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Brooks leather saddle break-in - fast method

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Brooks leather saddle break-in - fast method

Old 10-28-20, 01:51 PM
  #1  
Blues
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Brooks leather saddle break-in - fast method

I tried an experiment to speed up the break-in period for my new Brooks Imperial leather saddle. I clamped two new tennis balls to the top of the Brooks saddle in the location of my sit bones.

Soon after I received my new Brooks Imperial, leather saddle, I applied a generous application of proofide to both the top and bottom. I distinctly remember the uncomfortable and lengthy break in process for my 40+ year old Brooks B-15. Back then, I had not heard of Proofide. I decided to try something new.

A few days after the first application of Proofide to my new Brooks Imperial, I rubbed another application Proofide in the sit bone area on both the top and bottom and clamped over night the tennis balls to the saddle in my sit bone locations. I had drilled two holes 1.5" diameter, 3-3/4" apart [my sit bone distance], 1/4" deep in a 8"x3/4"x2.5" board to help keep the tennis balls in my sit bone locations. I placed this alignment board on top of the tennis balls which were on top of the saddle. The clamps extended to the bottom board under the rails of the saddle. The two clamps squished the tennis balls against the top of the leather saddle, allowing me to put whatever pressure on the tennis balls I wanted with the clamps. I attempted to duplicate the pressure I would put on the seat by riding on it.

I performed the above procedure three days in a row. That's 70+ hours of tennis ball pressure on the seat. If I was riding the bicycle that long at a leisurely 10 mph, that's 700 miles.

As a result, the Brooks Imperial saddle has nice sit bone indentions right where I need them. I used my old 40+ year old Brooks B-15 saddle to go by for my sit bones indention locations. But, I have since done the "sit on cardboard" procedure to measure the distance between my sit bones.

I also rounded all the sharp edges on the leather saddle with a leather edger and rubbed the edges.

This is my first post, so I can't upload a photo of the tennis ball/clamp setup. I can send a photo to one of you and you can upload it if you want.

I have been lurking on the Bike Forum since mid summer. I'm impressed with the help given. I have learned a lot. Everyone has been very polite, with very few exceptions.

Thanks,

Fred

Last edited by Blues; 10-28-20 at 02:34 PM. Reason: clearifying
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Old 10-28-20, 02:15 PM
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fwiw my brooks (B17 and Swift) have been comfortable from day 1 and just get better. I did try a b17 imperial narrow and it just was not for me not comfortable from first ride. I got rid of it. brooks or not saddle needs to work with your bottom. I would suggest that if a saddle is not comfortable without out a long breakin it well never work well for you.
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Old 10-28-20, 02:23 PM
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Well, IMO you just ruined that saddle. 40 years ago they were thicker leather and a different tanning process.
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Old 10-28-20, 02:29 PM
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Blues
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Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
fwiw my brooks (B17 and Swift) have been comfortable from day 1 and just get better. I did try a b17 imperial narrow and it just was not for me not comfortable from first ride. I got rid of it. brooks or not saddle needs to work with your bottom. I would suggest that if a saddle is not comfortable without out a long breakin it well never work well for you.
My 40+ year old Brooks leather saddle was comfortable after it's initial break-in. I don't remember how long the break-in it took, but it was long enough for me to still remember. I currently use that old Brooks on my road bike, and wouldn't trade it for anything.

My new Brooks Imperial was not as comfortable out of the box as my old one is now. I feel like I fixed that per my description above. I now love my new Brooks Imperial saddle, too. Maybe someone else can ride more comfortably on their Brooks by using this or a similar break-in.
Fred
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Old 10-28-20, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by trailangel View Post
Well, IMO you just ruined that saddle. 40 years ago they were thicker leather and a different tanning process.
TrailAngel:
Would you explain what you mean? I did the tennis ball thing to my new Brooks Imperial not the40+ year old Brooks B-15.

Last edited by Blues; 10-29-20 at 12:15 PM. Reason: clarify
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Old 10-29-20, 01:15 AM
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I find that method of break-in rather brilliant! I just acquired a NOS Professional Select that is about 20? years old. It is very dry, but very comfy right out of the box. It feels similar to the Sella Italia Turbo saddles I have on several bikes. Have yet to treat the saddle, not sure I will need to.
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Old 10-29-20, 08:27 AM
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I've always considered it a requirement of honor to break in a leather saddle by riding. I've had a number of Brooks leather saddles over the years and they all felt good when new, but got better and better as I rode. The only Brooks that never felt more than ok was a recently purchased C-17. It seemed to get more uncomfortable the more I rode it.

Your novel break-in technique sounds like it may work for you; however I wouldn't think that tennis balls would approximate the pressure point of a sit bone. I reckon they would do a bit of preconditioning so that your butt can do the rest.

Thanks for posting - do an update after a few hundred miles.

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Old 10-29-20, 02:14 PM
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The only Brooks saddle of mine that didn't quickly break in on its own is the Professional that's on my road bike. Its leather is measurably thicker and stiffer than the B-17s on my other bikes. All five of my B-17s were comfortable right out of the box, and have only become moreso over the years. The Pro has taken longer to soften up, but it's never been uncomfortable, even when new. I've long believed that the "breaking in a Brooks" horror stories are told by those who either don't ride much or whose saddles are poorly positioned. IME, it's just not a big deal. Apply Proofide top & bottom, raise the nose about 8 degrees, ride a couple hundred miles, and you're good to go.

Last edited by Rolla; 10-29-20 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 10-30-20, 06:27 PM
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I broke-in my first B17 on it's first ride 14 years ago. I went on a 100 mile ride and halfway through it started to rain and I didn't have a cover. I was terrified that I ruined it but it molded to my butt perfectly.
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Old 10-31-20, 08:38 AM
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I had bought a new Brooks Flyer leather saddle. Applied their super-expensive shoe cream to make sure it's protected from drying out and getting too soaked with rain, or sweat.
Parked the bike to do some errands, and a fast summer shower had fallen down.
Poured for some 20ish minutes on the new saddle.

Wiped the water off, but it was still moist. Took it for a 15 km ride home.

After that, it was broken in - perfectly aligned to my sit bones and was more comfortable than brand new.

I don't think this is a procedure anyone (including me) would recommend. And from then on, I paid more attention to not leave the bike so the saddle can be soaked (or put some plastic bag when leaving it for long). But it did seem to do the job quickly, without any noticeable damage.
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Old 10-31-20, 10:02 AM
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In order to show the process pictures would have been very helpful.
Best, Ben
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Old 11-01-20, 10:21 AM
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Like others here I must have “Brooks Butt” because all 4 of my B17s were comfortable from day 1. 😁
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