Touring - Brooks saddle for women
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02-14-10, 11:20 AM
My wife is considering a Brooks saddle for her Surly Cross Check. She has problems with her feet going numb and we've tried must other potential solutions to this problem with limited success, including bike fittings. I have a B-17 on my single speed and it's the most outrageously comfortable saddle I've ever had. My question is whether to get the standard B-17 or the women's model. Also, go with the cut-out or not? My wife is 5'7" and about 170-180lbs. If we went to a shop that does the Specialized fitting with the "memory foam" stuff, what would that tell us with regard to a Brooks?
Appreciate any advice so we don't spend $100+ on another piece of equipment that doesn't fit.
My wife uses this saddle since 2006 and never had a problem Brooks Champion Flyer S Womens leather Saddle (http://www.brooksengland.com/en/Shop_ProductPage.aspx?cat=saddles+-+touring+%26+trekking&prod=Flyer+S)
check out the reviews
Taking one question at a time:
1. My question is whether to get the standard B-17 or the women's model.
The main differences between the standard and women's models are that the women's model is wider by 7mm and shorter by 35mm. Measure the width of her current saddle and compare with the width of the Brooks. If she likes wider saddles in general, she might want to go wide with the Brooks (but certainly don't rule out the standard B17). Wider saddles also go better when you're more upright (sitting on the saddle rather than leaning forward). If there's still any question, you already have a B17 on hand, so why not swap it to her bike for a day, dial it in, and see how it goes? She's not going to un-break the saddle for you, certainly not with a day's ride.
2. Also, go with the cut-out or not?
If that certain sort of pressure isn't an issue with her current setup, I don't see the need to do the cutout to solve a problem that doesn't exist. Even then, if she doesn't like the non-cutout version because of other reasons, I don't know that the cutout version would be any better for her.
3. If we went to a shop that does the Specialized fitting with the "memory foam" stuff, what would that tell us with regard to a Brooks?
You'll have to dial in any difference that any other saddle presents, Brooks won't be any different. At best, a fitting gives you a rough guesstimate of what might work for you. You'll still need to use your personal preferences and experience to get the exact configuration that you want. (See http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm.)
One caution: I can't find the article now, but Sheldon Brown said that, in his experience, women either loved Brooks saddles or hated them (with the grand majority hating them). Saddles are really a personal preference sort of thing, and Brooks saddles are not for everybody.
One other comment: are you sure that the foot numbness issue isn't a shoe problem or a gearing problem? Maybe she needs to have a little looser shoe, or maybe she needs to gear down and spin more so that she's not forcing so much pressure on her feet.
Apologies to everybody, I thought that Sheldon Brown said that he thought women either loved or hated Brooks saddles (with most hating them). However, I was really thinking about Peter White's advice (from http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/bersaddles.asp, which is mainly discussing the new Berthoud leather saddle but which also applies to Brooks saddles):
It's important to understand, that for women, a full leather saddle is either very comfortable, or a medieval torture device. Most saddles designed by and for women have a cutout in the center for a lady's tender bits. So, depending on exactly how the lady in question is constructed, she may love or hate this saddle. There's only one way to tell, and that's to try it. But there is no return possible on a used saddle, so it could be an expensive trial. You are of course welcome to try one here at the shop. It takes only a few seconds to know if it's suitable for you.
A good rule of thumb is, the more miles you ride, the firmer the saddle you'll prefer. This applies equally to men and women. Sixty miles on one of these thick soft gushy saddles can be brutal. When your gluteus muscles are in good shape, you'll want the firm but flexible surface to sit on. And a leather saddle provides just that. The issue for women is not the firm rear section of a leather saddle, it's the lack of a cutout in the center. Cutting a hole in the center of a leather saddle isn't necessarily the solution, since the edges of the leather can then irritate you.
Bottom line is this: If you try one of these and your middle "tender bits" area is fine, but you feel like your sit bones are on something too hard, most likely you'll end up very happy with it, since the leather will soften up a bit, and you'll cause the leather to conform to your shape fairly quickly. But if your tender bits scream in agony, forget about using one of these. If my history selling saddles to women is a reliable guide, the majority of women will not like this saaddle, just as they don't like Brooks saddles. But, some women will love them, and never want anything else.
numb feet I'd look to another source of the problem than the seat. What kind of shoes, is this something she can walk off before it gets to be a problem?
02-14-10, 05:29 PM
I'm glad she's considering a woman-specific saddle. Women tend to have wider sit bones than men. They also need a shorter nose n the saddle to minimize soft tissue damage. You can help her measure her sit bones, that may be one factor that will help her decide whether the Brooks saddles are the right width for her. Here's a link to a page that describes how you measure sit bones. http://www.epicidiot.com/sports/bicycle_saddles.htm Some bicycle shops also have a new device that measures your sit bones when you sit on it. Fortunately, there are more and more saddle selections becoming available for women. I still remember how damned uncomfortable the unisex leather saddle (i.e., men's saddle) on the Peugeot I rode in undergraduate school was. It was too narrow and the nose was too long.
02-14-10, 08:08 PM
For years, my wife refused to consider "one of those hard leather brooks saddles".
Long story........finally I just put a regular B-17 on her bike for her to try a couple of weeks.
When I offered to take the Brooks back, she said thanks for the new seat. I bought a new one for myself.
My wife sounds similar in size your wife. A couple years later she got a new touring bike- wouldn't ride it out of the shop until it had a new regular B-17 installed. She had ridden that bike thousands of km since is complete comfort.
IMPORTANT- the B-17 works better if handle bar and seat are approximately level.
Some folks think a pre-aged Brooks is easier to break in - might consider that.
02-15-10, 04:53 PM
Is she riding a regular B-17 or the women's model? That is sort of my dilemma. Another poster suggested putting my B-17 on her bike which is something I hadn't thought of (duh). I hate to mess with mine though because I've got the angle and everything just how I like it. May be the best way to go though. We have tried a number of shoes. She currently has a pair of PI X-alps and some Keen sandals which she says are comfortable. She does have arch problems. Most of the time she has to stop after 25-30 miles or it becomes painful for her. I'd just really like to see her be able to ride as far as she likes in comfort (she would like to go further. It really bums her out when she has to stop!)
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