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worth restoring old brooks?

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worth restoring old brooks?

Old 04-08-11, 12:00 AM
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dashuaigeh
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worth restoring old brooks?

I've got a splayed out old Brooks from a Raleigh Super Course, and was considering trying to restore it. I assume it's the original, a B15, but I can't tell for certain since the labels got rubbed off.





Is Proofhide still the best way to go with softening/reviving leather as old as the 70s? Is this one even worth reviving ? I figure I can twine or somehow lace the leather to fix the splaying, but I'm not sure if this is damaged beyond repair or not.
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Old 04-08-11, 04:40 AM
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I'd say yes it is worth the effort. I have this French made Schwinn Sprint saddle form the mid '60s that was splayed as bad as your Brooks B-15 happens to be. The leather was very stiff, but my guess not as dry as your saddle.

I coated both the top and under sides with a generous application of Proofide, and waited a few days. I then began punching holes, which you won't have to do. I'd recommend using leather to lace it. I'd worry about the twine cutting the leather.

I can't seem to find any before pictures.



It would appear I was trying to avoid the "Sprint" logo. But actually, I needed to work around where the seat post clamp would be.



As you can see, the skirt drops rather low on this saddle. Since I was using it on a very old Schwinn New World ('39), I didn't have any choice but to use the post and clamp.

I laced the rear portion first, slowly pulling it back into a preferred shape for the sit area. This pulled most of the splay out. Then I laced the "nose" portion, which still had some spread. This pulled it back into what looked to be an acceptable shape for a 40+ year old saddle. I then took all the slack out of the nose nut and bolt, tightening it until the center ridge felt firm and only deflected slightly under a lot of hand weight applied while it was on the workbench.

It was a number of months before the bike (and weather ) was ready for a shake down ride. When it did happen, I was amazed at how comfortable this saddle happens to be. The Soma Jack Taylor handlebars, that's another story.

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Old 04-08-11, 08:05 AM
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Thanks Pastorbob! That's probably one of the older Schwinns I've seen around - it looks wonderful. I will probably have some cracks in mine once I'm done, but since it's technically a beater bike anyways, this would be perfect.

And those handlebars look amazingly uncomfortable. Did they bend downwards, or are they meant to look like that?
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Old 04-08-11, 10:17 AM
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Meant to look that way. They are a copy of the ones used by Major Taylor, the bicycle racer of the early 20th century. Maybe great on a track, but murder on the road.
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Old 04-08-11, 04:44 PM
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To reshape the saddle I would take any tension off, then drop the whole saddle it in a bucket of water for 45 min.
the leather becomes soft and pliable. Use soft bindings to reshape and then let it dry naturally, over a week, removing the binding when the saddle shape has set.
Then apply your Proofride, and retension as required.
See the para on "blocking" on this page
I needed to soak some leather in water when I was recovering a saddle.
and please post your results.
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Old 04-08-11, 05:12 PM
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BigBlock, I just had a good look at your link (to recovering a saddle), Geez some ppl never cease to amaze me, what you did was absolutely outstanding, the effort you put in was trully inspiring, and an "Aussie" too, I can feel the pride swelling, lol !
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Old 04-08-11, 05:24 PM
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I read and used advice with the hot water, I wrapped it with a toe strap and packed it the saddle cavity with newspaper to absorb the moisture. 'worked great!
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Old 04-08-11, 08:47 PM
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Same here, I've reshaped a couple of badly deformed saddles that way. Restored them to service if not "like-new" condition. Wrapped with an Ace bandage and stuffed in rags to help the shape. One was a Brooks B17N that had clearly been left out in the rain a long time, and it's quite comfortable, though it's starting to splay out again somewhat. I may just have to wok on it again.
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Old 04-08-11, 08:53 PM
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Originally Posted by k_as_in_knife View Post
... I may just have to wok on it again.
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Old 04-08-11, 10:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Big Block View Post
To reshape the saddle I would take any tension off, then drop the whole saddle it in a bucket of water for 45 min.
the leather becomes soft and pliable. Use soft bindings to reshape and then let it dry naturally, over a week, removing the binding when the saddle shape has set.
Then apply your Proofride, and retension as required.
See the para on "blocking" on this page
I needed to soak some leather in water when I was recovering a saddle.
and please post your results.
Big block, this is gold! I'll try this process starting tomorrow and report back in a week or so!
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Old 04-09-11, 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by auchencrow View Post
I can probably only wok on it so many times before it's fried
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Old 04-20-11, 06:25 PM
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<whistles> what a transformation! Annnnnnnnnnd here are the pics

After soaking:


And after drying for a week!





So the Brooks, while still cracked, has molded to look like a saddle again . It's still hard for a Brooks, but that may just be b/c the leather seems thicker on these old ones? I did notice that the skirt ended up looking a bit wavy - when they recommend to use bindings to tighten at the most narrow point, they really do mean the most narrow point, otherwise the rest of the saddle will splay out around where the bindings touch.

I applied a tiny bit of tension to it as well, but don't really know if there's a minimum tension that I should apply. I figure if my butt starts to hit the rails, I'll need to tighten a bit .

Going for its first test ride (in black shorts!) soon.
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Old 04-21-11, 01:42 AM
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Nice work, good to see the rescued saddle. Apply some Proofride sparingly, and you will now need to get the leather to mold to your sitbones.
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Old 04-21-11, 08:10 AM
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If you really want the leather formable, soak the saddle then put it in a plastic zip-lock bag overnight. The leather should become extremely malable. That is how I form leather to make knife sheaths and stool covers. I would guess that is how the saddles were originally made.
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Old 04-21-11, 09:19 AM
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A leather saddle can be soaked with very few ill effects... it is when they are ridden while soaked that they die a fairly quick death. If they do get wet they need to be allowed to dry, given a light cleaning, and re-sealed.

I have quite a few leather saddles and only one came to me new while the rest all needed some level of work to bring them back into rideable condition.

Besides re-shaping they need to be cleaned and have their oils restored and saddle soap works well to remove dirt and grime and restore moisture while products like Proofhide work more as a sealer and I opt to use Kiwi clear polish for this.

The Ideale Professional on my P20 was an ass hatchet when I received it and after soaking and reshaping it gave a good cleaning (do this when the saddle is damp) and after it dried applied the Kiwi polish which lets the saddle shed water. It had a ridge running right down the middle and was not splayed so it really was an ass hatchet so before wrapping the saddle I used the top vents and cord to pull the top down, anchoring the cords on the rails and then wrapped it so it would hold it's shape as it dried.

Have put 5000 km on that saddle now and it rates as one of the most comfortable I have ever ridden and it was like that from the very first ride I took on it and it has only gotten better.

Another technique to restore saddles that are simply dry is to set your oven to warm and after soaking the saddle in olive oil, set it in the oven for 15 minutes and then re-apply and repeat... you will see where the saddle is absorbing the oil most and where it needs it.

But always make sure they are clean as this allows them to breathe and absorb those essential nutrients.

If a saddle has become dry rotted the game is pretty much over... things like mildew are actually a sign that a saddle is in good shape.
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Old 04-21-11, 11:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
A leather saddle can be soaked with very few ill effects... it is when they are ridden while soaked that they die a fairly quick death. If they do get wet they need to be allowed to dry, given a light cleaning, and re-sealed.

I have quite a few leather saddles and only one came to me new while the rest all needed some level of work to bring them back into rideable condition.

Besides re-shaping they need to be cleaned and have their oils restored and saddle soap works well to remove dirt and grime and restore moisture while products like Proofhide work more as a sealer and I opt to use Kiwi clear polish for this.

The Ideale Professional on my P20 was an ass hatchet when I received it and after soaking and reshaping it gave a good cleaning (do this when the saddle is damp) and after it dried applied the Kiwi polish which lets the saddle shed water. It had a ridge running right down the middle and was not splayed so it really was an ass hatchet so before wrapping the saddle I used the top vents and cord to pull the top down, anchoring the cords on the rails and then wrapped it so it would hold it's shape as it dried.

Have put 5000 km on that saddle now and it rates as one of the most comfortable I have ever ridden and it was like that from the very first ride I took on it and it has only gotten better.

Another technique to restore saddles that are simply dry is to set your oven to warm and after soaking the saddle in olive oil, set it in the oven for 15 minutes and then re-apply and repeat... you will see where the saddle is absorbing the oil most and where it needs it.

But always make sure they are clean as this allows them to breathe and absorb those essential nutrients.

If a saddle has become dry rotted the game is pretty much over... things like mildew are actually a sign that a saddle is in good shape.
Thanks, SixtyFiver. This is actually my first leather saddle - I wish I had known about the cleaning before I had reshaped and proofhided it! It doesn't seem to be dry rotted; the leather is still fairly firm (though I can't tell how the inside is, of course). Is there a definitive test for dry rot?

I may need to try that saddle soap the next time I soak this saddle. I think the previous owner hadn't used it since the 80s, and I'm betting it's accumulated its share of dust and grime. I'm wondering if the saddle will change color with the soap as well...

Originally Posted by Big Block View Post
Nice work, good to see the rescued saddle. Apply some Proofride sparingly, and you will now need to get the leather to mold to your sitbones.
Believe it or not, that is the saddle after a generous helping of proofhide to it.
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Old 04-22-11, 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by dashuaigeh

Believe it or not, that is the saddle after a generous helping of proofhide to it.
so now you need to go for a ride. Just don't go overboard with the Proofride. Too much and you will destroy the leather.
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