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Vintage Brooks Professional Neatsfoot Oil Before & After

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Vintage Brooks Professional Neatsfoot Oil Before & After

Old 11-18-10, 09:16 PM
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agobel
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Vintage Brooks Professional Neatsfoot Oil Before & After


“It is as well to be assured that the saddle you buy as a Brooks bears the name Brooks at the rear; it may save you considerable disappointment.” - The Brooks Book for Cyclists 1914

I recently purchased my first Brooks saddle on eBay, a vintage Professional, and wanted to share my conditioning process and first impressions if anyone's interested. I used maybe 1/5 bottle of neatsfoot oil, purchased for $7 at a local shoe repair shop. This dried out saddle cost me just $40 shipped, so it seemed a small gamble for a pre-broken in, vintage brooks to top off my recent build. Thoughts, comments, and suggestions welcome!


Here is the saddle basically as it arrived. I already buffed the rear rivets with my Dremel & some Brasso. The leather seemed pretty dry. The top felt wooden, the bottom was almost flaky, and the leather creaked a bit when squeezed.


"Brooks Professional" can just be made out.


Nose intact


A scuff is a scuff. The cracks, since they appear to be spaced evenly in front of each rivet, could be normal and due to heavy use, or made worse by dryness and neglect.


I warmed a cup of neatsfoot oil and gently rubbed it into the entire top of the saddle.


The darkening was drastic but welcome; my bike's black.


I took care not to slather oil disproportionately over the saddle. I dipped my fingers, then rubbed it in uniformly.


Like the rest of the saddle, the cracks now appear "softer" but are no less visible. They don't bother me in any way aesthetically, and they appear quite shallow, so I'm hoping this Brooks has many, many years left in it.

My ride today was pretty darn comfortable. I'm really happy I got a broken in saddle as its slight "give" was unexpected but immediately appreciated. I'm also looking forward to that "custom fit".
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Old 11-18-10, 09:25 PM
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For a one shot deal I think you did the right thing given the rather sad condition of the leather. But from this point on I'd treat it with waxes intended for leather which have only a slight amount of oil mixed in. Neatsfoot will make leather flexible but over use will make it TOO flexible and it'll start pulling out from under the rivets. Leather waxes have just the right blend of oil to wax to feed the leather and protect it without making it too soft.
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Old 11-18-10, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
But from this point on I'd treat it with waxes intended for leather which have only a slight amount of oil mixed in.
Also picked up Sno-Seal, which I have heard compared to Proofide. It reads "The Original Beeswax" something something on the front so I thought this would be an ideal treatment from now on. I get what you're saying about over-softening the leather around the rivets, though. Don't want that. Thanks for the tip.

Last edited by agobel; 11-18-10 at 10:41 PM.
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Old 11-19-10, 07:57 AM
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Was this real neatsfoot oil or the synthetic?
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Old 11-19-10, 07:31 PM
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Neatsoil or oil of any kind will actually shorten the life of a leather saddle. It over softens the leather making it sag more thus having to tighten the spanner bolt more which in turn will cause the rivets to pull through the leather. Hopefully you only used a little bit. From now on all you need to do is use the Sno Seal or Proofide to keep it preserved. Another word of caution in regards to the Spanner bolt, only tighten it 1/4 th a turn at a time or you could over tighten and cause the the saddle to tear.
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Old 11-19-10, 08:04 PM
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I have a very dried out old Brooks that I have been on the fence about how much oil it should get. It is dry enough that it is not use-able as is -- I picked up a bottle of Lexol from a saddle (horse) shop.
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Old 11-19-10, 08:17 PM
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Lexol, neatsfoot oil and the like are designed to soften leather which is great for shoes, upholstery and baseball mitts. As others have said overuse will cause rapid stretching and consequent sag of your Brooks. Brooks saddles have lasted for decades precisely because they were treated properly to begin with. I'm not ragging on the OP, he rescued essentially a dead saddle. For you current Brooks owners however, use the right stuff on your saddle and you'll be happy for a very long time.
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Old 11-20-10, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by sonatageek View Post
I have a very dried out old Brooks that I have been on the fence about how much oil it should get. It is dry enough that it is not use-able as is -- I picked up a bottle of Lexol from a saddle (horse) shop.
But again Lexol is an oil that if used to much either all at once or over a period of time will destroy a Brooks. Horse saddles are different the bike saddles in that horse saddles are very thick leather, and horse saddles are not suspended like a bike saddle. Oil will cause a bike saddle to sag prematurely. I understand you had a dried out saddle and really the oil was probably good for it initially if applied very sparingly, but now that you have done that don't use it again.

For you newer Brooks owner follow the instructions that came with the saddle, trying anything else will void your warranty. Brooks has been making these saddles for over 100 years and they know how to treat them to make them last 20+ years, doing something else because some "knowledgeable" friend, or forum member, or LBS mechanic, or web site says it's ok will only give you problems down the road.

I have treated my Brooks saddle Proofide as per their instructions and then I treated it with Kiwi neutral paste wax not per their instuctions. But wax (which is the contents of Proofide) will not soften the leather only protects it from elements better then Proofide alone. But I also ride with a saddle cover if rain is forcasted. The shoe wax makes water bead up better then Proofide I feel, so I tend that direction, but again using shoe wax might void the warranty? even though I'm not using oil, not sure, but neither of my Brooks are no longer under warranty anyways.

Last edited by rekmeyata; 11-20-10 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 11-20-10, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by slowandsteady View Post
Was this real neatsfoot oil or the synthetic?
This was a Angelus brand prime neatsfoot oil compound, meaning it was real, but adulterated with the "finest grade oils". (Their words)
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Old 11-20-10, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by sonatageek View Post
I have a very dried out old Brooks that I have been on the fence about how much oil it should get. It is dry enough that it is not use-able as is -- I picked up a bottle of Lexol from a saddle (horse) shop.
I don't know anything about Lexol, so I won't discourage you from using it, but my results with neatsfoot oil have been perfect, for what it's worth. The saddle dried a much darker brown, and feels "smooth" to the touch. If you should go this route, I think it's sound advice to apply sparingly. I dipped my fingers, then rubbed the oil evenly into the leather. There was no glooping or pouring, you know what I mean? The next day, I finished with a light dose of Sno-Seal (each about pea-sized) for the top and bottom.

Let us know how yours turns out, would you? Photos appreciated. Good luck!
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Old 11-20-10, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by rekmeyata View Post
Another word of caution in regards to the Spanner bolt, only tighten it 1/4 th a turn at a time or you could over tighten and cause the the saddle to tear.
I have a tension-specific question. My saddle is unquestionably crooked. The flap-shaped leather sides are asymmetrical - one a bit more flared than the other. It's not uncomfortable to ride, but I wanted to ask if this asymmetry warrants any bolt adjustment. Is this even a problem? And do I have any reason to consider lacing or adjustment? This picture is pretty much straight down, to give you an idea:

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Old 11-20-10, 06:46 PM
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Agobel, for some reason the front bolt adjuster is offset. If you can get it back to center then fine. Other wise don't worry about it. The saddle leather itself looks fine and only appears offset due to the front bolt bit. It may be due to the rails having been bent at some point so they are not symetrical. But either way your backside won't notice that the rails and seat post are angled a bit. Just look down from above and set the saddle leather so it's pointed straight ahead and ride. It all just means that the saddle rails and seat post will be offset a few degrees to compensate. A shift that you'll never notice.
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Old 11-21-10, 03:57 PM
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Warmed Oven [100F] and Proofide a lot of it is wax, and is absorbed readily, into an upside down saddle ,
I did that to mine decades ago ..

maybe lace the lower skirts together , the upper portion seems in good profile.
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Old 11-21-10, 08:18 PM
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In my experience, pure neatsfoot oil is no problem. It will not over soften the leather nor shorten the life of the saddle.

I'm not sure the same can be said for the neatsfoot oil "compound." Sheldon Brown says to avoid neatsfoot compounds that contain silicone.

Last edited by JPMacG; 11-21-10 at 08:23 PM.
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Old 11-23-10, 02:58 PM
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At the end the of the day your saddle is your saddle and can do whatever you want to your saddle even before the warranty runs out...but don't expect Brooks to cover your saddle if you screw it up using neets oil or water or motor oil or whatever that was not specifically outlined in the care instructions.

I've said this before so I'll bore you with it again; Brooks has been making saddles for over 100 years and they know exactly how to get the longest life possible out of their saddles, all the owner has to do is follow those directions. Don't take my word for it, I'm like you just another forum member, but rather take Brooks word for it. You can either read the care and warranty info that came with your saddle, or you can go to their web site where they spell out the care and warranty info, or you can e-mail them with any questions about using other products on their saddles and see what they say.
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Old 11-23-10, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by rekmeyata View Post
do whatever you want to your saddle even before the warranty runs out...but don't expect Brooks to cover your saddle if you screw it up using neets oil or water or motor oil or whatever that was not specifically outlined in the care instructions.
This sounds explicitly directed at anyone considering neatsfoot oil on a new saddle. I started this thread to show how neatsfoot oil works on a dried out, vintage saddle. When searching for advice on how best to treat my severely dried out Brooks, I found plenty of debates, but no photographic before & afters. Warranty isn't really part of this discussion, since this thread's directed at people inheriting/buying/finding old Brooks saddles whose former owners did not follow the care instructions outlined by Brooks.

I hope I'm not being rude, but there are already many "Proofide alternatives" and "Brooks break-in" threads where your comments would be more appropriate. Trust me when I say Proofide wouldn't have done diddly jack to this old thing. Cheers!
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Old 11-23-10, 03:49 PM
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Agobel:

You missed one of my earlier posts where I stated that using neets oil on a severely dried up saddle would be ok as long as it wasn't over applied and used sparingly (see post #5; the exact quote was: Hopefully you only used a little bit . On your saddle it won't really matter if the saddle was destroyed in the process because the saddle was in poor condition anyways, so you sometimes have to take a chance and see if by chance something can be saved taking steps that could destroy it. And hopefully you did use a little bit of the oil, because soaking the saddle in the oil would over soften the already fragile condition of the leather and make it sag to the point where it can never be retensioned or the spanner breaks through the leather, or the copper rivets start to pop out due to the over stretching of the leather.

And your right Proofide would not have done diddly for that saddle. But now that you have used the neets oil you can start using the Proofide from now on instead of the oil.

Posts after that by others were telling people to use neets oil and Lexol on perfectly good saddles, to which I replied to denounce such applications per Brooks instructions. I hope that cleared up what was being communicated.
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Old 11-23-10, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by rekmeyata View Post
(see post #5; the exact quote was: Hopefully you only used a little bit
My apologies. Just trying to stay on topic. People seem to loooooove bickering about every aspect of Brooks ownership. As per new saddles: 100% agreed. When I can afford a new Brooks, I will certainly treat it "by the book". In the meantime, I am really happy with how this one came back to life with a little oil. That's all I want to communicate.

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Old 11-23-10, 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by agobel View Post
My apologies. Just trying to stay on topic. People seem to loooooove bickering about every aspect of Brooks ownership. As per new saddles: 100% agreed. When I can afford a new Brooks, I will certainly treat it "by the book". In the meantime, I am really happy with how this one came back to life with a little oil. That's all I want to communicate.

From all appearances it does look like you did a good job with it. Do be careful with tensioning the saddle. Over tensioning it could destroy the saddle especially older ones in fragile condition. Rule of thumb for new saddles is about a 1/4 turn every 5 years. My Swift is 12 years old and I've only had to adjust it 1/4th of a turn once in that time about a year ago. From the pictures it appears that should not have to tension any further, but keep an eye on the front and rear rivets, if they start to look like the leather around the rivets are cracking worse, or new ones forming, or the rivets have a sunken look then loosen the tension about a 1/2 a turn but not so much the spanner is loose.

These saddles once broken into your arse will form two dimples, one on each side of the saddle where your set bones are, this is normal and not an indication to retension the saddle.

Water is an enemy to leather saddles, so if you must ride it in the rain then get a seat cover for it to protect it better. And use neutral Kiwi shoe polish to enhance water protection after the Proofide is applied.

Here's a web site with some very useful care instructions for Brooks saddles: https://www.esande.net/features/newbrooks.html It would behoove all Brooks owners to read that site.
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Old 11-23-10, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by agobel View Post
......People seem to loooooove bickering about every aspect of Brooks ownership......[/IMG]
You've noticed that too have you?

It's not just saddles. I've noticed that any product that is more pricey and somewhat non-mainstream has the same prattling being plied by the owners. BMW motorcycle owners are an excellent source of prattle that rivals anything seen here on BF concering Brooks saddles or, dare I say it, chain cleaning and maintanence.....
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Old 11-24-10, 04:00 AM
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Without wishing to add fuel to the fire, I recently applied Proofide to a Brooks B-17 Narrow that was resolutely refusing to break in, and after 6 months was still uncomfortable.

Contrary to a post by rekmeyata above, I found that Proofide softened the saddle up nicely and it ´broke in´after a week. It´s no absolutely lovely and I think I have a saddle for life.
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Old 11-24-10, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Barchettaman View Post
Contrary to a post by rekmeyata above, I found that Proofide softened the saddle up nicely and it ´broke in´after a week. It´s no absolutely lovely and I think I have a saddle for life.
Can you kindly show me where I stated Proofide was not good for a Brooks saddle? I can't find it, maybe I can't read my own writings.
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Old 11-24-10, 04:44 PM
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I got similar results restoring an old Wrights leather saddle using proofhide. (Had a tin from when I bought my B17 Imperial).
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Old 11-24-10, 05:11 PM
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I apologize for drawing this out but I can't resist. Every time there is mention of treating a Brooks with something other than Proofide the self appointed Brooks police appear and post warnings that doing so will ruin the saddle and void the warranty.

In my opinion, their warnings are simply untrue. I suspect that Brooks has some shills lurking here. After all, Brooks would have an interest in selling little tins of snake oil at tremendous profit.

Last edited by JPMacG; 11-24-10 at 05:22 PM.
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Old 11-24-10, 11:18 PM
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Originally Posted by JPMacG View Post
I suspect that Brooks has some shills lurking here.
While I appreciate your coining of "Brooks police" to describe posters itching for this saddle prattle to spark debate, there's no reason to assume Brooks is involved. I think people just like arguing about this stuff because of the heritage of the Brooks name and the reputation of their products. There seem to be many cyclists out there (immeasurably more experienced than myself) who agree Brooks saddles are the best. I guess it seems logical, if not a waste of energy, to argue about the best way to care for something so prestigious.
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