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Breaking in the saddle

Old 09-15-13, 10:17 AM
  #1  
byrd48
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Breaking in the saddle

Hi,
I have a new VO 17 model leather saddle, with about 400 miles on it. The manner in which it is breaking in is such that there is a firm ridge down the middle of the seat, from front to back, with depressions on either side of it, which makes sense. The depression on the left side is both larger and deeper than the one on the right, which would seem to indicate that I'm leaning to the left somehow while riding, or that side of the saddle is somehow weaker than the right. I have kept the laces tight and when I squeeze on the sides of the saddle behind the laces, it does not really firm up that area, so I don't think an additional set of laces would make any difference.
The problem I'm having is that on the left side, it is getting uncomfortable. The saddle seems to interface with my left sit bone in such a manner that it sends pain down my leg and through the top of my foot to my toes. It seems counter intuitive that the lowest portion of the saddle would be causing that type of problem, but it is. I've treated the saddle once with neatsfoot oil, but I have not adjusted the tension.
When the saddle was brand new and the top surface had the nice curvature from one side to the other, it was very comfortable, although hard, but I had no issues.
So at this point, I'm considering what type of adjustment, if any, may help. I wonder if reducing the tension may allow that ridge down the middle to lower a bit, but I don't want it to end up like a hammock I suppose. I'm hoping to make it work, but it's at the point that I'll have to ditch it if I can't get it worked out.
Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thanks,
Jon
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Old 09-15-13, 12:54 PM
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It may be responding to your pelvis not being the same on both sides.
and the leather is conforming to the pressure of you sitting on it as you do.
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Old 09-15-13, 01:29 PM
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Many of us ride asymmetrically, which was the subject of a thread a while back. All of my leather saddles (6, so far) show that I sit deeper on the right. Some saddles move more than others. When I feel under both sides of the slotted Selle An-Atomica as I ride, my right sitbone is about 5mm lower than the left.

But if that asymmetry is causing pain, that doesn't sound typical.

Have you tried rotating the saddle+seatpost one way or the other?
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Old 09-15-13, 05:58 PM
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You may not want to hear this but, if a saddle with only 400 miles on it is already forming a butt hatchet down the middle, something is very wrong. Also, Neats foot oil is absolutely one of the worst things you can put on a suspended leather saddle. Sorry to say this but, that might have caused the saddle to loose its taught shape prematurely, depending on how much oil you applied. If you only wiped a light coating on, then there is something wrong with the leather they used in the saddle. A well made leather saddle should not deform like this so early.

I suspect the pain you're experiencing down your leg is caused by a pinched nerve as your butt is too far down into the saddle, and not being supported by the tight leather anymore. Just my guess.

If it were me, I'd send that saddle back. But if it was ruined with too much oil, you may be out of luck.

Last edited by rootboy; 09-15-13 at 06:03 PM.
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Old 09-15-13, 07:33 PM
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I used only a very light treatment of the oil, and it was well after the problem started. Let me ask you this, as a leather saddle wears, should it maintain a curvature from side to side or do they all form a ridge down the middle as they wear? I might contact VO about it. The saddle itself seemed to be a knock off of the Brooks B17, but cheaper, maybe that's why? I've seen some saddles that are pre-softened, would it be advisable to look at one of those? I'm not against going back to synthetic either, but they seemed to have their own problems. This one was awesome the first 150 miles or so!
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Old 09-15-13, 08:30 PM
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The VO saddles have what appears to be a fiberglass like reinforcing fabric on the underside of the leather. On mine, with probably about 1000miles on it, there are barely any dimples and it becomes uncomfortable to ride after about 25 miles or so. My Brooks saddles feel like sitting in butter by comparison. I have thought about trying to remove the reinforcing fabric from the VO saddle, but I suspect it's on there permanently.
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Old 09-16-13, 05:51 AM
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No, a saddle should not form that ridge down the center. But, there is one caveat. Are you a very heavy rider? That must be factored in, if so.

But, There are plenty of leather saddles around, mostly Brooks', that are 20 to 40 years old that still retain their original shape. I have a Brooks Pro from the 60's that is still firm and shapely.

I don't have any direct experience with VO saddles. Nor Gyes. But I just suspect they are not up to the quality of the older Brooks saddles. Even some new Brooks saddles fail prematurely. The reason they're putting a fiberglass layer underneath, in my opinion, is that they're trying to compromise. Make a suspended leather saddle that is comfortable right off the shelf and requires no break in period. But it's a trade off.

Send the VO back. It's not right.

I would get a Brooks if I were you. Preferably, an old one in great condition. And if you do, don't get Neats foot oil anywhere near it.
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Old 09-16-13, 05:55 AM
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Something like this, maybe;
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Broo...item2eca41d87e
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Old 09-16-13, 09:13 AM
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Thanks all. I will contact VO about it and stay shopping for a Brooks.
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Old 09-16-13, 11:12 AM
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please read this letter sent to me from Brooks, regarding putting "stuff" on a leather seat. It explains the basic concept that rootboy describes in his first post.

Date: Sun, 12 Jun 2011 02:00:12 +0000

There are many fables as to the best way to soften the saddle. However you do not want to soften the saddle, you want to promote its forming without it becoming soft. A good saddle will still look and feel hard but it will have taken to your shape. Consider your best, hand-made leather dress shoes. The first time you wore them the leather was hard. They pinched and you got blisters. But after a few months they felt better than any shoes you ever owned before. The leather is not any softer, it has formed to your feet so the shoes are now truly custom fitted.This is what a leather saddle can do for you if you treat it properly. And the proper way to break in a Brooks saddle is to ride it. The photo shows a perfectly broken-in Brooks saddle. This saddle is still hard at every point, even where indented, as no foreign substances have been used to accelerate its breaking in. The rider's contact with the saddle is now uniform, with no pressure peaks. The saddle may look distorted but to the owner it is incredibly comfortable – exactly how a Brooks should ideally become. How was this form achieved? Simply by riding.Proofide does not accelerate the breaking-in process. It conditions the leather without saturating it, allowing it to breathe whilst offering some protection from the elements. A saddle that has been treated with Hydrophene or Neatsfoot oil may appear comfortable but this comfort comes from its bowing. Brooks' official advice is lots of Proofide on the underside without wiping off – to protect the saddle from anything thrown up by the wheels (not so important on a bike with mudguards). On the top use it sparingly every 500 miles: apply in the evening, wipe off in the morning.[h=3]Andrew Hunter – Brooks England Ltd, Smethwick[/h]
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Old 09-16-13, 05:24 PM
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Thanks! It sounds like from the letter that they mention the broken in saddle as being 'indented', which to me means that it may break in the same way as the one I have now, so perhaps a new saddle won't solve my problem. I did a google search on broken in leather saddle photos and many of them look just like mine, with a ridge down the middle and depressions on either side: http://www.google.com/imgres?sa=X&bi...6&tx=98&ty=110
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Old 09-18-13, 05:45 AM
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If yours is no worse than the one in that pic, it is probably completely normal. From your initial posting I had assumed the ridge was highly pronounced. It's normal for the saddle to develop slight indentations where your sit bones go.
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Old 09-19-13, 06:24 AM
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Originally Posted by rootboy View Post
Also, Neats foot oil is absolutely one of the worst things you can put on a suspended leather saddle. Sorry to say this but, that might have caused the saddle to loose its taught shape prematurely, depending on how much oil you applied.
What is the problem with neatsfoot oil? What do you recommend? Do you know what the active component is in Proofide?
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Old 09-19-13, 07:18 AM
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asmac, a horse saddle is supported underneath by the horse, a bike leather seat is hanging between a metal frame, so if you soften it too much, it will sag.
Reread the letter sent to me describing this, specifically about not wanting the seat to "bow".
I believe the prob with oils is that they break down the leather in a way that you dont want in an unsupported leather seat, like I said, on a horse its a diff thing.

also, in the letter the guy says to put some proofide on every 500miles, I certainly dont do that. I put a bit on once a year maybe, so this year Ive put about 3000km or 2000 miles on one of my Brooks, and it doesnt look or feel like it needs any. I will prob put a smidge on it after it sits in a dry house all winter, but thats about it. So in other words the small can of proofide I bought with the seat will last me many many years, the price of a fancy beer in a restaurant, so why not just use proofide that Brooks figures is best for their seats.

or not, its your seat.
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