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Recreational Cyclocross and Gravelbiking This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

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Old 09-11-08, 08:31 AM   #1
FlashBazbo
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Yet another Brooks Saddle Test

I wasn't sure where to post this. I've been asked to post about my experiences with a new Brooks saddle. The saddle is on my 'cross bike, but I use the bike for 20-mile early morning nasty-road training rides. Since it's a 'cross bike, here it is.

I tried a Brooks Swallow last year on my road bike. I Proofided it, gave it every benefit of the doubt and stayed with it for a long time, but it was an experience in pain. It left pain in my backside that stayed with me all day long. Anytime I sat down, even in a chair, it hurt. When I stood, there was still the tingle of pain on my backside. Because of all the hype, I figured I would eventually adapt to it. I didn't. I sent it back. It might have been too narrow. It was a beautiful saddle, though.

This week, I took delivery of a Brooks Team Professional. I ordered honey, they sent black. They offered to ship a honey immediately with a call tag for the black one, but I decided black was a better choice for my 'cross bike anyway and kept it.

I come into this half expecting the worst. The Team Pro is a tad wider than the Swallow, but I wonder if it will make that much difference. It's a hard saddle with thick leather. But the return terms are generous. I'll give it a shot.

Last night, I used the "soak" method and soaked the saddle in neatsfoot oil for an hour to assist break-in. (Now, how do I pour all this neatsfoot oil back into the bottle??) This morning, I took the saddle on its first 20-mile ride.

First mile impression: Wow. This saddle feels good! It's smooth where it counts. It's "firm"-to-hard. It's slick on top (requiring occasional intentional repositioning as I slide forward). To some extent, it decreases the leverage my backside is able to exert on the saddle on bumpy direction changes. I can probably adapt to that. So far, so good.

Ten miles: With the stock saddle (a Ponza with seams right where the sit bones contact the saddle), I would stand up briefly about now to relieve the pain. At this point, with the Brooks, the feeling is remarkably comfortable. This definitely isn't a Swallow (or a Ponza)!

Fifteen miles: Still very comfortable. I'm beginning to feel a little pressure, but it's not cutting, burning, or painful. It's probably about what I would feel from sitting on a chair for this amount of time.

Twenty miles: The saddle has been comfortable for the entire ride. For most of the distance, I forgot I was riding a new saddle. No pain. No untoward pressure. Other than the slickness of the surface, the saddle never drew attention to itself. Not recliner or sofa comfort, but pretty nice. So far, so good.

Appearance: This is a beautiful saddle out of the box. After the neatsfoot oil soak and a 20-mile ride, some of the leather under the sit bone area looked as if it had bubbles under the surface of the leather -- kind of a pebbling. I'm concerned that the bumps mean the leather has been damaged. We'll see what happens in the days ahead.

Thoughts: For the first ride, this saddle is far more comfortable than the Swallow I rode last year. Much better than the Ponza that came on my Conquest Pro. Probably even better than the trusty multi-thousand mile Fizik Arionne on my road bike. Very nice. But one ride does not make the saddle. The proof will come in repeated rides. Hundreds of miles.

Stay tuned.
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Old 09-11-08, 09:34 AM   #2
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If you'd have asked first, I would have recommended against soaking the saddle. It's very messy and softens the leather too much.

The trick to getting that comfortable Brooks ride is getting the fore-aft and tilt adjustments just right, so that your sit bones are located correctly and you aren't slipping forward or backwards. With a new one, you should carry the right wrenches on your first several rides, to fine-tune as you ride, because you are trying to get those butt dimples placed correctly. Once the butt dimples are in the saddle, it is more or less broken in. The perfect position usually has the nose slightly raised.

Proofide is the official product, but generic paste wax works as well. It conditions the leather and water-treats it.
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Old 09-11-08, 09:44 AM   #3
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Actually, flargle, I can't tell that it softened the leather at all. Messy? Yes. Did it make the saddle flexible? No. It is still firm-to-hard, just like the Swallow was after Proofide. If anything, I would say most of the alleged benefits of the soak method are overblown.

As for fine tuning saddle position, that has its limits. If you have to contort your leg-length or cockpit measurements to get the saddle in a comfortable position, you've got the wrong saddle. I would rather have a sore backside than knee problems.

Pure neatsfoot oil isn't the official product, but it has been used for hundreds of years to condition and water-proof leather. Plus, neatsfoot oil isn't primarily wax (like Proofide is). Neatsfoot oil retains the positive benefits of the leather (breathability, etc.). Proofide seals the leather and deprives you of some of its real benefits. There's a real difference you can see. After Proofide, my Swallow was always soaked with sweat after a ride. After neatsfoot oil, this saddle this morning was dry after the ride. I was soaked with sweat but the saddle wasn't.

Last edited by FlashBazbo; 09-11-08 at 09:49 AM.
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Old 09-11-08, 01:05 PM   #4
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I have a pretty sweatty arse, but despite all the hype breathability just isn't an issue for me on a saddle like the Brooks. What I mean to say is that while I get a SwAss on a plastic saddle sometimes, when it comes to Brooks, Proofided or not I get just about the same temp regulation.



I've used Obenauf's, Neatsfoot and Proofide on my saddles (about to be the proud owner of a fourth, have a B-17, B-17 Imperial and a Team Pro and am acquiring a Flyer). They all do about the same thing, though I did get more softening from the Neatsfoot.



I think Proofide soaks in better than Obenauf's, plus it smells good, but I have basically realized that my ass sweat will break it in and I really just need something to keep the leather from cracking and drying out. As for waterproofness, bah, they all suck..get a plastic bag and fenders for that. It's freakin' leather, you can't just rub in some crap and expect a miracle to happen!
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Old 09-11-08, 01:24 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by FlashBazbo View Post
As for fine tuning saddle position, that has its limits. If you have to contort your leg-length or cockpit measurements to get the saddle in a comfortable position, you've got the wrong saddle. I would rather have a sore backside than knee problems.
I wrote nothing about changing cockpit measurements. The point is to get the saddle in the right position so your sit-bones are properly located, both wrt the pedals and the saddle, and you aren't sliding forward or backward.
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Old 09-12-08, 08:00 AM   #6
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Day Two: Comfort is still there. Not quite as slick as day #1 and I didn't slide around on the saddle. Pressure again started around mile 15, but no pain. For the most part, I gave absolutely no thought to the saddle -- which means it is what a saddle should be.

Appearance: The "pebbling" subsided over the day yesterday and got no worse after today's ride. It is very minor. I think I'm going to like the "worn-in" appearance of the brown and honey saddles better than the black, but that's a subjective thing.

At this point, all good. HUGE contrast compared to my Swallow experience. If I make it through the end of the month with this kind of comfort, it'll be a keeper -- plus, I'll likely buy another for my road bike. I finally understand what Brooks fanatics have been talking about.
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Old 09-27-08, 11:54 AM   #7
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Day Seventeen: The Brooks has proven itself on my cyclocross bike. Great comfort with no after-effects. Today, I moved it over to my road bike. (I mounted it atop a new Thomson setback seat post.) Thirty miles with just one stop (at the 29.5 mile point) for a red light.

The evaluation: Great fit. No interference. Great comfort. It is heavier than my trusted Fizik Arione, but it is also more comfortable. Absolutely no post-ride soreness or numbness. It is as if I didn't ride at all. Plus, the saddle looks very cool on my otherwise-weight weenie carbon bike. I don't think I'll miss the difference in grams.

I'm sold.

Today I neatsfoot another new Brooks Team Pro to mount back on the cyclocross bike.

One discovery I've made over this test and the previous one: It is extremely important to buy the Brooks saddle that fits your backside. The narrower Brooks -- Swallow & Swift -- were torture for me. The mid-width Team Pro is just right.
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Old 10-05-08, 08:41 AM   #8
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I wrote nothing about changing cockpit measurements. The point is to get the saddle in the right position so your sit-bones are properly located, both wrt the pedals and the saddle, and you aren't sliding forward or backward.

Flargle, it sounds like yours is just a hair away from perfect. If your seatpost allows you to raise the nose just a millimeter or two, barely visible, it should help keep you from slipping forward while not affecting the pressure distribution.

Arguments and anecdotes about Brooks treatments have been going on for decades. Only a few things are clear: They won't work for everyone, Proofide is probably the safest thing to use, sometimes other treatments work well, excessive water is bad for them, and don't play with the adjustment nut if you don't have a good reason to.

Now reading your last post, Ijust say congratulations, and I'm envious!
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Old 10-06-08, 07:40 AM   #9
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I've got B17 Specials, a little wider than yours, on 2 bikes. They were comfortable right out of the box. I didn't use Proofride until months after I got them. I'm certainly not heavy at less than 140lbs either. I know that lots of light guys complain how hard they are. I've never had that problem. Good luck on the saddle and don't forget to get something to cover the saddle in the rain. Water is the enemy of leather.
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