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How soft should a brand new Brooks be?

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How soft should a brand new Brooks be?

Old 12-05-08, 09:28 PM
  #1  
lukasz
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How soft should a brand new Brooks be?

The last Brooks thread was on page 3, so I figured I'd just make a new one. Sorry!

I just got a B17 in the mail and put it on my bicycle. It seems very comfortable and all that, but when I press down on the middle of the saddle it sags a bit and the sides come out.

Rough estimate is 3-5 mm of sag, and the sides might come out about 3 mm on each side at the bottom when I press the middle hole with my thumb as hard as I comfortably can. I have not proofed it in any way.

Did I get a bum (pun intended) Brooks or is this normal?
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Old 12-06-08, 04:46 AM
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Normal, I guess. I tried just now the same to our two brand new brooks (a Finesse and a Flyer) and they behave like yours.
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Old 12-06-08, 05:56 AM
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Not all Brooks saddles are exactly the same right out of the box. They are made from leather, which is a natural product, so there will be a certain amount of variation in the stiffness from one saddle to another. Your saddle is fine, just use it and enjoy the fact that you have one of the best saddles money can buy.
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Old 12-06-08, 07:47 AM
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Normal, though adjustment tension is a personal preference thing. Resist the urge to overtension it.
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Old 12-06-08, 10:56 AM
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What you are feeling is flex, not softness. It's normal. The leather will flex under your weight and provide just enough suspension to make a comfortable ride. Flex goes both ways. It suspends the rider and also returns to its original shape. The break-in period will have it returning to your original shape in a short while. The flex will continue to adjust itself as this happens.

Softness:
No Brooks should ever be soft, no matter how well broken-in. Soft leather is for rock-star pants, gloves, purses, fine Italian shoes, and some kinds of furniture. Working leather - like a catcher's mit, horse tack and saddles, bike saddles, leather drive belts, early Roman armor breastplates, etc., should never be soft.

A softened Brooks saddle will tear at the rivets, and not provide adequate support. Every hard point under the thing will come up through and you'll feel them. A Brooks should always remain hard as wood to the knuckle, but flexible to the tush under weight.

Do not oil it. Do not "waterproof" it with silicones, or anything containing silicones. You can do certain things, but it's best to use Brooks' Proofide treatment as described on the label. And, do not tension it. This has been expertly done at the factory. Unless you are a very heavy rider, you won't need to do this for maybe three to five years.
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Old 12-06-08, 11:09 AM
  #6  
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Originally Posted by jcm View Post
And, do not tension it. This has been expertly done at the factory. Unless you are a very heavy rider, you won't need to do this for maybe three to five years.
Excellent post.

Just for a slightly different angle on the tensioning... I'm 210--not "very heavy," but not a lightweight by any means--and I did need to give the tension nut a half-turn or so after about 4 months. I'm guessing that was around 1000 miles.
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Old 12-06-08, 03:57 PM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by jcm View Post
What you are feeling is flex, not softness. It's normal. The leather will flex under your weight and provide just enough suspension to make a comfortable ride. Flex goes both ways. It suspends the rider and also returns to its original shape. The break-in period will have it returning to your original shape in a short while. The flex will continue to adjust itself as this happens.

Softness:
No Brooks should ever be soft, no matter how well broken-in. Soft leather is for rock-star pants, gloves, purses, fine Italian shoes, and some kinds of furniture. Working leather - like a catcher's mit, horse tack and saddles, bike saddles, leather drive belts, early Roman armor breastplates, etc., should never be soft.

A softened Brooks saddle will tear at the rivets, and not provide adequate support. Every hard point under the thing will come up through and you'll feel them. A Brooks should always remain hard as wood to the knuckle, but flexible to the tush under weight.

Do not oil it. Do not "waterproof" it with silicones, or anything containing silicones. You can do certain things, but it's best to use Brooks' Proofide treatment as described on the label. And, do not tension it. This has been expertly done at the factory. Unless you are a very heavy rider, you won't need to do this for maybe three to five years.
Bingo! A Brooks (or any leather saddle, for that matter) should flex, but still give you support. When I bought my B17, it was very hard and taut, like a drumhead, but it flexed. After rubbing it top and bottom with Proofide and riding it several times, it started to break in. When, and only when, it starts to sag should you add tension, and even then, only enough to make it taut.
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Old 12-06-08, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by noteon View Post
Excellent post.

Just for a slightly different angle on the tensioning... I'm 210--not "very heavy," but not a lightweight by any means--and I did need to give the tension nut a half-turn or so after about 4 months. I'm guessing that was around 1000 miles.
Yup. Same here.
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Old 12-06-08, 06:32 PM
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Thanks guys. Yeah I figured it was probably normal but all I've heard is about how hard they are, and that sometimes the thinner leather B17s can be duds. I put the two together and bam... paranoia.

I know it isn't softness - not sure why I used that word to describe it. I weight around 170. If the seat continues to have this amount of give then it should be fine. I was thinking that being leather it would just get much worse from here.
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Old 12-06-08, 06:40 PM
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I am adding to this thread with a question of my own. I have a 35 year old brooks b15...it is very broken in and could probably benifit from having the tension tightened...if I do not have the special tool how do I go about this, and only till it is taught correct?
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Old 12-06-08, 06:45 PM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by lukasz View Post
Thanks guys. Yeah I figured it was probably normal but all I've heard is about how hard they are, and that sometimes the thinner leather B17s can be duds. I put the two together and bam... paranoia.

I know it isn't softness - not sure why I used that word to describe it. I weight around 170. If the seat continues to have this amount of give then it should be fine. I was thinking that being leather it would just get much worse from here.
You're welcome any time.
The myth of some Brooks being "duds" is just that - a myth. They are as good as ever. I believe that some of the story stems from some differences in hide thicknesses, which is never an exact thing. Add to that the fact that Brooks saddles are becoming more and more popular. Ergo, with all the "new" Brookies out here, there's bound to be some comments about the thinner ones.

To Wit: My older black B-17 is definitely thinner than my newer honey one. The difference is about .020" all around the rim, which I suspect is about the same all across the blank. This number doesn't seem like much - about the thickness of a good strong thumbnail, or five sheets of writing paper - but it is. Not in terms of quality, but rather, in terms of each saddle having different characteristics.

The black one broke in quite fast, but the honey is really a challenge. Not at all uncomfortable, but taking a long time to form up.

My B-67's have never formed to my body. But then, that design doesn't need to.
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Old 12-07-08, 11:41 PM
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Mine came in this week...for once I can't wait till Christmas.
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Old 12-08-08, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by metalchef87 View Post
I am adding to this thread with a question of my own. I have a 35 year old brooks b15...it is very broken in and could probably benifit from having the tension tightened...if I do not have the special tool how do I go about this, and only till it is taught correct?
Typically, a well used brooks at age 35 is just about done. I know, I know, there are plenty of older ones giving yeoman-like service, but I say "typically."

Examine the area around the rivets, looking for signs of pulling stress or tearing. If the leather is sort of bunched up behind the rivets, it's been tensioned before and might begin to tear if you add more stress. Finding any space at the front side of the rivets will tell you the same thing.

Look at the area at the peak, just above the shoe - that steel "nose" thing under the front. If you can sort of see the profile of the shoe through the leather, it confirms the rivet clues.

If the leather is floppy when you push down on it with your hand or thumb, so the sides flair like a pancake, it's been over-conditioned thru the years. If it has cracks in the web area or around the edges, just get a new one and hang that oldie on your shop wall.

If you want to try tensioning it, I use a 14mm open end wrench that I had ground down to be slimmer in order to fit under the nose plate. If you have a cheap, stamped plate 1/2" wrench lying around - the kind that comes with a weed trimmer or a "you build it" piece of furntiure, you can grind or file out an acceptable wrench from that.

If all is well with that saddle, don't try to restore the factory ridge that it came with. That will never happen as it has formed to a rider. All you are trying to do is add some stiffness to the top to reduce the flairing somewhat.

Last edited by jcm; 12-08-08 at 08:56 AM.
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Old 12-08-08, 10:56 AM
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If you find that the saddle is flexing too much under your weight, one option is to punch and lace the side skirts.
Get a good leather punch (single hammered punch like an Osborne) or a rotary punch (Sprenger-Herm is the best) to make sure you're cutting a clean hole in the leather. Don't use a drill or an awl, which will only tear and separate the fibers and weaken the leather between the holes.
Use a strong, non-stretch cord to lace the skirts. I've used workboot laces in the past, but my recent discovery is that if I punch 3mm holes, I can use 2.5mm accessory cord from the local mountaineering shop for the strongest stretch-free lacing.
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Old 12-08-08, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by jcm View Post
... The myth of some Brooks being "duds" is just that - a myth....
You may be right, but I don't think so. A year ago I got a new B-17 to replace a Fujita professional saddle (much like a brooks pro) I have used since 1983, but which had developed a loose rivet in the frame. The Fujita was still hard as rock except for two soft spots ("dimples") under the sit bones, and a slight sag; it didn't support my weight as well as it had when it was new, and the loose rivet was a problem (I have now fixed that, I think). Well, the new B-17 was wonderful at first, but by late summer (ten months of nearly daily riding) it had developed the same dimples as the Fujita and had become so soft that the skirt was spreading out, causing uncomfortable rubbing on the upper thigh. That never happened to the Fujita, or to a 1983 Brooks Professional that I've had since 1990 or so --though I admit I haven't ridden that one as much (I prefer the wider shape of the B-17).

I don't think I mistreated my new B-17; I had applied proofide exactly once (to the inside), and had protected it from rain except I left it out overnight once, and it got wet from the dew. After that I let it dry for several days before riding it. Perhaps that's what killed it... but I'm inclined to think it was a dud.

Originally Posted by jcm View Post
My B-67's have never formed to my body. But then, that design doesn't need to.
Right, I'm not complaining about the shape, or the hardness; I'm complaining that it softened too much. Much too much, or much too fast, or maybe both.
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Old 12-08-08, 01:08 PM
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For a lot of us, this is what we think of when we see a Brooks saddle

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Old 12-08-08, 01:56 PM
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Ooooh, looks a little heavy, but... where can I get one of those?
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Old 12-08-08, 07:59 PM
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Originally Posted by lukasz View Post
The last Brooks thread was on page 3, so I figured I'd just make a new one. Sorry!

I just got a B17 in the mail and put it on my bicycle. It seems very comfortable and all that, but when I press down on the middle of the saddle it sags a bit and the sides come out.

Rough estimate is 3-5 mm of sag, and the sides might come out about 3 mm on each side at the bottom when I press the middle hole with my thumb as hard as I comfortably can. I have not proofed it in any way.

Did I get a bum (pun intended) Brooks or is this normal?
+1 normal. Best saddle you'll ever own!
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Old 12-08-08, 08:01 PM
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Originally Posted by lukasz View Post
The last Brooks thread was on page 3, so I figured I'd just make a new one. Sorry!
Just to clarify, that's page 3 of 457
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Old 12-09-08, 08:37 AM
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rhm
With respect towards a valued senior member, I say: No Fair.

There is simply no comparison to be made between A Fujita Professional/Brooks Pro and a regular ol' B-17.

The blanks used on the Fujita and Brooks Pros are thicker and are completely different in shape. They have a much higher cross-sectional arch for added stiffness and tend not to flex nearly as much as a B-17. In a sense, they are "perches" designed not for weight bearing, but bicycle control.

The 17's are designed with long distance comfort being the goal. They are flatter, thinner - in order to conform, and far more flexible in every direction. There are very few touring cyclists who use a Pro, but many who ride 17's and their derivative models.

If, and I say IF, there are noticeable quality issues out there, they will be more pronounced on a thinner saddle of course. But, I maintain that with all the new riders in the last decade, the quality issues are greatly exagerated and fueled by rumor. It's like seeing all those Ford Taurus cars broke down along the freeways. People thought they were junk, but the mechanical record indicates they are actually a pretty decent car over the years. We just see alot of them and statistically, there will be lots of clunkers on the shoulders.
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Old 12-09-08, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by jcm View Post
You're welcome any time.
The myth of some Brooks being "duds" is just that - a myth. They are as good as ever. I believe that some of the story stems from some differences in hide thicknesses, which is never an exact thing. Add to that the fact that Brooks saddles are becoming more and more popular. Ergo, with all the "new" Brookies out here, there's bound to be some comments about the thinner ones.
Originally Posted by rhm View Post
You may be right, but I don't think so. A year ago I got a new B-17 to replace a Fujita professional saddle (much like a brooks pro) I have used since 1983, but which had developed a loose rivet in the frame. The Fujita was still hard as rock except for two soft spots ("dimples") under the sit bones, and a slight sag; it didn't support my weight as well as it had when it was new, and the loose rivet was a problem (I have now fixed that, I think). Well, the new B-17 was wonderful at first, but by late summer (ten months of nearly daily riding) it had developed the same dimples as the Fujita and had become so soft that the skirt was spreading out, causing uncomfortable rubbing on the upper thigh. That never happened to the Fujita, or to a 1983 Brooks Professional that I've had since 1990 or so --though I admit I haven't ridden that one as much (I prefer the wider shape of the B-17).
Notice that jcm qualified it a bit. It's a myth that they're in general lower quality than they used to be, but that doesn't mean that every one is perfect and exactly the same as one built yesterday or 40 years ago. Especially when dealing with leather there's going to be variation.
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Old 12-09-08, 10:08 PM
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Originally Posted by GV27 View Post
Notice that jcm qualified it a bit. It's a myth that they're in general lower quality than they used to be, but that doesn't mean that every one is perfect and exactly the same as one built yesterday or 40 years ago. Especially when dealing with leather there's going to be variation.
Exactly. It's leather. They try hard to split the hides to equal thickness, but they end up with variances that go to different saddle lines - thicker to Pros, etc, thinner to 17's, and so on. Within each model line there are variations as well, thus we hear differing stories from individual riders. Some people get a very stubborn 17, like my latest, while others testify that theirs broke in almost immediately.

Definitely not a cookie-cutter product.
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Old 12-10-08, 08:23 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by jcm View Post
...

There is simply no comparison to be made between A Fujita Professional/Brooks Pro and a regular ol' B-17.

The blanks used on the Fujita and Brooks Pros are thicker and are completely different in shape. They have a much higher cross-sectional arch for added stiffness and tend not to flex nearly as much as a B-17. In a sense, they are "perches" designed not for weight bearing, but bicycle control.

The 17's are designed with long distance comfort being the goal. They are flatter, thinner - in order to conform, and far more flexible in every direction. There are very few touring cyclists who use a Pro, but many who ride 17's and their derivative models.

If, and I say IF, there are noticeable quality issues out there ... the quality issues are greatly exaggerated and fueled by rumor. ...
JCM, as a general question, would you say that the answer to the question "how hard should a brand new Brooks be?" is "that all depends on the model."?

But specific to the post I quoted above... let's start with your last point: fair enough! You may well be right, and I hope you are. What do I know?

Which brings us to your first point: again, fair enough! What you describe certainly conforms to my own experience, so you may well be right. What you are saying, however, has some implications that are not, it seems to me, borne out by reality (or, at least, by Brooks' website); but perhaps you can enlighten me.

The Brooks website lists their saddles in four families, which are basically the Racing family (Professional, Swift, etc); the Touring family (B-17 etc), the City family (B-68 &c) and the Heavy Duty family. In each family there are various models, distinguished by shape (length and width), undercarriage (titanium, chromed steel, &c), suspension (with or without springs), color, texture, perforations, and so on. But the thickness of the leather is not mentioned.

If the B-17 model is so very different from the Professional model that they are actually made out of a different cut of leather, and one will expect the B-17 to break in and get soft while the Professional model remains hard, then we would expect them to come with different maintenance instructions. Is that the case? (That's not a rhetorical question, I honestly don't know: I got both my Brooks pro and my Fujita pro second hand, so neither one came with an owner's manual). Does anyone know if Brooks provides different instructions for the care of the different models?

I think, if you were a Brooks salesman, you would have sold me the model that has the thick/hard leather of the Professional models, and a wider shape of the B-17. But the way I read their website, this is not something that exists.

So, what's the evidence for this thickness of leather thing, anyway? I'm starting to think that's the myth. You are by no means the only person who has ever told me that the Pro models have thicker leather than the Touring models; but there remains the fact that the Brooks website makes no mention of the thickness of the leather at all. Sooooo........ what gives?

Cheers!
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Old 12-10-08, 09:01 AM
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rhm:
Good question on the thickness issue. There's alot of lore on leather saddles - always has been, I'm told. I can only speculate on why Brooks doesn't publish thickness info. So, my guess would be that splitting hides is a kind of skill that is very dicey, and done by some guy in the back who wears a pointy hat with stars and moons on it. After high school, I worked in my neighbor's leather shop for a couple years making and toolinfg custom gun belts/holsters, saddlebags, and recovering saddles. Thickness is by no means an exact science - more like an art.

One thing I'm pretty sure of is that Brooks buys only the finest blanks available. This also has natural variables within a given grade. The grain, which affects elasticity, and surface clarity are the prime characteristics they might look for. The actual thickness, in my experience, is a given per model. And yes, I'd like to have a bit of info on that, too. But, because of the process, I don't think they can be reliable to extent that people expect.

To the first question on how hard should a given saddle be? Yes, I say that depends on the model, but it's really,"how hard should it remain." The thicker the leather, the longer it will remain firm.

Almost every time I go to the bike shops, I bring my verniers. Plus, there are a couple of shops around here that have used bins of saddles, sometimes there are Brooks' in there. I measure the entire rim with my vernier calipers. They are consistantly equal all the way round, so I've never found a "lop-sided" one yet. Still, they vary as much as .015 to .020 within the same model line. Pros that I have measured are approximately .030" thicker. That's alot of extra leather. Plus, there's the cross section difference.

On saddle treatment: It doesn't matter. There's no difference in how the leather should be either protected or stored. In my opinion: No WaterProofing - No Silicones

On the Brooks website: I can't recall where exactly, but there are a couple of inconsistancies on the site. Mostly in verbage I think. Regarding waterproofing and breathablilty issues. No explanation here. It's been awhile since I was over there.

If I were a Brooks saleman I would start by asking you what type of riding will you be doing, then I'd push a saddle your way that I though would work best. I would definitely explain the things I just wrote, too.

I've never met a Brooks salesman, just some other people with pointy hats like mine, who fuss over minute details...

Last edited by jcm; 12-10-08 at 09:31 AM. Reason: I get "timed out" because I'm slow
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