Classic & Vintage - Remedial care for an ancient Brooks saddle
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08-28-04, 08:57 PM
Another item pertaining to my '70 Raleigh: The bike has spent 33 of its 34 years hanging upside-down from the rafters in a garage, safe from the elements excepting the heat of California summers. The Brooks B72 saddle looks terrific. The plating on the hairpin springs was beginning to show a bit of rust, but the leather was fine; no blemishes, not misshapen, but most likely really dry.
Now, I've never seen a new Brooks saddle, or one in optimal condition so I don't know just how supple the hide is supposed to be; I would think it should feel like the upper of a heavy work boot. This saddle has some flexibility, but precious little. I love the way it looks and sits, but I have some fear that without proper treatment, using it could ruin it. For now, I just applied a coat of mink oil to both sides of the hide and allowed it to soak in.
How would you recommend I go about treating the leather to give it back some of its youth?
Hard as a rock is a reasonable expectation for a highend leather saddle. They are
thick, deliberately stiffened and were meant to form your crotch to their shape by
extended riding. Oils and emollients will help soften the leather but this is a relative
thing to call a Brooks saddle soft. If it is not cracked and the rivets are in good
shape then what you see is not much different from the showroom seat. The seat
will slowly conform to a new shape with riding, as will the tolerance of your crotch
to the seat. It will take between 1000 and 10000miles to get a reasonable fit.
Brooks sells leather dressing called Proofide. Buy some and follow the instructions. It'll keep the leather from drying out too much, add a bit of pliability, and longevity.
There's lots of lore over Brooks saddle treatment, rivaling chain lube. Some use motor oil, some baseball glove oil, some mink oil, and so on. Some soak the saddle, some apply sparingly, and so on. As long as you don't neglect the saddle so the leather cracks, or constantly soaked with oil (or water) you'll probably be OK.
08-29-04, 12:20 AM
It would seem as though under ordinary circumstances occasional oiling would be adequate, but this is 'The Saddle Time Forgot'. I'll guarantee my sister-in-law never oiled it during its brief use, then it sat in a garage for 33 years where temperatures in summer would've routinely passed 100 degrees, and humidity was very low. It's a safe bet whatever oils or moisture were present in the hide when it was new have long since been slow-cooked out. To just pick up with normal maintenance after all that time couldn't be enough -- it'll need some sort of extra measures to catch up again.
I'm thinking it might be good to use the moulded aluminum-foil 'pan' technique and give it a thorough soak in Proofide, then go back to a normal oiling routine. The rural areas where I live are fairly 'horsey'; a saddler or tack shop might also be a good place to get some input.
An amusing footnote: My wife and her delicate posterior are no fans of Brooks saddles, preferring instead her foo-foo mattress saddle, so the B72 came off the Raleigh and directly onto my gold '68 Motobecane, where it looks much more appropriate than the gel saddle that it had when I got it. :D
I posted a response in a similiar thread here :
BTW as stated above a good brooks saddle will never be described as "soft",
comfortable yes, but not soft.
hope this helps,
Not sure why you feel compelled to soak the saddle in oil. You describe a saddle that is in good
condition after 33yrs of hanging in the garage. I hope you plan to ride from the house and to
change your shorts as soon as you finish. The furniture and car seats will not long tolerate
sitting on them after a long ride on an oil soaked saddle. Oil stains everywhere LOL Saddles
are not meant to outlast the frame. :D
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