​


For the OP -- leather saddles require periodic maintenance (I use SnoSeal) but, they can last you a lifetime ... so-called "plastic" saddles wear out because the construction involves a thin layer of leather (or, vinyl) over a (thin) layer of foam (which can eventually break down) which covers a plastic shell.

Regardless, there is a HUGE weight penalty for even the lightest Brooks saddle which many people don't want to add to their bike.
 

oldbobcat

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Aug 31, 2003
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alfeng said:
Peter, FWIW, I've thought about the general love-hate situation with regard to Brooks saddles because I can't believe that ONE of them hasn't worked for you ...

What was I just talking about?

Here are some reasons for not using Brooks saddles, or any other traditional leather hammock saddle. They're too heavy, too short, the rivets are too hard, they sag when they get old, the side skirts spread when the top finally gets comfortable, they require too much care (especially when they get wet). I can cite just as many reasons for not using my favorite saddles, but they're still my favorites.

I'm sure you get the idea.
 

alfeng

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Jul 23, 2005
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oldbobcat said:
What was I just talking about?

Here are some reasons for not using Brooks saddles, or any other traditional leather hammock saddle. They're too heavy, too short, the rivets are too hard, they sag when they get old, the side skirts spread when the top finally gets comfortable, they require too much care (especially when they get wet). I can cite just as many reasons for not using my favorite saddles, but they're still my favorites.

I'm sure you get the idea.
Your remarks describe legitimate complaints against using a leather saddle AND ALSO a real tragedy that inflicted many leather saddles in the past (and hopefully, less frequently, now) -- while treating a leather saddle with neatsfoot oil is the fastest way to break in a leather saddle (i.e., one of the two-or-three ways to end up with a "hammock saddle"), the use of neatsfoot oil (and, mink oil to name something else which should be considered verboten when treating a leather saddle) will subsequently destroy the saddle in the manner you described.

FWIW. I see the maintenance of a leather saddle being significantly less than the maintenace required for the bike's drivetrain AND, certainly, maintaining a leather saddle requires less time than changing the handlebar tape once-a-year (or, at whatever interval a person change his/her handlebar tape) ...

Don't tell me you're still using the same tape that the bars were originally wrapped with!?!

When it rains, well, put a plastic grocery bag over it!

BTW. I hope you aren't inferring that 'I' am fetishizing or worshipping leather saddles!

I was simply trying to postulate why many people find leather saddles to be uncomfortable to the point of 'hating' them ... that is, the discomfort may be due to the installation and not the saddle, itself.

In the end, some saddles ARE more comfortable than others for some people ...

For some people the saddle(s) they buy are a fashion statement (nothing wrong with that) whether they are leather OR (so-called) plastic as much as for "fit" -- to each his/(her) own!
 

chas0039

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Jun 23, 2007
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alfeng said:
...(and, mink oil to name something else which should be considered verboten when treating a leather saddle) will subsequently destroy the saddle in the manner you described.

Just curious, I know mink oil is a treatment for leather so what about it is bad for the Brooks saddle?
 

fixedgear14

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Jun 26, 2009
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im still using the 30 or so year old tape on my bike.. its falling off and bloody uncomfortable... that another thing i should get done... my hands sometimes slip off of it too, not very safe
 

fixedgear14

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Jun 26, 2009
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well i deffinately need a new saddle... i just gor back from a 6 or 7 mile ride and my a$$ is killing me... once again, just like everything else on the bike, 30 or 35 years old, falling apart, no padding... ill have to try a bunch of different saddles... thanks for your help :)
 

alfeng

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Jul 23, 2005
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chas0039 said:
Just curious, I know mink oil is a treatment for leather so what about it is bad for the Brooks saddle?
Mink oil is obviously great for treating some things made with leather ...

However, mink oil will eventually soften the leather (or, keep a leather item soft), although at a presumably slower rate than a saddle that has been treated with neatsfoot oil (mainly, because people who use neatsfoot oil "soak" the leather with the oil -- THAT was probably a brilliant idea by some bike mechanics who had to prepare a new saddle for a rider for an upcoming race because the rider's regular saddle gave-up-the-ghost for whatever reason) ...

You really want a leather saddle to remain firm, IMO, with only a limited amount of yield ... the (perhaps) extreme, contemporary example of a firm saddle would be those ultra-light, unpadded, carbon fiber saddles.

Equestrians & Cowboys don't ride on a padded saddle ... and, in the latter case, supposedly, a Cowboy would spend the whole day in the saddle.

Obviously, a brand new BROOKS/-type saddle is generally rock hard, or seems to be ... some yield is probably a good thing; but, if a hard surface was difficult to sit on, then people would have a tough time watching their favorite teams in most sports stadiums ...

Of course, some people embrace the notion that the leather on a leather saddle should have a greater level of softness. They may be right ... I don't know ... I definitely don't agree with that particular philosophy ...

BTW. I don't know what a Rebour treated Ideale saddle was rubbed/treated with OR what Brooks is using for their "pre-softened" saddles, but I guess I would be wary of either.
 

alfeng

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Jul 23, 2005
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fixedgear14 said:
im still using the 30 or so year old tape on my bike.. its falling off and bloody uncomfortable... that another thing i should get done... my hands sometimes slip off of it too, not very safe
YIKES! Yes, you should think about changing the handlebar tape on your Peugeot!

BTW. Although the trend in the past 12+ years has been to begin the wrapping from the end of the handlebar & wrap toward the center (and, I can see some advantages in doing so), I still begin the wrapping near the handlebar's center section & wrap toward the ends.
 

alfeng

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Jul 23, 2005
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fixedgear14 said:
well i deffinately need a new saddle... i just gor back from a 6 or 7 mile ride and my a$$ is killing me... once again, just like everything else on the bike, 30 or 35 years old, falling apart, no padding... ill have to try a bunch of different saddles... thanks for your help :)
Chat with your buddy some more about what he thinks the pluses & minuses to using a leather saddle vs. a "plastic" saddle are ... I presume at least on of his bikes has a leather saddle.

BTW. ONE reason that people who tour, in particular, prefer a leather saddle is because a leather saddle dissipates heat better -- the heat transfers through the leather whereas it is 'trapped' by the foam layer & the base of a "plastic" saddle. So, that is a practical reason why some people choose to use a leather saddle.

FYI. The B17 comes in two widths -- regular & "narrow" ... the narrow is as wide-or-wider than most regular saddles which are currently sold. The width of the Brooks Professional is in between the width of the two B17 saddle models.
 

chas0039

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Jun 23, 2007
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alfeng said:
However, mink oil will eventually soften the leather...

I have been using mink oil in a solid hard stick, much like chapstick. Do you think this type of application is a problem, or are you concerned about the oil treatment where they just soak the leather?
 

KDC1956

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Jul 5, 2009
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I use the B17 Special saddle I love mine would not change for anything.They get better the more you ride on it.
 

alfeng

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Jul 23, 2005
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chas0039 said:
I have been using mink oil in a solid hard stick, much like chapstick. Do you think this type of application is a problem, or are you concerned about the oil treatment where they just soak the leather?
If you never removed the original, shiny "glaze" on the outer surface of the saddle OR if it hasn't worn away, yet, then the penetration of the mink oil you applied would be less than if you had. The "glaze" is removed by using something like '0000' grade, finishing steel wool.

I think that only saddles which have been soaked in an(y) 'oil' are in jeopardy of a shortened life.

I'm NOT the final arbiter of how a leather saddle should be treated ... or, even how the leather should subsequently look ...

In that regard, I think that if you go to (or, have been to) an historical museum and look at some old cavalry equipment, you will usually see that the leather has a nice, soft shine to it that I presume is partially the result of rubbing the leather with beeswax after treatment & prior to buffing ... THAT is the appearance that I think a properly treated bicycle saddle should probably have, too; so, what I presume is a 19th Century treatment for maintaining the leather is essentially what I am trying to work toward when I handle my leather bicycle saddles -- so far, so good.
 
Dec 30, 2007
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alfeng said:
Peter, FWIW, I've thought about the general love-hate situation with regard to Brooks saddles because I can't believe that ONE of them hasn't worked for you ...

So, while this is probably stating the obvious, I think that it is worth noting (particularly, for other people) that the distance between the top of a Brooks leather saddle and most plastic saddles is significantly greater ... ditto for Wright, Lycett, and Fujita saddles ... even more so for Ideale saddles.

So, a direct swap of a Brooks saddle for a plastic saddle without lowering the seatpost will definitely result in an uncomfortable ride if the bike's fit has been previously optimized for a particular rider and I suspect THAT is a reason that some other people have immediately found a Brooks/-type saddle to be uncomfortable.

Of course, that may not be your situation/problem because even people who are anatomically similar will have different preferences ... my brother still prefers to use a Cinelli Unicanitor saddle, but I never thought it was a comfortable saddle and my preferred plastic saddles have always been San Marco, but not all San Marco saddles.

___​


Ya gotta make the distances for the Brooks the same as the old saddle? GadZooks, what was I thinking? Of COURSE they didn't work(sarcasm intended).

Yes, yes I tried to duplicate the same position. The last wasn't my butt that wasn't comfy, the last made my back hurt. Back pain like I experienced after I broke my back after being hit by a pickup truck from behind while riding. It took 5 years to finally get thru that pain only to have it come back when I tried the Swift. None of the others were sore butt show stoppers, Just not comfy, like the Rolls was so off they came.

Brooks seems to get the same religious zeal I see with 'bent riders. Works for some, didn't work for me.