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Not Taking Care of a Brooks Saddle

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Not Taking Care of a Brooks Saddle

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Old 10-01-18, 05:29 PM
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Not Taking Care of a Brooks Saddle

I recently acquired a new commuter bike and the seller through in a Brooks Swallow B15 saddle for free.

While I love the history and aesthetic of the Brooks, it seems pretty impractical for somebody who commutes year round, rain or shine, and locks his bike up outside an office for 8+ hours everyday.

However, at the end of the day, I have the Brooks saddle and I don't want to go through the hassle of selling it, so I figure I might as well use it.

My question is: what would happen if I used my Brooks the way I used a normal saddle in the rain/snow/road salt/etc...? I know that I'd obviously shorten the life of it, but are we talking that it'd last a year or two or a month or two?

Also, I'm totally ok with keeping a cover on the saddle 100% of the time if that'd help. What would happen to it then?

I just don't want to have to stop ridding to grab plastic bags or apply treatments to it every time I'm out in the rain.
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Old 10-01-18, 05:45 PM
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Well, on one hand I have a 45 year old leather Adga saddle that I have never protected. It's still shapely and comfortable; however it does have a bit of cracking and scuffing. No care seemed to work fine.

On the other hand, I have 2 Brooks of the same age, which have been protected from water, but have had no other treatment. They have a bit more cracking than the Adga but have held their shapes better.

No more hands, but I have to say that I have a bit over 100 miles on a new Brooks B17 and I have convinced myself to "treat it right" without getting OCD about it.

If I were you, I'd ride your saddle for a while just to determine if you actually like it. Some riders don't seem to have the right sort of butt for a Brooks. If you decide you like it, give it whatever care you want. No care will get you maybe 10 years of use, but carrying a shower cap for rain protection is an easy way to add decades.

Good luck
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Old 10-01-18, 05:47 PM
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It would last several times longer than the normal saddle. I've been riding every day with my Brooks B67. O You still see 1960 English 3 speeds with intact Brooks. They were developed as utility saddles. I've never messed around with plastic covers or Proofhide.
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Old 10-01-18, 06:01 PM
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Thanks, that's good to hear, and was exactly what I was hoping. I'll probably still get some cover to keep on it permanently, albeit largely to protect it from theft along with a chain lock.
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Old 10-01-18, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Roadie Fixie View Post

My question is: what would happen if I used my Brooks the way I used a normal saddle in the rain/snow/road salt/etc...? I know that I'd obviously shorten the life of it, but are we talking that it'd last a year or two or a month or two?

Also, I'm totally ok with keeping a cover on the saddle 100% of the time if that'd help. What would happen to it then?

I just don't want to have to stop ridding to grab plastic bags or apply treatments to it every time I'm out in the rain.
Leather itself lasts a fair long while even if left unloved out in the weather. Just came back from a trip out country, saw zillions of cows & they all font seem too bothered by the rainstorms. Ditto mohair roofs on convertibles.

Main thing I'd be wary of though... when you wet leather it relaxes, becomes easier to stretch... so if you put your weight on a strip of wet leather you'll be stretching it. If you let it dry without tension it shrinks back but if it's drying when your butt is still on it then it won't fully shrink back.

Brooks are designed like a hammock between rear & front of saddle, the leather is meant to be taut under your weight - hence the tension adjustment at front. But when the leather has stretched beyond adjustment, you'll be sitting onto the springs &/or frame...

Have come across many old weathered Brooks (style) saddles where the leather has totally sagged down until it's molded around the saddle frame components with zero "hammock action". They still look like saddles & they'll still bear my weight... but jeez they're uncomfortable... IMHO just my butt talking, YMMV
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Old 10-02-18, 09:10 AM
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IIRC the Swift is lighter than other Brooks, meaning the leather is thinner, and probably more susceptible to stretching. As @Tamiya said, wet leather stretches, so you want to keep from riding it when it's wet. For a commuter, then, you'll want to keep it dry.

With a bit of care, though, you should get many years out of it. I'll recommend three things to extend the lift of the saddle:
1. Immediate application of Proofide top and bottom, with twice a year application on the top.
2. Fenders, saddle bag, or a plastic grocery bag between the frame and the leather to keep road spray off the bottom of the saddle when the roads are wet.
3. Aardvark saddle cover. Put it on when you leave the bike outside if it might rain. You can ride on the covered saddle, but it'll wear the cover out, so save it for those days when it's pouring down and your butt and rain jacket aren't enough to keep the saddle dry. Shower cap, or even a couple plastic grocery bags, should be adequate for parked saddle protection.
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Old 10-02-18, 09:37 AM
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Pictured are my 40 years old Brooks B-66 and (at least) 45 years old Wrights W-66 (a Brooks clone) still in use and never treated with anything. Only protection I use is a plastic bag secured with a bungee cord when left outside to protect from rain and prying eyes. Nothing is necessary while riding in rain since my body protects the saddle from getting soaked.









Note: Silver color on the metal frame of the W66 was applied over 40 years ago when I foolishly painted silver on the entire bike it was then on (a Schwinn Heavyweight with springer fork); sold that bike but kept the saddle and put it on its current bike.

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Old 10-02-18, 10:52 AM
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Brooks saddles come from a climate known for being wet, they must know what they're doing to have earned their reputation.

I've used a B17 for 8 years or so, and this spring the tension bolt broke. I'm not sure when it did, but I noticed it because I saw it and not because I felt it. I rode the ~5 miles home with it broken and it didn't feel much different and ending up having it repaired by another member. The leather didn't seem to be affected at all by this problem, and it still works great for my needs.
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Old 10-02-18, 12:16 PM
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I used to keep a plastic grocery bag stuffed into the back of the saddle. I took it out when it rained.

I recently swapped my B17 leather saddle for a C17 composite saddle on my commuter bike. It's supposed to stand up to weather.
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Old 10-02-18, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
I used to keep a plastic grocery bag stuffed into the back of the saddle. I took it out when it rained.

I recently swapped my B17 leather saddle for a C17 composite saddle on my commuter bike. It's supposed to stand up to weather.
I loved my B17 like the beautiful fragile child that it is, but the C17 is almost equal in comfort, and it stands up to weather superbly.
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Old 10-03-18, 06:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Archwhorides View Post
I loved my B17 like the beautiful fragile child that it is, but the C17 is almost equal in comfort, and it stands up to weather superbly.
I'm seriously considering one of these for my commuter bike. How long have you had yours? I've seen at least one long term review where the base material broke down around the rivet on the nose after about a year. How is yours holding up?
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Old 10-03-18, 07:55 AM
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Unfortunately there is little comparison between 40 and 50 year old Brooks saddles and new ones. I don't know why this is. If we want to speculate, i know the company has changed hands, but I don't know if that matters. True, the market has changed, and customers be longer expect a bike component to last several decades. And also the leather industry has changed; it's not clear Brooks can get leather of the quality available 50 years ago. For whatever reason, the saddles they make today will not last as long as the ones they made during the bike boom.

In my experience, applying a lot of Proofide is not a good idea. For best results keep the saddle dry. If it does get wet (can't be helped sometimes) let it dry before riding it again.

After riding on leather saddles exclusively for many years, I got an all plastic saddle in the spring. I was planning to do several multi-day rides over the summer, on which rain seemed inevitable, and I did not want to deal with the possibility of a wet leather saddle. I love leather saddles, but they are not right for all conditions.
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Old 10-03-18, 08:22 AM
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@clengman , I've only been riding my C17 for a few months. And while it doesn't feel the same as a B17, it is equivalently comfortable. I don't know how they do it, but they do it.
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Old 10-03-18, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
@clengman , I've only been riding my C17 for a few months. And while it doesn't feel the same as a B17, it is equivalently comfortable. I don't know how they do it, but they do it.
This is what I'm a little concerned about:

He says this is after 2 years and about 4k miles. I ride a similar amount in a year and I'd be pretty disappointed if a bought a +$100 saddle and it was breaking down like this after 2 years. I'm currently on year 5 on a knock off turbo saddle that had already seen some use when I bought the bike. The cover is pretty worn, but it's still structurally sound.

I've seen other reviews that mention this weakness in the nose of the saddle. If Brooks is good about honoring the 10 year warranty I guess I wouldn't worry about it too much...
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Old 10-03-18, 09:02 AM
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I watched the video. He said he is still satisfied overall. The rubber breaking at the front rivet seems like a problem to me. The fabric wearing out is also a concern, but wait a minute, he admitted he dyed the saddle more than once in hot water. I know that washing clothes in hot water wears the fabric out. It's also not surprising that it will wear if left out in the sun a lot. I don't leave mine outside much, so maybe I'll get many years out of mine.

Also, it might be possible to glue new fabric onto the rubber. I'm not sure if rubbing the old fabric off first is a good idea or even how to do that.
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Old 10-03-18, 09:41 AM
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He seems to have a different idea than I do about what constitutes good durability or good value for a saddle. He does say he's satisfied, but that he doesn't think he'll get another year of use out of it. I would hope to get more than 2-3 years out of it.

Although I do ride in any weather, I won't be leaving it out unprotected in sun or rain. I can park indoors at home and at work.

I agree that he seems to have mistreated it. I'm more concerned with the rubber breaking than wear on the cover. I'm thinking I'll put one of the newer "all-weather" versions (with nylon cover instead of cotton) on my christmas list this year.
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Old 10-03-18, 01:03 PM
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I have used mine normally for seven years, and it is still fine. I do have a shower cap to put over it in heavy rain though. Not really a lot of effort involved in that. My brother has a Brooks that came with his bike, he bought used in the 70s. That bike was used on multiple RAGBRAIs, a ride from Iowa to Oklahoma, then across Oklahoma, along with general around town riding, and I know he never covered it. He still has the bike, and the seat is still on it. It is still good. It has received zero care. I know I have applied more Proofhide to mine in the seven years I have owned mine, than he has in the entire time he has had his, which is zero.

Honestly, people truly over exaggerate the care required for a Brooks seat. How long does it take to put a shower cap over a seat? How many minutes does it take to apply Proofhide once a year, if you choose to do so? I can honestly say though, I don't remember the last time I applied Proofhide, and I still have the original tin, and barely any is missing from it. If you think you cannot spare maybe two minutes a year to apply Proofhide, you have bigger problems.
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Old 10-03-18, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by clengman View Post
I'm seriously considering one of these for my commuter bike. How long have you had yours? I've seen at least one long term review where the base material broke down around the rivet on the nose after about a year. How is yours holding up?
Here is my C17 "Carved" with organic cotton cover fabric after 2 years of riding (18 miles daily and 4 seasons, so about 7,000 miles +/- total). I do keep it indoors at home and at work, but often park it outside in wet conditions with no covering while at restaurants and breweries, etc.




The cover fabric is a little worn around the edges and just behind the nose (don't know why), which are purely cosmetic issues at this point. At this rate I don't see this saddle quitting for a very long time.

I like the cotton fabric, and I like the idea of the nylon fabric on the new line of C17s even better..

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Old 10-03-18, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by phughes View Post

Honestly, people truly over exaggerate the care required for a Brooks seat. How long does it take to put a shower cap over a seat? How many minutes does it take to apply Proofhide once a year, if you choose to do so? I can honestly say though, I don't remember the last time I applied Proofhide, and I still have the original tin, and barely any is missing from it. If you think you cannot spare maybe two minutes a year to apply Proofhide, you have bigger problems.
If you don't have a car and ride your bike every single day, including for errands only 10 minutes or so away, I can totally see the time and worry adding up. Should I carry a shower cap today if there's a 20% chance of rain? What if you forget it?

For me at least, if I'm going to have to worry about it every time that it rains (when I'm at work my bike is outside), it's not worth the potential extra comfort that it would give me for the only 15-20 miles I ride everyday.

I'm considering putting it on the bike I use for distance riding, but at least in my opinion, Brooks saddles look out of place on carbon bikes and it weighs a good 250 grams more than the saddle I currently have.
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Old 10-04-18, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Roadie Fixie View Post
If you don't have a car and ride your bike every single day, including for errands only 10 minutes or so away, I can totally see the time and worry adding up. Should I carry a shower cap today if there's a 20% chance of rain? What if you forget it?

For me at least, if I'm going to have to worry about it every time that it rains (when I'm at work my bike is outside), it's not worth the potential extra comfort that it would give me for the only 15-20 miles I ride everyday.

I'm considering putting it on the bike I use for distance riding, but at least in my opinion, Brooks saddles look out of place on carbon bikes and it weighs a good 250 grams more than the saddle I currently have.
Oh, you totally need to replace that Brooks. Sell it (you may be surprised how much you can get for one) and buy something plastic.
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Old 10-04-18, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Roadie Fixie View Post
If you don't have a car and ride your bike every single day, including for errands only 10 minutes or so away, I can totally see the time and worry adding up. Should I carry a shower cap today if there's a 20% chance of rain? What if you forget it?

For me at least, if I'm going to have to worry about it every time that it rains (when I'm at work my bike is outside), it's not worth the potential extra comfort that it would give me for the only 15-20 miles I ride everyday.

I'm considering putting it on the bike I use for distance riding, but at least in my opinion, Brooks saddles look out of place on carbon bikes and it weighs a good 250 grams more than the saddle I currently have.
Once again, you are over exaggerating the care necessary for a Brooks. I no longer, but did ride mine every day to work, and parked it outside, rain or shine. I usually left it uncovered, but when I knew it would rain, I put a shower cap over it. Four seconds of extreme effort to place the shower cap on the seat. The seat has seen plenty of rain, and I don't always cover it while riding in the rain, it depends on how hard it is raining and how far I am going.

My question is this, if you already know you are not going to use the Brooks, and you already "know" it takes so much time to care for it, then why even start the thread, only to dismiss any comments based on real world experience with the seat? Just wondering.

Anyway, use the Brooks if you want, and don't worry about the nonexistent effort necessary to keep it in good condition. Many have, and still do use them daily, and the last fo a very long time. Or, buy another seat and use it. Your choice. For me, and I know this is only based on my experience, and preferences, I prefer the leather. IT is more comfortable in the heat for me, as it breathes better than a vinyl seat can ever hope to.
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Old 10-04-18, 12:47 PM
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I agree that the OP was seemingly disingenuous in starting this thread and/or apparently pig-headed in ignoring genuine feedback, but conversely any thread that creates room for posting pictures of Brooks saddles can't be all bad.......

Originally Posted by phughes View Post
My question is this, if you already know you are not going to use the Brooks, and you already "know" it takes so much time to care for it, then why even start the thread, only to dismiss any comments based on real world experience with the seat? Just wondering..
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Old 10-04-18, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Archwhorides View Post
I agree that the OP was seemingly disingenuous in starting this thread and/or apparently pig-headed in ignoring genuine feedback, but conversely any thread that creates room for posting pictures of Brooks saddles can't be all bad.......
Additional pictures of Brooks saddles on my bicycles posted for your viewing pleasure, none have ever been treated with anything but my own sweat.











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Old 10-04-18, 03:16 PM
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Groovy dice!

Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Additional pictures of Brooks saddles on my bicycles posted for your viewing pleasure, none have ever been treated with anything but my own sweat.











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Old 10-04-18, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Archwhorides View Post
I agree that the OP was seemingly disingenuous in starting this thread and/or apparently pig-headed in ignoring genuine feedback, but conversely any thread that creates room for posting pictures of Brooks saddles can't be all bad.......
True.




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