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Brooks Swift resurrection

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Brooks Swift resurrection

Old 12-13-22, 02:37 PM
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arex
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Brooks Swift resurrection

Here's the situation. I got a used Brooks Swift off eBay a few weeks ago. The photos looked great, no obvious flags raised. After receiving it, I found that the leather is hard like a piece of plywood, quite literally. You rap on it with your knuckle, and it sounds like knocking on a door.

And yes, I know that the leather isn't supposed to be buttery-soft like kid gloves. I have a number of other Brooks saddles, so I know what it ought to be like...hard enough for structural support for your butt, but with a bit of give. This saddle isn't like that.

What I suspect has happened to it, is that it got thoroughly wet and then left out in the sun to dry out and shrink up. There's a few very tiny tears in the leather at the rear-most rivets, just from the tension. The tensioning bolt in the nose is all the way down...nobody tried to tighten up the leather with the bolt, but conversely there's no room to turn the bolt down to relieve a bit of the tension.

I've been applying different "leather restoration" products to the leather to try and get it to loosen up, which has worked a tiny bit. Trouble is, I've applied a LOT of product to the leather, and it's just soaking it up like a dry sponge. I'm worried about using so much, not knowing what potential problems might arise from it. The products I've been using are generally petrolatum-and-lanolin based, along with other stuff depending on the product. Most of the products are fairly "wet", unlike Proofide. I initially tried Proofide, but switched up when I saw just how dry and thirsty the leather was.

I asked about the problem on a Brooks Saddles Facebook group and got as many different opinions as you'd expect, ranging from "it's supposed to be like that, just ride it" to "soak it for two hours in hot water". Again, it's NOT "supposed to be like that", because my other saddles (including another Swift) are nowhere near as hard and taut as this, and while I realize that they soak the leather in water at the factory so it can be formed, I question whether that's an appropriate solution at this point...I worry about making things even worse.

Aside from the very tiny tears at the two back rivets, the top surface of the leather looks great...smooth and glossy finish, looks great in photos. The flesh-side is also relatively smooth and uncracked. This is why I think that it only got thoroughly wet once, rather than suffering from years of neglect. My gut feeling is that the saddle is quite salvageable, if I go about it right...but I also realize how easily I could jack things up if I did it wrong.

I welcome some opinions and thoughts on the matter.
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Old 12-13-22, 02:46 PM
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Paging @rhm!
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Old 12-13-22, 03:08 PM
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The best advice does seem to be to apply waxes, oils, or whatever (but ideally Proofide or some such thing). Since you've done this and aren't happy, I have to step back and ask the only thing that comes to mind...

Is this Swift black or honey?
I've got two Swifts, both are honey and both are modestly flexible when I put a hand on it and apply some weight.

By comparison, I've got a Pro and B.17, each with less than 10,000 miles (so almost new). These are black and noticeably stiffer than the honey Brooks I own or have owned. They sound like a door too, when rapped with one's knuckles.

I also have a Pro that I've owned since 1975, and its been treated with Neatsfoot oil, Proofide, and probably Snowseal. It has been rained on many times and spent its first 14 years on a Raleigh Gran Sport, my only bike. It has been ridden so much that the "Professional" embossed into the skirt is rubbed smooth.
Even with that, it's still stiffer than my honey saddles.
It started out black, but has lost enough dye to now look like a dark honey.



so... is your Swift a honey or black? If black, do you have experience with other black saddles to compare it to?

Steve in Peoria
(just back from a ride in the rain, helping break in a black Brooks B.17)
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Old 12-13-22, 03:08 PM
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Several years ago someone sent me a Brooks Pro frame to restore. Leather still attached, curled up around the edges like a shriveled banana skin, copper rivets completely covered in verdigris. I may have bought it cheap on eBay, i don't remember. But the leather was not actually torn. So sad an experiment I reshaped the leather (that's what you use water for), which worked quite well. But the result was was a funny color and, just as you describe, as hard as plywood.
i saturated it with neatsfoot oil, i rubbed proofide one it and polished the surface, and nothing made any difference at all. But it still looked too good to replace the leather.
So i sold it on this forum with two conditions, that (a) the rider report back about how he likes the saddle every year or two, and (b) when it fails, he sends the remains back.
Well, it turns out he's likes that saddle just fine, and it hasn't torn in half yet. I'll alert him to this thread so he can comment.
How your saddle will do, i can only guess! It may be an excellent saddle at it is.

Last edited by rhm; 12-13-22 at 03:13 PM.
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Old 12-13-22, 04:19 PM
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I would advise against the use of neatsfoot oil (typically sold for baseball gloves).

I used it on a wet-one-time B-17. It made the leather so soft it could not as a saddle and could never be fixed. It was trash.

I'd stick with Proofide and use.

My 50 year old Brooks Pro, to this day, has that plywood twang you describe. That bit is normal. The only question is, is it comfortable for your butt?
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Old 12-13-22, 04:41 PM
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I have a couple of leather saddles that are rock hard. I don't particularly like it, but it doesn't keep me from riding them either.

This is one of them. Mounted on my Roy Thame it has supported my behind for more miles than most of my other saddles. I mounted it because it looks so nice, and not uncomfortable enough to replace it. YMMV.



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Old 12-13-22, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by nlerner View Post
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Old 12-13-22, 07:06 PM
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my swift seems much harder than by b17 (course the b17 is much older).

I would start with generous proofide applications top and bottom and some time in the saddle.... if that does not work you can get more aggressive Obenaughs or even the berthoud dressing
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Old 12-13-22, 08:24 PM
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I have a B17 I got for $25, it was not bad, oldish, a bit curled on the sides and saggy.

Hoping for some drastic results I trussed up the curling with a towel and dunked it in screaming hot 185 degree water we have going to our washer.

Turns out I left it in a bit to long, it came out a bit shrunk, great shape, cheese grater, alligator skin, weather check like surface AND yep hard as rock, not just Brooks hard as rock.

And still so after numerous soakings with various potions, Its kind of cool and it may look so on the right bike but don't think it will be a rider.

I may get after it with Huberds, maybe.
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Old 12-13-22, 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy View Post
so... is your Swift a honey or black? If black, do you have experience with other black saddles to compare it to?
It's very black. I have a black B17 and a black B72, and a honey B17 and a honey Swift. I seem to recall that I have a brown Swallow somewhere.

And to reiterate, the saddle in question is extremely hard and stiff, unlike the saddles I listed above...I haven't done anything unusual with the listed saddles, aside from Proofide.

Last edited by arex; 12-15-22 at 02:23 PM.
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Old 12-14-22, 12:18 PM
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I had luck softening a Brooks Pro (small rivet) a few years back by first applying Obenauff's on the top and bottom. Then I let it sit on my heating pipes in my basement for 2 days. I have hot water radiators in my house. It seemed to help it be a bit more pliable. I thought maybe an extend period of gentle, heating /cooling would allow the leather to expand and contract a couple of times. YMMV.
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Old 12-14-22, 12:43 PM
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merziac #9 Would like to see this saddle, reads as an interesting test finding.

Last edited by joesch; 12-14-22 at 12:47 PM.
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Old 12-14-22, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by joesch View Post
merziac #9 Would like to see this saddle, reads as an interesting test finding.
Yeah I know pics or it didn't happen, I'll get some.
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Old 12-14-22, 11:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Bad Lag View Post
I would advise against the use of neatsfoot oil (typically sold for baseball gloves).

I used it on a wet-one-time B-17. It made the leather so soft it could not as a saddle and could never be fixed. It was trash.
I don't have experience with Brooks saddles but as a leatherworker that's definitely a strange result. I've used neatsfoot oil on an awful lot of leather products and never seen it do anything like that. Was it pure neatsfoot, or one of the many neatsfoot products that are mostly something else?
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Old 12-15-22, 05:10 AM
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I bought a used B15N that was thoroughly dried-out. I dumped olive oil into the underside several times and let it sit until it stopped absorbing. It seems to have worked well. I made sure I got under the nose-bolt apparatus and the cantle plate, too. The top, I hit with Huberd's Shoe Grease, and to seal, the underside with Sno-Seal.
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Old 12-15-22, 10:57 AM
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This Ideale 80 came with my PA-10. Neats foot oil top and bottom did nothing. Iíve applied Shoe Grease top and bottom a few times and Iím making some progress. Olive Oil?


Faux Buffalo?

One small tear.
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Old 12-15-22, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Classtime View Post
This Ideale 80 came with my PA-10. Neats foot oil top and bottom did nothing. Iíve applied Shoe Grease top and bottom a few times and Iím making some progress. Olive Oil?


Faux Buffalo?

One small tear.
No, I am sorry, your saddle is dead. Nothing will make that leather young again. Have you tried riding it? It doesn't look like it would hold any weight at all.
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Old 12-15-22, 12:20 PM
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I did the 100 mile clunker challenge after only a soak and reshape. I haven’t tried again since applying all the salves.
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Old 12-15-22, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by retswerb View Post
I don't have experience with Brooks saddles but as a leatherworker that's definitely a strange result. I've used neatsfoot oil on an awful lot of leather products and never seen it do anything like that. Was it pure neatsfoot, or one of the many neatsfoot products that are mostly something else?
It was pure neatsfoot oil. I was very disappointed with the outcome.

Everything else I've ever used neatsfoot oil on has also gotten soft. In many (most?) cases, that's a good thing but not so for saddles.

Saddles have to support ~150 lb + plus a dynamic load. You can only get a hint by pushing with your hands but unless you are Hercules, you won't really see how it has to flex under that much load.

All that aside, Proofide WORKS!
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Old 12-15-22, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by merziac View Post
Hoping for some drastic results I trussed up the curling with a towel and dunked it in screaming hot 185 degree water we have going to our washer.
you will have a battle on your hands. You have treated the leather with the Cuir Bouuilli process. The leather will be harder and brittle.
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Old 12-15-22, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Bad Lag View Post
All that aside, Proofide WORKS!
but only when the leather has been maintained correctly over the years. If the leather has dried out, nothing will miraculously restore it.
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Old 12-15-22, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Big Block View Post
you will have a battle on your hands. You have treated the leather with the Cuir Bouuilli process. The leather will be harder and brittle.
Yep, said as much in the post.

This one is kinda cool in a ruined kind of way and will probably be a display curiosity.
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Old 12-15-22, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Big Block View Post
you will have a battle on your hands. You have treated the leather with the Cuir Bouuilli process. The leather will be harder and brittle.


This would explain a bit about the current condition of the saddle. Figure 10% shrinkage, and yeah, this leather would get extremely tight.
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Old 12-16-22, 12:40 AM
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What happens if you add a little, and I mean a LITTLE, tension via the nose screw. Let it sit that way for a day (or a week) or so, then add a smidge more. After a little bit, back off all tension.

Would that work?
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Old 12-16-22, 05:40 AM
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Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
my swift seems much harder than by b17 (course the b17 is much older).

I would start with generous proofide applications top and bottom and some time in the saddle.... if that does not work you can get more aggressive Obenaughs or even the berthoud dressing
Are Obenauf's and the Berthoud really more aggressive than Proofide?

I'm curious about the Feibing's Mink Oil Paste (in a white plastic "tin"). Has anybody tried it?

Last edited by Road Fan; 12-16-22 at 06:45 AM.
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