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Old 03-23-10, 11:00 AM   #1
TonyS
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Advice on Brooks saddles?

How fragile are they with regard to moisture?

I'm thinking about putting one on my Nashie (possibly with matching bar tape), but seeing as how I'm probably going to be using that bike to commute with as well, and I'm pretty sure it's going to rain heavily during my TA, I'm concerned about how easy it's going to be to keep the thing looking nice (and not sagging).

Is it going to be more trouble than it's worth to try to maintain one?
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Old 03-23-10, 11:15 AM   #2
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My understanding is that riding them in the rain isn't a problem as long as you have fenders (since you'll be blocking most of the rain). Just make sure you cover it when you're off the bike and it should be fine. (Disclaimer: I live in a semi-arid region and only got my Brooks recently, so this is all second-hand.)
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Old 03-23-10, 11:20 AM   #3
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More trouble than it's worth? I'd say not. If your rear end is most comfortable on a Brooks, then that's what you want underneath you on your TA ride. I'd just follow Brooks' guidelines for treatment, and cover the saddle when the weather takes a turn. Are you using fenders?
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Old 03-23-10, 11:42 AM   #4
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I've had B-17s since 1973. The first one came on a bike that I paid paid $150 for. I have ridden it on various other bikes all over North America and Europe, and it is still in good shabe, but the leather is beginning to stretch and crack around some of the rivets. Some of my newer B-17s seem to have been made with thinner leather. I ride with fenders and if it looks like rain I carry plastic bags. Even so, the saddle did get wet a few times, but I did not ride it wet; I let it dry before applying Proofhide. There is some discussion as to what treatment is best. A wrench to keep tension is nice to have after a while. I like Brooks and they seem to fit, but that might be because my anatomy has adapted to them.
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Old 03-23-10, 11:57 AM   #5
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I've had B-17s since 1973. ... . I have ridden it on various other bikes all over North America and Europe, and it is still in good shabe, but the leather is beginning to stretch and crack around some of the rivets.
I think that's your answer: 2010 - 1973 = 37 years, and the leather is beginning to stretch and crack.

Go ahead, buy one. You'll like it. If it wears out in 30 or 40 years, then buy a new one! ;-)

They make cows out of leather, and I see them out in the rain all the time without any ill effects... ;-)
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Old 03-23-10, 12:59 PM   #6
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Point taken, brawny, but cow skin != leather. At least not on any of the cows I've seen...
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Old 03-23-10, 02:02 PM   #7
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Point taken, brawny, but cow skin != leather. At least not on any of the cows I've seen...
Ok, true enough. It's more like 'raw leather', since the cow's still wearing it... ;-) Sorry - another poor attempt at humour.

I've only had my brooks for less than a year, but I can certainly vouch for how comfortable they are. Mine seems to withstand the rain ok, but I've used a fair bit of proofide on it to keep it supple. On the odd occasion when I've had to get on mine when its wet, the water wicks out of the saddle and into my chamois pretty quickly.

If you want to keep it dry when you're off the bike, those little freebie shower caps they have at some hotels work well.
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Old 03-23-10, 02:22 PM   #8
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If you want to keep it dry when you're off the bike, those little freebie shower caps they have at some hotels work well.
they also make dandy helmet covers for while your butt is protecting the saddle.

I keep a plastic grocery bag stuffed up into the noses of each Brooks. If the bike has to sit out in the rain, I use one to cover the seat. They even hold up if the bike has to be hauled in the truck. The handles tie around the seatpost easily.
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Old 03-23-10, 03:08 PM   #9
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I rode my Brooks Swift during the '09 Trek Across Maine, where it rained for 3 days straight. This nearly ruined my saddle (think a soggy wet-noodle hammock), and since then, I only put the saddle on if I am damned sure it won't be wet. (Unfortunately Maine is not conducive to using a Brooks). If you live in a wet clime, consider a different saddle.
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Old 03-23-10, 03:12 PM   #10
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See that's what I was worried about... is there anything even approaching the comfort of a Brooks that is weatherproof?
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Old 03-23-10, 03:25 PM   #11
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See that's what I was worried about... is there anything even approaching the comfort of a Brooks that is weatherproof?
Selle San Marco Rolls..... works for me.
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Old 03-23-10, 05:11 PM   #12
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See that's what I was worried about... is there anything even approaching the comfort of a Brooks that is weatherproof?
I don't find my Brooks B17 Champion Special all that comfortable for long distances, although I did do a 600 mile tour on it before I found something that I liked better. My problem was the setup required to keep from sliding forward from the raised rear of the saddle. It required the nose to be tilted up a bit to create something of a hammock of leather in the middle. That, in turn, put too much pressure on some important nerves and caused numbness in parts that I REALLY don't want to be numb. Setting the nose of the Brooks level solved the nerve problem, but I kept sliding forward on the slick leather.

I've been happiest with saddles that are rather flat, front to rear, and have sufficient width to support my sit-bones well. I've been using Selle San Marco Regals on both my touring bike and one of my sporty bikes with great success. They use fake leather (they call it Lorica) and it's waterproof. I suspect the Selle San Marco Rolls would work fine for me as well.
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Old 03-23-10, 06:31 PM   #13
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I Proofide my saddles heavily, I wipe the tops off and leave the undersides alone. I keep some sort of cover available for rainy days when the bike is parked. I use fenders. I re-coat with Proofide about once a year. I have multiple leather saddles. One has seen thousands of miles of all weather riding and is still in decent shape after 20 years of use. It was on my commuter for 7 years, used on my roadie training bike and my MTB for several more years. That one happens to be a Wrights but I don't think there is any fundamental difference between it and a Brooks.

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Old 03-23-10, 06:55 PM   #14
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It's puzzling that one can put on leather boots, tromp through mud, twist the uppers this way and that, scrape dirt clods off the outside of the boots and they're still good for years and years, but your Brooks saddle will melt away if you get it wet. (And you're right to note that the use of the two isn't the same; a Brooks saddle is never going to get the abuse that a leather boot routinely gets.)

My Brooks B17 Special gets soaked with sweat every time I ride during the summer. I let the Brooks dry out overnight and it's ready to go the next day. I apply Proofide when the leather starts to get dry (which isn't that often).

Brooks saddles take a non-zero amount of maintenance, and certainly if the Brooks is going to be wet all the time, it's not going to last, any more than a pair of leather boots will last if you don't let them dry out. A minimal amount of maintenance will go a long way.
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Old 03-23-10, 09:07 PM   #15
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It's puzzling that one can put on leather boots, tromp through mud, twist the uppers this way and that, scrape dirt clods off the outside of the boots and they're still good for years and years, but your Brooks saddle will melt away if you get it wet. (And you're right to note that the use of the two isn't the same; a Brooks saddle is never going to get the abuse that a leather boot routinely gets.)
Surprisingly, leather comes in more than one thickness! Just a guess, but the leather used in a work boot is probably a bit more thick than the leather used in a saddle. Which might account for the difference in durability...
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Old 03-23-10, 09:35 PM   #16
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The bigger difference is that leather boot uppers don't have to support upwards of 100 pounds of force concentrated in a fairly small area. You may be right about your saddle's durability, but you can't really judge it by your boots.
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Old 03-23-10, 11:32 PM   #17
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I have a nice, tight fitting Brooks saddle cover for the B17 on my Brompton. And now, looking for a picture to show you, I've just discovered that it stores neatly under the seat! http://shop.vendio.com/benscycle/ite.../?s=1269330962
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Old 03-23-10, 11:52 PM   #18
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I have a nice, tight fitting Brooks saddle cover for the B17 on my Brompton. And now, looking for a picture to show you, I've just discovered that it stores neatly under the seat! http://shop.vendio.com/benscycle/ite.../?s=1269330962
I used plastic bags for 4 or 5 years. This year, I picked up a Jandd http://www.jandd.com/detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=FSCW saddle cover that works very well. There's a short velcro strap so I can roll it up and secure it to my seatpost.
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Old 03-23-10, 11:54 PM   #19
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I think that's your answer: 2010 - 1973 = 37 years, and the leather is beginning to stretch and crack.
Gee, does anything last anymore?
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Old 03-24-10, 04:43 AM   #20
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Surprisingly, leather comes in more than one thickness! Just a guess, but the leather used in a work boot is probably a bit more thick than the leather used in a saddle. Which might account for the difference in durability...
Surprisingly, the leather in my nice hiking boots is somewhat less thick than the leather in my Brooks saddle! If the leather in my hiking boots were any thicker, they would be mountaineering boots (that is, boots that are so stiff that you plod around rather than walk). Work boots might be made of thicker leather than my hiking boots are, but I think that it would be rare to find a pair of work boots with thicker leather than that used in your Brooks saddle, simply because the boots would otherwise be hard to break in and walk around in.

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The bigger difference is that leather boot uppers don't have to support upwards of 100 pounds of force concentrated in a fairly small area. You may be right about your saddle's durability, but you can't really judge it by your boots.
Um, when I have a 50 pound pack on my back and am scrambling around a bunch of rocks, and me and my pack go in one direction and my foot stays put, the boot (particularly the upper) has rather more than 100 pounds of force concentrated in it, and it's a twisting, dynamic force that a Brooks saddle is never going to see in 100 years of use. (If you can assume that the stress on the leather will go in primarily one direction, you can orient the grain of the leather to handle that stress, as quality manufacturers such as Brooks do. If the leather will be subjected to stresses in multiple directions, well....)

The point is all about quality leather being a proven, durable material. Quality leather requires some care, and will take a lot of use given that level of care. The leather that you get in a good quality work boot or hiking boot might be different from the leather that you get in a Brooks saddle, but they're not that much different (hardly at all, by my reckoning).

Last edited by ploeg; 03-24-10 at 05:53 AM. Reason: Fixing comparatives in response #1
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Old 03-24-10, 06:32 AM   #21
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Man, it seems like this topic comes up alot. I've got four brooks saddles and everyone has gotton wet at some point. Hell once when my bike was in back of my truck and I was driving home from a long trip it rained on that thing for hours, not a good situation but it dried and it wasn't that big of deal.

I really don't think these saddles are as fragile as people think. I think people over-think this too much..

I say get the brooks, ride it like you stole it and if it rains on it it won't be the end of the world..also remember that when your ridin' and it rainin' your hiney is covering the saddle....unless of course its in the back of a pick-up truck!
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Old 03-24-10, 06:34 AM   #22
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It's not the type of leather used in boots and the Brooks saddle that is different, leather is leather. It is the process used by Brooks in order to form the saddle that is important. This process used to shape the leather around the metal former means that the all the natural oils are leached out of the leather. It becomes wood-like, as is very noticeable in a new saddle. The leather fibres are now dry which means that the rider's "sit-bones" can now break these fibres in order to create the indentations required while leaving the rest of the saddle hard. This situation is necessary if the Brooks recommended method of breaking- in the saddle is to work. If oils remained in the leather, then the fibres would slide over each other rather than breaking and no indentations would be created, the saddle would then operate as a hammock.
The downside of this method of production is that, over the years, the leather dries out and cracks, albeit it may take 30-40 years. This can be avoided by a fairly light application of leather conditioner (e.g.Hydrophane .) on the underside, which will ensure that the drying-out process will not happen. Too much conditioner will soften the leather so care should be taken.
Personally, I have developed my own method over the years for my saddles and many others. Before fitting, I soak with water the underside of the new saddle in the area of my "sit-bones". The leather now becomes very pliable. I then use my thumb to create the depressions needed by my "sit-bones", (you can use foam or corrugated card board to find their position), and then leave the saddle to dry for 24 hours. The saddle will now be as hard as before but has the depressions. I now apply one coating only of leather conditioner to the underside, treat with Proofide on the top-side and polish off, and fit the saddle. The saddle is now ready to ride but you have no uncomfortable "breaking-in" to do.
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Old 03-24-10, 08:05 AM   #23
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Proofide is good. However, I've always covered my saddle with a plastic bag at night, even my synthetic ones. Just hop on a wet saddle on a cold morning once and you'll see why. A showercap from a motel works good, as do quality ziplocs. You don't want the bag to blow off during the night (just before the rain.)
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Old 03-24-10, 01:41 PM   #24
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Brooks,
England,
rain,

since 1865.


They don't dissolve, Just dont ride it soaked.
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Old 03-24-10, 09:07 PM   #25
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Brooks,
England,
rain,

since 1865.


They don't dissolve, Just dont ride it soaked.
That's pretty much what I thought. I think it comes down to using some common sense when using one in wet conditions. Has anyone used Mink Oil on their saddles? Its a water proofer that I put on my "combat" boots and leather motorcycle jacket.
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