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Old 08-12-14, 09:16 AM   #1
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leather saddle, rain, & perspiration

I recently started riding on a leather, hung saddle.
It seems some people use rain covers on their leather saddles (when it is raining). Why?
How does rain for x hours differ from perspiration coming through one's shorts for x hours?
Or might these people also use covers on a warm day to keep the perspiration from doing what to the saddle?
Needless to say I perspire copiously.
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Old 08-12-14, 10:00 AM   #2
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I recently started riding on a leather, hung saddle.
It seems some people use rain covers on their leather saddles (when it is raining). Why?
How does rain for x hours differ from perspiration coming through one's shorts for x hours?
Or might these people also use covers on a warm day to keep the perspiration from doing what to the saddle?
Needless to say I perspire copiously.
Some people can ride leather saddles in the rain without getting them too wet, but for whatever reason that doesn't work for me. After an hour of heavy downpour my saddle is sodden and will then stretch and need the bolt tightened. So I always carry a rain cover, the Aardvark ones work for me.

Sweat has never had that effect, probably because even if you sweat a lot, there is still a chance for it to evaporate from the saddle.

Oh yes, to start with, make sure your leather has been treated, e.g. with Brooks Proofide, to help keep it from getting sodden. Plus fenders will help the saddle stay dry longer in the rain.
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Old 08-12-14, 10:24 AM   #3
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I don't worry about perspiration by itself, but I do keep a 1-gallon Ziploc bag rolled up and tucked into the saddle rails wherever I go. I'll put it on while parked or riding if it looks like rain. They seem to hold up long enough for the price.
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Old 08-12-14, 11:38 AM   #4
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I figure getting a saddle damp is no big deal, but I don't want it just soaked every day, so I keep a cover on it full-time. I get the impression the covers are mainly made for when you leave a bike out in the rain, but they work fine for riding, too.
Oh, even if it didn't affect fit, soaking a saddle in sweat every day would surely make it stink in a hurry.
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Old 08-12-14, 12:47 PM   #5
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I carry an Aardvark saddle cover in my bar bag for longer rides (than commuting). I'll put it on when it starts raining, and also put it on when the chamois in my shorts gets soaked from sweat. They're similar in the consequences to the saddle -- if you're heavy enough, and/or keep riding long enough, that you ride for a long time when the saddle is soggy, it'll stretch the saddle (in my experience).
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Old 08-12-14, 12:49 PM   #6
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With all due respect, StephenH, something in excess of 10000 miles on my uncovered B17 has left it smelling of leather, not sweat.

OP, while riding, neither rain or sweat is an issue. Spray is the issue, it will soak the saddle from underneath even if you've used proofide to protect it. The answer is mudguards (fenders); with them, no problem.

When parked up, it's as well to keep the saddle covered. I keep a shower cap tucked under the saddle when riding, and use it to cover the saddle when I'm off the bike. Old cycle tourist's trick.
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Old 08-12-14, 05:55 PM   #7
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Mudguards help.

And I tuck a plastic grocery bag in my rails while I'm riding, and put it over the seat when the bicycle is parked.
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Old 08-13-14, 09:45 AM   #8
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Let me see if I am hearing all this correctly:
1. With good long fenders, a heavy sweater does not need a rain cover in the rain or on a very warm day.
2. It is a good idea to use some type of rain cover if the saddle will be standing in the rain at a control or whatever.
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Old 08-13-14, 11:02 AM   #9
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Let me see if I am hearing all this correctly:
1. With good long fenders, a heavy sweater does not need a rain cover in the rain or on a very warm day.
2. It is a good idea to use some type of rain cover if the saddle will be standing in the rain at a control or whatever.
That's my experience, yes.
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Old 08-13-14, 08:17 PM   #10
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With all due respect, StephenH, something in excess of 10000 miles on my uncovered B17 has left it smelling of leather, not sweat.
Maybe you don't sweat like I do, either. If you can squeeze sweat out of your gloves after 30 miles, that's a good sign. Anyway, if my shoes stink, my camelback stinks, my helmet stinks, my gloves stink, I'd be pretty sure my saddle would stink by now if it wasn't covered, and likely does, anyway.

Just FYI, I've got 17,000 miles on the tandem saddle (Brooks), and 39,000 miles split between two saddles on the Sojourn (Brooks and Rivet).
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Old 08-14-14, 11:15 AM   #11
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Let me see if I am hearing all this correctly:
1. With good long fenders, a heavy sweater does not need a rain cover in the rain or on a very warm day.
2. It is a good idea to use some type of rain cover if the saddle will be standing in the rain at a control or whatever.
2. is a definite. 1. seems to be a YMMV. I know people for whom it is no problem to ride in the rain with fenders and no saddle cover. For me, that's a major fail. Maybe my rain coat is shorter and the rain runs off it onto the saddle? Maybe I sit further onto the saddle than they do, leaving some of the back exposed? Maybe their butt is bigger than mine (unlikely!)? For whatever reason, if I ride in the rain with no saddle cover, my saddle gets sodden and then stretches so I need to tighten the adjustment screw. The alternative can be sitting on the seat-post clamp. If you do end up having to tighten the adjustment screw, remember to loosen it again as soon as you finish the ride, to reduce the chance that the stretching will be permanent.

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Old 08-14-14, 11:56 AM   #12
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I keep a shower cap tucked under the saddle when riding, and use it to cover the saddle when I'm off the bike. Old cycle tourist's trick.
brilliant! I keep one for my helmet for rain, but now I'll keep 2 with me!
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Old 08-14-14, 12:53 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by 9606 View Post
Let me see if I am hearing all this correctly:
1. With good long fenders, a heavy sweater does not need a rain cover in the rain or on a very warm day.
2. It is a good idea to use some type of rain cover if the saddle will be standing in the rain at a control or whatever.

I'm with Nick. +1 on #2 , YMMV on #1 . My experience is that I can sweat enough to stretch a saddle on a long, hot, humid day, with or without rain.
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Old 08-14-14, 02:00 PM   #14
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I have a Selle Anatomica Watershed. Great saddle, but the waterproof qualities of the Watershed leather are way overstated. After riding a couple brevets in downpours the tension bolt is almost completely extended. Now I always ride with a Brooks cover, no more stretching since then.
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Old 08-17-14, 05:05 PM   #15
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One of the nice things about a leather saddle is that on a hot day, instead of getting clammy and sweaty like a plastic saddle would, it gives moisture a place to wick away and evaporate. Putting a waterproof cover on your saddle on a hot but dry day might be necessary if you get sweaty enough, but you will lose this nice feature.

Just something to consider.
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Old 08-17-14, 07:13 PM   #16
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I have a Selle Anatomica Watershed. Great saddle, but the waterproof qualities of the Watershed leather are way overstated. After riding a couple brevets in downpours the tension bolt is almost completely extended. Now I always ride with a Brooks cover, no more stretching since then.
+1. The Watershed "feature" is less than worthless because it makes you think you can do without the saddle cover that you'd know you need on a Brooks. That said, the SA saddles are the only ones that work for me on rides longer than 1200km. Haven't tried the Rivet, that'll probably be my next experiment.
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Old 08-18-14, 01:23 PM   #17
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Haven't tried the Rivet, that'll probably be my next experiment.
I'll be eager to hear how the Rivet compares to the S-A
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Old 08-18-14, 01:53 PM   #18
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I am new to the leather bike saddle (just got a B-17 last month). I expect to use the saddle in the rain and sweaty summer without a cover. If I'm going to lock up outside in the rain, I would put the cover on the saddle.

My experience has been with horses - all tack is leather and is used in all weather. The key is to treat the leather properly prior to getting it wet and after getting it wet. I've been swimming with a horse all decked out in leather saddle, bridle, etc - it was fine with proper drying and treatment with saddle soap (similar to Brooks Proofide). Based on growing up with horses and caring for leather tack, I have no concerns about using a leather bike saddle in the rain.
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Old 08-18-14, 03:09 PM   #19
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I am new to the leather bike saddle (just got a B-17 last month). I expect to use the saddle in the rain and sweaty summer without a cover. If I'm going to lock up outside in the rain, I would put the cover on the saddle.

My experience has been with horses - all tack is leather and is used in all weather. The key is to treat the leather properly prior to getting it wet and after getting it wet. I've been swimming with a horse all decked out in leather saddle, bridle, etc - it was fine with proper drying and treatment with saddle soap (similar to Brooks Proofide). Based on growing up with horses and caring for leather tack, I have no concerns about using a leather bike saddle in the rain.
Despite both being made of leather, there is a fundamental difference between horse and bicycle saddles. Brooks-type bicycle saddles are tensioned, and when they get saturated with water, the tension will cause them to stretch and change shape. A horse saddle just rests on top of the animal, and just needs enough care to keep it from cracking.
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Old 08-18-14, 03:22 PM   #20
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Yes and no, parts of the tack are supported and parts are not. Moving away from the saddle, bridles can stretch as they are hung from the top of the horse's head with the bit in its mouth. This leather is thinner and more supple than the saddle - yet it handles the moisture (rain and sweat) and tension without damage *as long as it is cared for*.

The Brooks saddle can suffer from sag, but a horse saddle can deform if poorly cared for. However, to your point, the horse's back supports much of the saddle and there is a lot more structure in it.

However, I stand my point, the leather can handle moisture, *with proper care*. I'm sure we can get enough Brooks fans to talk about their rainy centuries on their Brooks. I know more than a couple fans that ride Brooks year-round and in all conditions - that is what put me over the top to get one.
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Old 08-18-14, 04:18 PM   #21
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I am not a leather expert but have ridden two long rides getting my leather saddle wet and indeed I did have to slightly retension the saddle. The underside of mine was sealed with beeswax after the top was treated with lanolin and all done broken in. This treatment seems to have kept a lot of water out. I let it dry and then retreated. I cannot be bothered carrying a shower cap or a cover even it if did work. If the saddle only lasts 10 years versus 30 years.....no biggie to me. I wonder if the Hypno Toad would comment on my care technique, it would be interesting to have a different perspective.
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Old 08-19-14, 09:59 AM   #22
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My leather care experience is similar to what you've described: Leather should be treated prior to getting wet. Based on what I've read here and elsewhere, apply saddle soap (Proofide) to underside of saddle and use fenders. After a wet ride, wipe dry and allow leather to dry, preferably inside (not in the sun or excessive heat). After leather dries, apply Proofide. If you condition the damp leather, you'll drive water into the leather.


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Old 08-19-14, 03:22 PM   #23
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My leather care experience is similar to what you've described: Leather should be treated prior to getting wet. Based on what I've read here and elsewhere, apply saddle soap (Proofide) to underside of saddle and use fenders. After a wet ride, wipe dry and allow leather to dry, preferably inside (not in the sun or excessive heat). After leather dries, apply Proofide. If you condition the damp leather, you'll drive water into the leather.
Not meaning to offend, but while your theory is convincingly presented, it is not borne out by experience. We're talking about exposure to rain for potentially tens of hours, the whole time under pressure of 100, 200 lbs or more. Try it yourself on a rainy 400k and see how it goes.
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Old 08-19-14, 04:34 PM   #24
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Not meaning to offend, but while your theory is convincingly presented, it is not borne out by experience. We're talking about exposure to rain for potentially tens of hours, the whole time under pressure of 100, 200 lbs or more. Try it yourself on a rainy 400k and see how it goes.
I have stated, I am new to leather bike saddles, however, I have used leather in other outdoor applications and have confidence. I think your examples are less than the 1% of extreme users (10 of hours, 400k), but never the less, I'm interested in your opinion.
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Old 08-19-14, 05:09 PM   #25
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I have stated, I am new to leather bike saddles, however, I have used leather in other outdoor applications and have confidence. I think your examples are less than the 1% of extreme users (10 of hours, 400k), but never the less, I'm interested in your opinion.
With all due respect, you've just demonstrated that your knowledge of horse leather doesn't extend to leather saddles. I predict that your "confidence" will evaporate in the face of cold, hard (wet) facts.

As others have mentioned, leather saddles bear your weight suspended between the rivets that hold them to a steel frame. Get that leather soaking wet and it will stretch. And in my experience, no matter how much proofide you've put on the top and bottom, if you ride without a saddle cover then it will eventually get soaking wet, and then you've just eaten up several mm of adjustment screw.

FWIW, this is the Long-Distance forum, defined as rides of a century or more. So a ride of 10 hours is not extreme for anyone who understands what this forum is about. So of users posting in this forum, 100% of them have been on rides of 10 or more hours (or at least want to). Many of us have been on rides where we faced pouring rain for multiple days and nights. In fact, randonneuring is probably one of the few sports where you can talk with someone who is ashamed of abandoning a ride when they were only 500 miles in, instead of completing the whole 750.

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