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  1. #1
    Council of the Elders billydonn's Avatar
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    Brooks B-17- A Break-in Diary- with pics

    Mission: Prepare the LeMond (and me) for a 300 mile, five day ride this June. Finding an optimum long-distance saddle for this is critical, and I'm assuming that a 1 1/2 to 2 hour saddle (my normal ride time) is not necessarily satisfactory for a 5 to 6 hour ride.

    Personnel: The "subject" is 61 and weighs 225ish and has ridden 2800 miles since taking up cycling last June. 210 or even 200 pounds is very possible by June. Also he is an equipment wonk and enjoys trying out different stuff.

    Strategy: As I ride longer in preparation for the June trip I am auditioning saddles and this riding is a good time to break in one of those fabled Brooks thingies that send so many (but clearly not all) riders into rhapsodic celebrations. Saddle being replaced, for now, is a Terry Fly Gel that has been good for riding in the 1 to 2 hour range.

    So the B-17 arrived and was installed yesterday, March 19. This thread will be a day-by-day report on the break-in. I will add new posts as I ride my way to comfort and ecstasy- or not. I have followed the Brooks instructions using Proofide and did not sauna the saddle for a week, radiate it in the microwave, or soak it in a vat of pig brine.

    Episode one- 22.8 miles. The initial feel of the saddle is very hard but its size and shape feel pretty good, even without a cutout. Last 20 minutes of this ride were becoming pretty uncomfortable on the tender parts, but nothing horrible. No sign at all of the hamstring cramping I am prone to... could just be nutrition or some unknown interactive factor.

    Episode two- 23.2 miles. Dropped the saddle nose a little (it was up noticeably) and nudged the saddle a half-a-tad forward. Pretty much the same experience as yesterday: first hour is fine but getting a bit "pressy" on the tender bits near the end but nothing too bad. No sign of ecstasy just yet. Still no hamstring cramps... maybe the B-17 is taller and I'm getting a little better leg extension? Evening examination of the saddle seems to detect minor flexiness developing in the leather. Aesthetically I really like the looks of the B-17.
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    Last edited by billydonn; 03-22-09 at 01:00 PM.

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  2. #2
    Senior Member snaproll's Avatar
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    This will be interesting.

    I just purchased a Brooks and put it on the bike last Tuesday in preparation for a 30 mile ride Wednesday. That ride got transformed into a 100 mile ride and I can tell you that's no way to break in a Brooks.

    "No sign of ecstasy just yet." LOL. Me either.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    OK. Black Brooks B-17 on a blue LeMond. Check.
    You show your exquistely fine taste and good judgement

    Mine originally went on a blue LeMond, as well (my, now departed, '07 Reno)
    When I sold that bike, the Brooks did not go with it. No. No.
    It went on to my CF Giant OCR c2. Oh! The heresy.

    I now have close to 3000 miles on that B-17 and when I saddle up for a ride, I can feel my bony bits settle in ever so nicely. The perfect combination of "give" and support.

    I can't wait for the B-67 on my Jamis (oh! even more heresy!) to get there. It will.

    Enjoy the ride.
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  4. #4
    Council of the Elders billydonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snaproll View Post
    This will be interesting.

    I just purchased a Brooks and put it on the bike last Tuesday in preparation for a 30 mile ride Wednesday. That ride got transformed into a 100 mile ride and I can tell you that's no way to break in a Brooks.

    "No sign of ecstasy just yet." LOL. Me either.
    100 miles on first ride! I assume you are currently icing down your tenders!

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  5. #5
    Senior Member Saltybeagle's Avatar
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    I just got the B17 imperial last week, first ride was 15 miles adjusting tilt, still need to move nose a touch up, i slide forward a bit. My right sit bone was tender.

    I proofide underside as directed before first ride and again a week later.

    I kept the old selle gel on its seat post a got a new thompson for the brooks, going out Saturday, maybe 20 miles. Will adjust saddle forward - backwards and post height on next ride.

  6. #6
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    FWIW, I have three B-17s, and I've found the break-in difficulty to be greatly exaggerated. They get better with age, but all of mine, plus a Pro I've had for at least 20 years, have been pretty good right from the start. Setup is critical, though, at least for me. A millimeter or two of tilt makes a difference.

  7. #7
    Recovering mentalist Randochap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by billydonn View Post
    100 miles on first ride! I assume you are currently icing down your tenders!
    I put a metric century on my B-17, first ride. No problems at all. 18 months later, it's fully broken in.

    In the interim, I've ridden a 300km day, a 220 km day tour and several other 200km brevets. No issues, besides the usual aches and pains of long days in the saddle. Most importantly, no sores or chafing.

    I also have a Pro I've been riding for 32 years.
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  8. #8
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    This should be interesting. From my experiences riding two B-17s and a Flyer over the last 12 years, I think you'll need to keep playing around with the positioning of the saddle until you find the magic spot where most of your weight is carried by your sit bones on the wide rear section of the saddle and there is very little pressure on the "tender parts".
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  9. #9
    Senior Moment bikegeek57's Avatar
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    Nice cats. You got me hooked on the details and clarity of your reporting. I will stay tuned to this channel. Thanks!

  10. #10
    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    I had trouble with my first Brooks, but I went and bought another one. That one broke and I bought another one. Since I bought the new one, I fixed the one that broke and now I have 2 great saddles. I should be getting my Brooks Swift any day now and I'm looking forward to it. I did find the sweet spot after all this playing around and it sure is nice. I took the measurement of the other saddle before it broke and set the new one up the same way and I didn't get any pain at all. I think the Swift may be a little different to set up, but I'm going to set it up the same and see. I set it up with 4mm nose up and it works great.
    George

  11. #11
    Council of the Elders billydonn's Avatar
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    Episope 3 Prelude

    Episode 3 Prelude

    Thanks for the input everyone. SaiKaiTai, you are clearly a discerning judge of fine bicycle flesh! If I read feedback correctly, it seems that many feel that complete comfort should arrive pretty quickly and not require excessive break-in (wish now I had included a poll on how long it would take). Based on your collective input I have nudged the saddle forward more, keeping her about level or maybe slightly tilted up (pics). I have always had a tendency to slide forward off of all my saddles, so I will be wary of that and will feel free to fiddle and adjust often and include details in my reporting. Clearly most of you are veterans of very long rides by my standards, but we are what we are I suppose.
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    Last edited by billydonn; 03-22-09 at 12:59 PM.

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  12. #12
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    It took me about a thousand miles to finally break my B-17 in, and wouldn't trade it for anything - except maybe another honey B-17........

  13. #13
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velo Dog View Post
    FWIW, I have three B-17s, and I've found the break-in difficulty to be greatly exaggerated. They get better with age, but all of mine, plus a Pro I've had for at least 20 years, have been pretty good right from the start. Setup is critical, though, at least for me. A millimeter or two of tilt makes a difference.
    Not quite the content I was expecting- thank goodness.

    Velo dog make a very good point that applies to all saddles. Set up is critical for comfort.
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  14. #14
    Council of the Elders billydonn's Avatar
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    Episode 3- 33.4 miles- (ride time= 2:32). Everyone please keep in mind that this is a long ride for me. I have done dozens of 20+ milers, but few rides over thirty. Conditions: near ideal... 65 degrees, sunny, little wind until a modest headwind shows up on the ten-mile return home. My legs and lungs feel just great. I take a short break for water on the MUP by the Missouri River at 1:10 ride time- I am not uncomfortable at all. At about 1:30 ride time (about 20 miles) I arrive at the Marina and have a Cliff bar on the pier... still no real discomfort from the saddle.

    At about the 2:00 riding time mark I am in a mild, but annoying, headwind and really starting to search around on the saddle for a comfy place for the tender parts. I work on pushing back to get the tush on the wide part of the saddle. I promise myself I will take a brief break at 2:10 due to the moderate discomfort I'm feeling. This discomfort somehow passes, and no I do not need to stop... at 2:32 I am back at the vehicle. I don't feel too bad. With a short rest I know I could go longer. For the third ride in a row I have had nary a hint of a hamstring cramp!

    Thoughts on the B-17: I've spent almost six hours in the saddle now and ecstasy/nirvana is not yet in sight. But I am not even close to saying this saddle will not work for me. The pressure I have felt on the tenders (where my saddle cutout was on the Terry Fly Gel) seems to be taking longer to show up. The saddle leather may be starting to soften up a little bit. I am going to try to get another nudge forward on the saddle position before tomorrow's ride, when I will try to get some pics of episode four of this science project.

    Postscript: three hours after ride my tenders are not at all sore. FWIW: despite my age regular checkups have shown no prostate issues at all.
    Last edited by billydonn; 03-22-09 at 12:59 PM.

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  15. #15
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    If you feel the nose of the saddle, it might need to be lowered a tad. Are you able to stay in one place on the saddle now, without sliding either direction?

  16. #16
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    I've got a B-66 on my beach cruiser which fits me perfectly.I just put my new Flyer Special on my townie commuter and I am in love with it also. The tilt of the seat is critical. I start with the nose tilted too greatly and keep adjusting tilt down till no pressure is felt on the tea bags. If I concentrate on relaxing my butt muscles, the pain disappears. Relax,pedal,bliss.

  17. #17
    Council of the Elders billydonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wanderer View Post
    If you feel the nose of the saddle, it might need to be lowered a tad. Are you able to stay in one place on the saddle now, without sliding either direction?
    Today I was still sliding forward on the saddle just a bit. So.. I've just adjusted the saddle forward about 1/8 inch and also dropped the nose just a tad. Tomorrow is another day! (If and when I get this puppy dialed in I think I'm going to get another seatpost for when I want to use another saddle... someone suggested that above and I like the idea.)

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  18. #18
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by billydonn View Post
    Today I was still sliding forward on the saddle just a bit. So.. I've just adjusted the saddle forward about 1/8 inch and also dropped the nose just a tad. Tomorrow is another day! (If and when I get this puppy dialed in I think I'm going to get another seatpost for when I want to use another saddle... someone suggested that above and I like the idea.)
    Brooks saddles are very slick when new and the tendency to slide forward is high. For this reason, many people, including myself, tilt the nose up a few degrees more at first and then lower it as the saddle becomes less slippery.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  19. #19
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    Sliding forward is very apparent if you sit up and ride no-handed, for instance. I adjust my saddle tilt to where I no longer slide forward when doing this. Of course, you don't ride the bike sitting straight up but this method of adjusting saddle tilt has always worked for me and it feels comfortable under normal riding position.
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  20. #20
    Junior Member co treker's Avatar
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    I was given adrand new, never mounted, B 17 that is at least 35 years old and in perfect condition. My other Brooks I bought in '84 and am still riding on. That one has brass rivets that I keep polished with the "bottom of my bike shorts". I do not remember what the break-in period was like as that was a while ago. I am looking foreward to the experience, all the more after reading this post . Thanx for the topic.

  21. #21
    Senior Member howsteepisit's Avatar
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    I am in the process of breaking in a Brooks Pro, I have a B-17 that I have had for a while. The B-17 really got nicely broke in in a few hundred miles, and just gets nicer. The pro on the other hand after a few hundred miles, is still brick-like. It is not miserable but it ain't the B-17 either. What I cannot understand is why Brooks claims the leather is the same for both, but the Pros are so much harder and take so much longer to break in? Is it punishment for the old time racer wanta-bes who used to get the pro when they really should have gotten the B-17??
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  22. #22
    Senior Member tzracer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by howsteepisit View Post
    I am in the process of breaking in a Brooks Pro, I have a B-17 that I have had for a while. The B-17 really got nicely broke in in a few hundred miles, and just gets nicer. The pro on the other hand after a few hundred miles, is still brick-like. It is not miserable but it ain't the B-17 either. What I cannot understand is why Brooks claims the leather is the same for both, but the Pros are so much harder and take so much longer to break in? Is it punishment for the old time racer wanta-bes who used to get the pro when they really should have gotten the B-17??
    My Pro took longer to break in than my B17, 500+ miles. I thought the same thing, give it some time.
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  23. #23
    Senior Member Skipper's Avatar
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    Breaking-in a Brooks saddle takes the exact same amount of time/mileage as it takes to tweak it into the correct (for you) position. There should be very little physical change in the saddle itself. There will be the sitbone dimples after a while but the saddle should remain as hard as it was the day it first came from the factory. If you mount a Brooks saddle, make a couple of coarse adjustments and then wait for it to conform to your rump, it'll never Break-In.

    Some of us report that our Brooks saddles were comfortable right out of the box. My second and third Brooks saddles were comfortable right out of the box. My first took a little longer because I had to figure out how to tweak it. I ride all of my Brooks saddles slightly nose high, which seems counter intuitive, but it works for me. All of my Brooks saddles are still forming dimples, are hard as a leather covered brick and are slightly slippery but, they were broke-in some time ago.

    If you can't adjust your Brooks saddle to a truly comfortable position, you just may not have a Brooks Butt. Lotions and potions, for the saddle at least, are not going to do it. I think it is only reasonable to expect that not everyone has a Brooks Butt. Unfortunately, it can be somewhat expensive determining what kind of butt you have.

    Just my three cents.

  24. #24
    on by skijor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skipper View Post
    Breaking-in a Brooks saddle takes the exact same amount of time/mileage as it takes to tweak it into the correct (for you) position. There should be very little physical change in the saddle itself. There will be the sitbone dimples after a while but the saddle should remain as hard as it was the day it first came from the factory. If you mount a Brooks saddle, make a couple of coarse adjustments and then wait for it to conform to your rump, it'll never Break-In.

    If you can't adjust your Brooks saddle to a truly comfortable position, you just may not have a Brooks Butt. Lotions and potions, for the saddle at least, are not going to do it. I think it is only reasonable to expect that not everyone has a Brooks Butt. Unfortunately, it can be somewhat expensive determining what kind of butt you have.

    Just my three cents.
    I relented last year after 3000+ miles on my B-17CS and gave it the ol' Sheldon Brown neatsfoot oil immersion bath for an hour. Finally FINALLY after 2+ years it is starting to get more comfy/pliable. I'm still not a Brooks believer but my tightwadness is causing me to stick with it.

  25. #25
    Council of the Elders billydonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skijor View Post
    I relented last year after 3000+ miles on my B-17CS and gave it the ol' Sheldon Brown neatsfoot oil immersion bath for an hour. Finally FINALLY after 2+ years it is starting to get more comfy/pliable. I'm still not a Brooks believer but my tightwadness is causing me to stick with it.
    Thanks so much for that really useful reference. Readers, please stay tuned for tonight's thrilling episode: "Do I have a Brooks butt?"

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