Iím a member of the Brooks cult, and wanted to try a Brooks B-17 Select to see how it compared to a ďregularĒ Brooks. Iíd heard that the organic leather used to make this saddle is thicker and tougher---more like the leather on a Brooks Team Pro---and that these qualities produce a longer lasting saddle. ĎCourse, I heard that from Brooks, which is not exactly an unbiased source for this information.
When the saddle arrived, other than the lighter color the leather didnít strike me as noticeably thicker or different than that on the Brooks B-17s Iíve been using, which is typically the Champion Special model with large copper rivets and the chamfered sides. I decided to measure and compare the 2 saddles, and during the process I tossed in a couple other saddles as well:
1. The Brooks B-17 Select. This is touted as Brooksí finest B-17, with tough organic leather. At least one other member of this forum once wrote that Brooksí quality has declined over the years, and that the premium-priced B-17 Select is the model thatís now as good as the standard B-17 was 30 years ago.
2. An unused Brooks B-17 Champion Special. This is a step up from the standard B-17, with larger rivets and chamfered sides (BTW, hereís a neat 32-second Youtube video on how thatís done, which I stumbled across while making sure Iíd spelled ďchamferedĒ correctly).
3. An older Brooks B-17 that I bought on ebay a few months ago. I think this is circa 1980ís, but could be a little earlier than that. It has a textured surface and was supposedly OEM on a Raleigh, and may be a lower grade of leather than that sold on other B-17s at the time. Sorry for the blur; I didn't notice till after I'd taken all the pictures.
4. A Berthoud Aspin touring saddle, which I bought about the same time as the B-17 Select. Iíve heard good things about this saddle and wanted to try one.
Using calipers accurate to 0.1mm, I measured the leather thickness at 4 points around the perimeter of each saddle, and weighed the saddle using a kitchen scale that unfortunately reports weights in pounds and ounces rather than grams. Here are the results of the 4 thickness readings and the weights, from thickest to thinnest:
Berthoud Aspin: 5.5mm, 6.1mm, 6.0mm, and 5.7mm. Average = 5.82mm. Weight is 18+2/8 oz.
Brooks B-17 Select: 5.0mm, 4.8mm, 5.3mm, and 4.7mm. Average = 4.95mm. Weight is 19+3/8 oz.
Brooks B-17 Champion Special: 4.9mm, 4.2mm, 4.8mm, and 4.7mm. Average = 4.65mm. Weight is 19+2/8 oz.
Brooks B-17 c. 1980ís or 70ís: 4.7mm, 3.5mm, 4.9mm, and 4.5mm. Average = 4.40mm. Weight is 18+6/8 oz.
The average thickness of the B-17 Select was only about 6% more than that of the B-17 Champion Special, which is small and could just represent saddle-to-saddle variation. The Berthoud Aspin leather is 18% thicker than that of the B-17 Select and 25% thicker than that of the B-17 Champion Special.
I donít want to overanalyze these numbers since I had only one example of each saddle, but based solely on the thickness measurements Iím hard-pressed to justify the cost of the Select (in my case, $168 delivered) against the price of a B-17 Champion Special. I may keep it and see if it really does wear better, but I wonít buy another one until and unless I see a tangible benefit of the more expensive model. I donít expect that to happen.
The Berthoud was a late addition to the comparison, but itís impressive, with very nice, thick leather and excellent construction as far as I can tell. Part of the underlying structure is made of plastic, which until recently bothered me enough to keep me from buying one, until I realized that millions of bike riders swear by their plastic frames so maybe plastic does have its place after all. The saddle seems structurally very sound.
Iíve not mounted the B-17 Select or the Berthoud yet. I went through this exercise partly to decide whether to keep or return them. Iíll keep the Berthoud and give it a shot, but Iím not yet sure about the B-17 Select.
Does anyone interpret these results differently than I do? Does the B-17 Select leather have qualities beyond just thickness that make it a better saddle?
Below are some pictures that compare the leather thicknesses side-by-side. To my eye, in these pictures the Select leather looks noticeably thicker than the Champion Special leather, but I donít see that much difference live, and the numbers donít bear out the visual difference in the picture.
Brooks B-17 Champion Special (left) versus Brooks B-17 Select (right):
Brooks B-17 Champion Special (left) versus the 1980s Brooks B-17 (right):
Brooks B-17 Champion Special (left) versus the Berthoud Aspin (right):