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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 08-24-13, 11:04 PM   #1
bragi
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Brooks saddle question

I put a Brooks B 17 saddle on my bike a couple of weeks ago. It's a beautiful saddle, and, right out of the box, it's not all that uncomfortable for short rides of less than 5 miles or so, one way, but on longer rides one definitely feels the firmness. I did not put any goop on the saddle, nor do I intend to. (I also won't be putting it in the oven, banging on it with a hammer, or steaming it with hot, wet towels.)

So far, I've put about 200 miles on the saddle, and it's still almost as firm as the day I first put it on my bike. I'm willing to be patient, but man, this saddle is stubborn! (I won't even describe the arduous adjustment process. This is clearly a 19th century piece of technology...) So here's my question: if you want to break in a B 17 the old fashioned way, just by riding it, how long does it take? I'm hoping 500 miles, but right now, I'm thinking it'll be close to 1000 miles before I dare to actually do a tour on this thing...
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Old 08-24-13, 11:17 PM   #2
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500 to 1000 seems to be the norm. But just so you know, some people "never" get a brooks bottom. There have been several threads on the subject with some giving up and getting a Selle An atomica because they wanted leather or changing to the Brooks Imperial. And from what I understand if the B-17 doesn't break in some have sent the saddle to Selle An atomica and having them modify the saddle with a cut out.
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Old 08-24-13, 11:18 PM   #3
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I'm wondering if it still needs more adjustment. Once adjusted properly, my B17s felt great and I never wanted them to be squishier.
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Old 08-24-13, 11:22 PM   #4
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1000 miles? Man your butt could break before that damn saddle would! So maybe put the goop and the hot wet towels on your own ass?!
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Old 08-24-13, 11:45 PM   #5
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See, the thing is you are SUPPOSED to use the Proofhide. And I did put mine in the oven at low setting for about 30 minutes to warm it up and it soaked the Proofhide up as fast as I could put it on and under it. Mine is a B17N. It is beginning to break in but not sure how long it will take. I am beginning to think it might take a while.

LC
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Old 08-25-13, 01:03 AM   #6
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It took me 800 km to break in my first Brooks. My second was still not quite broken in at 1000 km, so we did the washcloth trick and it was broken in within a few km. For my third, we did the washcloth trick after about 100 km, and it was broken in within a few km.

A couple additional comments ...

1) The saddle should never become soft. It should always be firm ... hard.

2) If you don't want to do any of the break-in tricks (and the ONLY one I would advise is the washcloth trick ... do not do any of the others), go for a ride in a downpour.

A Brooks saddle is worth being patient for.
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Old 08-25-13, 03:41 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Loose Chain View Post
See, the thing is you are SUPPOSED to use the Proofhide. And I did put mine in the oven at low setting for about 30 minutes to warm it up and it soaked the Proofhide up as fast as I could put it on and under it. Mine is a B17N. It is beginning to break in but not sure how long it will take. I am beginning to think it might take a while.

LC
I am also in the process of breaking in a B17N. Loose chain, What kind of bars are you using? What is your saddle/handlebar height difference? Do you have the nose pointed up?
Like the OP, I am experiencing some discomfort. However, +1 on the proofide, it not only helps break it in, but apparently adds a degree of waterproofing.
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Old 08-25-13, 09:56 AM   #8
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I broke in a B17 once by riding it until my butt got appropriately readjusted. It took a few hundred miles. Then I sold the bike (and the saddle) which was a dumb move. I'm thinking of buying a new Brooks B17 but I really, really don't want to break one in again.
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Old 08-25-13, 11:18 AM   #9
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My experience is that comfort with a brooks is very sensitive to the tilt (mainly up). I would try some very tiny tilting up of your saddle and see if it improves your comfort.
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Old 08-25-13, 12:02 PM   #10
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i'm breaking in my new B17. i went at it with plenty of Bag Balm when it showed up, and now have Proofhide for when it dries out. very comfy on the sit bones, but i'm still dialing in height and tilt to minimize perineum pressure.

but i only do 100mi/wk and it's only been a week.
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Old 08-25-13, 12:14 PM   #11
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And I thought the Bag Balm went on You, not the tanned Cowhide..
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Old 08-25-13, 01:39 PM   #12
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Not treating the saddle would be like trying to play baseball with a brand-new glove. Use some Proofhide, neatsfoot oil, mink oil or something.
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Old 08-25-13, 03:16 PM   #13
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My Brooks B-17 broke in over the course of about 500 miles. But by 200 miles it did start to feel better. That said, my commute is 22 miles each way. So to me the break in seemed to go very fast. Indeed, out of the box I thought it was hard but not intolerable. I now have about 2000 miles on it and it actually got too soft so I tightened it a bit.

Also, I followed Brooke's advice and added proof-hide to the saddle once a week for the first three weeks. Not sure if that accelerated break in.

I also had a B-17 narrow on a road bike. After 200 miles I replaced it with a synthetic saddle. To me the B-17 narrow on a road bike pushed into my taint too much and was unbearable.
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Old 08-25-13, 03:24 PM   #14
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Is the nose of the saddle tilted just slightly up? If not, I suggest doing that. That's how they are most comfortable. Play around with the tilt until you get it exactly right for you.
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Old 08-25-13, 03:33 PM   #15
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With proper treatment, a Brook saddle will last a lifetime. (And maybe your grandkids lifetime.) I remember seeing a picture of a Brook from the late 1800s. It look like it was almost new and could be used today. I can't say that about any other brand.
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Old 08-25-13, 03:42 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I'm wondering if it still needs more adjustment. Once adjusted properly, my B17s felt great and I never wanted them to be squishier.
+1

All of mine felt great from the moment they were adjusted properly. Brooks seem to need a different adjustment than other saddles, which for me (and some others) means that the nose of the saddle needs to be up slightly. I also find the fore/aft adjustment is very sensitive, even small differences have a big effect on comfort.

There are also folks who are never comfortable on the saddle, and they always have problems from the very start. The fact that your having problems with even short rides of more than five miles may mean your in this camp. I would try some adjustments of the saddle position and if you don't find it comfortable for 10-20 mile rides from the start you may want to sell it (they do have great resale value) and try a different saddle. There are other leather saddle makers that you may find more comfortable; Gilles Berthoud and Selle Atomica
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Old 08-25-13, 03:57 PM   #17
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Contrary to popular belief a Brooks saddle does not "soften" as what I think people that have never ridden a Brooks think.

The saddle will start to mold to your sit bones. This does provide more comfort and support but it does not soften. It will not get all nice and soft like a well worn baseball glove.

For me, my Brooks are perfectly comfortable right out of the box and get a bit better with some age.
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Old 08-25-13, 04:07 PM   #18
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And I thought the Bag Balm went on You, not the tanned Cowhide..
both! great stuff!
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Old 08-25-13, 05:36 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Rest_assured View Post
I am also in the process of breaking in a B17N. Loose chain, What kind of bars are you using? What is your saddle/handlebar height difference? Do you have the nose pointed up?
Like the OP, I am experiencing some discomfort. However, +1 on the proofide, it not only helps break it in, but apparently adds a degree of waterproofing.
I am new to Brooks saddles. I have mine set with either level or a slight upward (nose up) tilt. My Cross Check is set with the bar tops approximately four (4) inches below the saddle top.

LC
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Old 08-25-13, 07:00 PM   #20
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I am new to Brooks saddles. I have mine set with either level or a slight upward (nose up) tilt. My Cross Check is set with the bar tops approximately four (4) inches below the saddle top.

LC
Thanks for the info. on my ride this morning i tried a few different adjustments, and i think i am getting closer to the sweet spot.

A note for new Brooks users- i have found that i over compensated the upward tilt- after reading in many places that the nose should be tilted upwards, i had mine adjusted with the nose up slightly too far. for me- just slightly above level seems to feel better.
With regards to Fore/Aft position, does anybody use a specific algorithm to determine this? E.g. i believe the 'knee parallel to ball of foot while pedal is horizontal' method is used quite often for a lot of road bikes. Does that rule stand with the slightly different anatomy of brook's saddles?
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Old 08-26-13, 05:45 AM   #21
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Mine was 200 kilometers like brand new. Then one day rain poured on my bike while it was parked outside, without cover. 30 minute rain. Then, without letting it dry (just after an hour) i rode the bike home, some 12 kilometers. The next morning I saw it had formed in the shape of my butt.

Wouldn't recommend this method - i try to keep my leather seat away from rain, but it did work.

Proofhide was put on it when it was new and will be re-applied this autumn.
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Old 08-26-13, 06:29 AM   #22
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Off topic. All you Brooks users - do you have any problems with the colour/stain on the saddle rubbing off on your clothes? Specifically the black saddles? Only relevant if you ride in clothes that are not cycling specific, such as jeans or shorts.
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Old 08-26-13, 08:34 AM   #23
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There are other leather saddle makers...
Indeed there are!



Persons
Selle Anatomica
Berthoud
Tops
Selle Monte Grappa




Gyes
Cardiff, made by Gyes
Velo Orange, made by Gyes
Zimbale, made by Gyes
Origin 8, made by Gyes


Torelli
Dia Compe
Spa
Papillionaire
Rivet


(I suspect the Torelli, Dia Compe, Spa, Papillionaire and Rivet saddles are also manufactured to specification by Gyes.)
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Old 08-26-13, 09:08 AM   #24
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It's Proofide, not Proofhide.

My honey B17 took more than a year to get comfortable, and that happened after I rolled a baseball bat back and forth on it about fifty times. That was enough to break down the fibers a little and riding did the rest; Proofide did pretty much nothing.

Staining? - Absolutely, I occasionally ride in white shorts...and the good news is the stains usually come out in the wash. Brown/honey saddles and white shorts...not a great fashion moment for long rides.

Selle An-Atomica - Not the same as a Brooks whatsoever, On my list it's the most uncomfortable saddle I've ever ridden. Not to say it's not a great saddle for many, but just because you do fine on a B17 doesn't mean you'll love the An-Atomica.
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Old 08-26-13, 10:38 AM   #25
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Off topic. All you Brooks users - do you have any problems with the colour/stain on the saddle rubbing off on your clothes? Specifically the black saddles? Only relevant if you ride in clothes that are not cycling specific, such as jeans or shorts.
You will get a grayish discoloration on non-black pants that should wash out. It should be common knowledge that this is why traditional cycling shorts are black.
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