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Old 02-23-08, 05:20 PM
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Charles Wahl
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Lotek's method for treating Brooks saddles seems very sensible to me; since I'm too lazy to find it, I will repost in its entirety:
"Break-in is actually an always evolving thing with Brooks saddles, they seem to always be changing in an organic manner. I personally recommend a Brooks saddle be used often, never on a rarely used bike. They'll sort of firm up and harden w/o regular usage, essentially mitigating your previous break-in work. Yes, even with proper Proofide treatments, once a year and nothing more, thank you very much. The excepetion is if soaked in downpour; towel dry to touch immediately after ride, allow to dry naturally indoors, never use a hair dryer or other means to expedite drying, once completely dried, a very light Proofide application will restore oils and soft texture to leather

"Brooks saddle care is a piece of cake, really. When new, apply a generous -- not heavy but enough to really soak in -- amount of Proofide to entire underside of saddle. I like to place saddle in sun for 30 minutes or so prior to application such that wax is really drawn into pores. Always apply Proofide with bare fingers, warmth of hand will help melt wax. The importance of this underside application is paramount, it will help with break-in but primarily will prevent any future mildew/mold issues from destroying your saddle. You should never need to apply another underside coating of Proofide to your saddle in its life. The topside will need a very light initial coating, allow 30 minutes to penetrate and dry, buff with soft terry loop towel, re-apply a 2nd very light coating, allow to dry overnight, buff with towel. After 2 weeks of usage, a 3rd very light coat of Proofide to seating surface should be applied, dry overnight, buff with towel. That's it for a full year. The excepetion is if soaked in downpour; towel dry to touch immediately after ride, allow to dry naturally indoors, never use a hair dryer or other means to expedite drying, once completely dried, a very light Proofide application will restore oils and soft texture to leather. An annual single light coating to seating surface, dry overnight and buff with towel should be only maintainence ever required of a Brooks saddle. I have rarely needed to use tensioning wrench, even when saddle has been repeatedly soaked, yes I use a Brooks on my winter/wet weather bike and I've never used a saddle bonnet. I would bet I get 20k miles between ever retensioning the saddle.

"Breaking in Brooks saddles is a bit misunderstood in my experience. The saddle should be relatively comfortable for a 1-2 hour ride fresh out of box. If not, adjust saddle tilt. If still not reasonably comfortable, ie 'hot spots' or specific pressure areas are felt, get a different saddle. For my backside, the Swift and Pro are ill suited and quite uncomfortable. The Pro, if it does fit you, will take longest break-in. The leather is apparently heaviest on Pro model. You can witness this by attempting to push on sit area of Pro saddle versus any other Brooks, it is noticably stiffer. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, just expect longer break-in period before leather conforms to sitbones. Loosening tension 1/2 turn as suggested by Doug is recommended. Once you find correct Brooks saddle it will take 300-1000 miles to break-in saddle, after which it will be noticably more comfortable. 12-15 hours in saddle should be trouble-free, at least as concerns saddle related issues.

"After choosing correct saddle, try B17 if Pro does not fit, treat saddle with Brooks Proofide only. This is critical step for longterm saddle care. Initial treatment consists of application to entire underside of leather. Use fingers only, no gloves and room temp should be 70*F or higher. The heat from your fingers will allow Proofide to properly penetrate hide. The undersaddle treatment is 1-time only to prevent drying or rotting. The top side application should be very thin, being sure to massage Proofide into saddle. 1 hour after application, use clean, dry, lint-free cotton rag to wipe down saddle top only, do not worry about underside again. Allow to dry for 12 hours, before wiping down saddle again with clean, dry cloth. Wiping back to frontb will help raise grain making a less slippery surface. Now get out and ride. Saddle will feel a bit dry in 2-3 weeks of riding, particularly in warmer weather. You should reapply to topside only, same method as previous. After said 2nd application, you should not repeat Proofide for 1 year. A light application performed annually, checking saddle tension nut at same time, will provide MANY years of comfortable riding support.

"Fore-aft fitment of Brooks is difficult. As Doug noted, the Brooks rails offer little room for adjustment. The largest setback I have seen to date on currently available, good quality post is Ritchey Pro, which is a beautiful 1-piece forging, 2-bolt design. It is unfortunately available in black only, easily remedied with about 1-hour of work with oven cleaner and buffing wheel/rouge. The Ritchey offers approx. 10mm more setback than current Campy posts, yes I have both.

"I use a Swift and B17s, these being my two favorite Brooks saddles. If the saddle is really _perfect_ for your butt then there is virtually no break in period: it is comfortable from the get-go. For goodness's sake dont' soak the thing in neet's foot oil or anything of the sort. (What the heck is a neet?, btw...) The key to the Brooks fit is to make sure that the rear of the saddle is level. This effectively a slight rise on the nose. The idea is to sit _on_ the saddle with the sit bones on the key points of rear contact. Some Brooks saddles just don't work for me. I'm not a Pro guy. But I use the Swift on two bikes and love it. I like it so much for pure comfort that I use it on my RB-2 which is really just my rollers bike. I consider rollers sort of a torture that makes me feel like I am doing something during the winter when I am far too absent of character and JohnStamstad-ness that I will not ride outside. Is the Swift worth it? Sure is. If it ends up being "not for you" as can happen with any saddle, you'll find lots of buyers. Also, you need to give it a chance. One ride might not do it. You need about 100 miles and if it's not for you, you'll know it, and if it is, you'll be in heaven.

"Saddle choice and position is strictly a personal fit issue. I too have heard the nose up theory, although not exclusively to Brooks. I position all saddles almost identically; forward nose level with ground. Saddle tilt is really a subjective issue based upon rider anatomy and position on bike. As I recall, Doug positions most of his bikes with saddle and bar elevation relative to level ground, as very similar, say within 1/2". Please correct me if I assumed wrong. I tend to have a bit more drop. My Legend is roughly 1 1/2" drop to bar, my trainer/'cross bike is approx 1" drop. I also like to stretch out upper body over bike thus a nose up position does not work for me. I would suggest starting at a nuetral position, ie. nose level, and make minor adjustments as warranted to suit individual comfort levels.

"Marty"

afterword by Charles: I recently bought a vintage NOS Brooks B5N (I like it a lot so far!) that I did this to; as I received it, it was in perfect unused shape, but rather dry and stiff. I didn't try to flex it much before treating as above -- I warmed it in the oven (not on!) as it was cooling down. It seemed to get a lot more resilient and flexible-feeling, without losing its shape or "general" stiffness. In particular, the edges seem a lot less dried-out now. I also did the same to my Brooks B17 that I bought brand-new, and it's very comfortable without being saggy at all.
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