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Lots of Brooks saddle questions

Old 09-08-09, 04:55 PM
  #1  
Jude
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Lots of Brooks saddle questions

So I just tried a B17 (which was used at a bike shop); it had been broken in by someone with bigger butt than mine but I still loved it. I'm pretty sure I'm sold on getting one of these. Anyway, before I do, lots of questions I thought I would put to the biggest group of bike-knowledgeable people I know who don't stand to gain from any of my purchases...

1. Everyone I've heard has said that once you break a Brooks in, it's the most comfortable thing ever. How long did yours take to break in and what was your experience?

2. They're supposed to last for a lifetime with proper maintenance...I know a guy who's supposedly broke while he was on a long tour through South America. But I heard that secondhand, don't know what "broke" means. Anyway, they don't come with warranties, correct? Should I be looking for a store that will guarantee their quality in some way against defects?

3. The one I rode was already broke in, and comfy, but there was a kind of strip/lump in the middle that was putting unpleasant pressure on my gooch area. It seemed to have some malleability yet, and I asked the bike shop guy who said it should still adjust to me. Do you think it would? What would be the benefits of buying one for 75 USD used versus 110 USD new, esp. since I don't get a warranty or anything?

4. On that note, is there any reason why I should not go on Ebay and get a new one for like 80 bucks?

5. I'm planning to go overseas for a year or more during which I won't be biking or taking my bike stuff with me. I assume the maintenance I have to do on a Brooks saddle is because of the stress of me using it, and that if I store it, it won't suffer from lack of oil bath, etc.?

6. Is there a better way to ride in terms of wearing padded bike shorts/not wearing such shorts, or is it just a matter of preference? Will wearing those shorts affect the breaking in process?

As for care and maintenance, I can probably get all that info from bike shop dudes. But how much money would you say you spend on stuff to maintain yours? It sounded sort of expensive. Also, is it OK to get them wet (i.e., riding in the rain)?

Thanks for your help...

Edit: added 2 more questions.

Last edited by Jude; 09-08-09 at 05:32 PM.
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Old 09-08-09, 05:23 PM
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1. It varies, obviously from person to person, and sometimes from saddle to saddle. My B17 was great from the first ride, while a Swift has needed a little more time.

2. I don't know about that particular break, but I've seen one pic so far of the tensioner piece in front snapping. That's all I know of at the moment.

3. You can resell the used one for $75, while you may take a small hit from buying new and reselling.

4. Nope, no reason. In fact, some of the Brooks saddles you see on eBay may be from Wallingford Bicycle Parts, who, while they have a generous return policy, sell their returned examples there.
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Old 09-08-09, 05:34 PM
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#3 sounds like the beginning of the dreaded "ass hatchet" which can occur if the saddle is over tensioned. Eventually you end up riding on the sharp center strip rather than being supported by the sides hence the name. I'd pass on that one and maybe just get a new one right from the start. I've been very happy with my Brookses but they are an aquired taste and maybe not for everyone...
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Old 09-08-09, 05:38 PM
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1. Break-in will depend on many things. Rider weight, position (upright/aero), how pointy your sit-bones are, possibly shorts worn (amount of padding), and finally.... your definition of "broken-in".\

2. Dunno... only had mine a little over a year.

3. I'd be inclined to by new "just cause", but it's really up to you. The seat should comform to you over time anyways.

4. I bought mine on sale over the net (Black B17N for ~$75).

5. I went to a local tractor supply/horse supply place and got some leather conditioner. It's a waxy tin, which I believe is similar to Brooks Proofide. Mine was ~$4.
Do NOT get the saddle wet. It should be waterproofed (oil/conditioner) and bagged if threatened with getting soaked. Mine got SOAKED on a group ride. I should have pulled over and bagged it, but didn't. Like riding a wet noodle/hammock. It was VERY soft. I ended up lacing it to bring it back up to the flat shape. Others say they can get wet, maybe wet, but not soaked. Then again, maybe that helped with a "final" break-in.


I'd like to get another, but kinda dread another breakin. Oh well, eventually. For now, it rotates to the most used bike at any given time.
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Old 09-08-09, 05:40 PM
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I've had one that was great out of the box and I've had one that took a month of riding to break in. The others were somewhere in between.

I broke one,(actually just bent the rail so the saddle sat at about a 45 degree angle) but it was in a mountain bike crash that i'm pretty sure would have broken any saddle.

I wouldn't pay more than $80 for a B-17. Get it cheap if you can, because you will need one for every one of your bikes after you get used to it.

I bought one tin of proofide three or four years ago when I bought my first Brooks and am still working from it. I ride mine in the rain and sometimes they sit outside on my car in the rain overnight and haven't suffered any ill effects besides needing to be laced.
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Old 09-08-09, 05:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Jude View Post
5. I'm planning to go overseas for a year or more during which I won't be biking or taking my bike stuff with me. I assume the maintenance I have to do on a Brooks saddle is because of the stress of me using it, and that if I store it, it won't suffer from lack of oil bath, etc.?

6. Is there a better way to ride in terms of wearing padded bike shorts/not wearing such shorts, or is it just a matter of preference? Will wearing those shorts affect the breaking in process?

As for care and maintenance, I can probably get all that info from bike shop dudes. But how much money would you say you spend on stuff to maintain yours? It sounded sort of expensive. Also, is it OK to get them wet (i.e., riding in the rain)?
5. I wouldn't worry about it provided it's stored in a moderate environment. If it was mine I'd give it a hit of Profide when I stored it away and another hit when I took it out of storage.

6. Can't respond.

The cost of maintenance is minimal. The cost of a can of Profide is enormous for what it is but, pro rated on an annual basis, it's probably about a quarter per year.

If you buy a new Brooks it comes with instructions about what to do if it gets wet. Basically, let it air dry in a moderate environment. If it gets soaked I wouldn't ride on it until it dries out. If it looks like it might rain, I take a plastic supermarket bag with me under toe saddle to use for a cover.
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Old 09-08-09, 07:44 PM
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re: question #2

I finally got a Brooks B17 a couple of years ago and loved it so much I bought another to put on a different bike. When I got the second saddle, I decided to go ahead and mount it on my daily commuter to break it in and move the old saddle to the other bike.

When I went to take the old saddle off, I noticed the broken tension bolt. I'd heard on BF about that happening to some people a few years ago. I have no idea how long I rode it like that. It had about 10,400 miles on it when I noticed the broken bolt. I never made any tension adjustments to the saddle. I guess I'm just a fat-ass.

I still love the saddles and will get a replacement bolt when I get around to it.

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Old 09-08-09, 09:56 PM
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Thanks for the tips.

I just realized that tomorrow I'll be seeing that guy that rode to South America on a Brooks so I'll be asking his opinion...then I'll be in a place where I have nothing to do but bike for a couple days, so I might end up just buying one so I can start breaking it in in my spare time. I need to not be such an impulse buyer.
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Old 09-08-09, 10:37 PM
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You don't really need more guidance here, but I like my Brookses so much I can't resist:
1. I think the break-in for Brooks is exaggerated. Mine (three B-17s and a Pro) were comfortable right out of the box. They got better, but they weren't bad on Day 1.
2. My Pro is 21 years old, no problems. My B17s range from 12 years to unknown (bought it used for three bucks at a bike swap at least six or seven years ago). All still feel fine, though the oldest B17 is showing some MINOR (like 1/8 inch) tears around a couple of rivets (might be me--I weigh 240).
3. There's a tension nut under the front of the saddle that can be adjusted (Brooks' special wrench makes it a lot easier), but I've never seen any reason to touch mine, even after all these years and with my Clyde status. Approach it carefully. At least for me, Brookses do seem to be very sensitive to tilt--a couple of millimeters up or down on the nose makes a difference. You might fiddle that to see if it helps.
4. I don't know what they cost now, but if $80 is a good deal, I can't think of a reason not to use ebay.
5. According to Grant Petersen at Rivendell, who's ridden Brooks for 30+ years and sells a bunch of them, they don't need Proofhide (Brooks' leather treatment) more than once or twice a year, max. He warns NOT to goop it on every few weeks. Mine get it twice a year, spring and fall, just barely enough to cover the leather, and I live in the desert where everything dries out. Hit it a lick with Proofhide or Obenauf's Leather Preservative and it will be fine until you get home.
Bike shop guys tend to be 19-year-old racers who scorn Brooks because they're too heavy and clunky; they may not be your best source of information. Follow Brooks' recommendations.
6. Leather saddles don't like water, and i carry a plastic shopping bag to put over mine when it rains. Smearing Proofhide on the bottom of the saddle seals out spray, too. Mine have been ridden in the rain many times and still feel fine, but I do take some pains to protect them. DON'T ride them when they're wet, if you can help it. That can stretch them. But in my experience it isn't a big problem.
I think a tub of Proofhide is six or eight bucks now, but that's 10 years' supply for me even with four saddles, and I use it on belts and stuff, too. It's cheap per use. I'd recommend using that or Obenauf's, not some cheap grocery store substitute.
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Old 09-09-09, 06:53 AM
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Thanks...while we're at it what do the rest of you think about how often to smear the goop on it?

Also, what's this I hear about giving it a luxurious olive oil bath?
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Old 09-09-09, 07:38 AM
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once a year-ish. Usually about the time I think it might get caught around some rain. Texas weather is pretty sparatic at best though.

Didn't do any oil bath on mine. I assume it's supposed to soften it for break-in (that's what most suggest). I suggest lots of short rides if it's uncomfortable out of the box. Going at it for 100 miles on something that is still uncomfortable isn't going to help.

Mine didn't feel "bad" out of the box, but not great. It was SLIPPERY with lycra... which got better once it had sit bone grooves worn in. That was the uncomfortable/annoying break-in IMO.
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Old 09-09-09, 08:24 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by urban_assault View Post
re: question #2

I finally got a Brooks B17 a couple of years ago and loved it so much I bought another to put on a different bike. When I got the second saddle, I decided to go ahead and mount it on my daily commuter to break it in and move the old saddle to the other bike.

When I went to take the old saddle off, I noticed the broken tension bolt. I'd heard on BF about that happening to some people a few years ago. I have no idea how long I rode it like that. It had about 10,400 miles on it when I noticed the broken bolt. I never made any tension adjustments to the saddle. I guess I'm just a fat-ass.

I still love the saddles and will get a replacement bolt when I get around to it.

I have had a bolt break like that, and I have had this happen.
Both on a Swift Titanium.
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Old 09-09-09, 08:45 AM
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Also, the one I tried was just the regular B17. I have a road bike and that's basically all I intend to ride, so a fairly forward position (I like to use the drops fairly often). I don't race or do anything competitive; I do do long rides/light touring as well as commuting. Would the B17 still be a fine choice in your opinions or is there some other model that would be better suited?
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Old 09-09-09, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Jude View Post
Thanks...while we're at it what do the rest of you think about how often to smear the goop on it?

Also, what's this I hear about giving it a luxurious olive oil bath?
I agree with velo dog - twice per year for me.

If I thought my Brooks saddle was so uncomfortable as to warrant an olive oil soaking, I'd assume that I didn't have a Brooks fanny and I'd look for something else. I can't imagine why anybody would think that was a good idea.
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Old 09-09-09, 01:58 PM
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I'm 2 months and 400+ miles into "breaking in" my new Brooks. Out of the box it wasn't any worse than my previous saddle, slippery at first as others have said, but that didn't last long. It is scary when you first handle it and can knock on it like its a piece of wood, but its surprising how pliable it really is when you get your weight concentrated on those sit bones.

I just got some proofride ($18) to ease my paranoia about getting it wet, otherwise I see no difference with the addition of the proofride (not any softer). You might want to do a forum search in the touring section, the tour guys are big fans of Brooks, I found many opinions there about break-in, protection, oil treatment (controversial), etc.

Oh yeah, I got a B17 from Nashbar for $75 with free shipping 4th of July, forgot to order the proofride and had to get my LBS to special order it, I heard you could also use Snoseal (search for controversy about using oils).

Last edited by DCwom; 09-09-09 at 02:06 PM.
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Old 09-09-09, 11:45 PM
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I don't remember any break in

My B rooks was bought in the late 60's and I still ride it.

I have never put anything on my Brooks

I tightened the nose bolt just this year for the first time. I used to weight 130. I now weigh 190
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Old 09-11-09, 02:30 PM
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Thanks for all the replies. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna pull the trigger on one once I get back from out of town, although I hope to be able to try out a couple different ones first...I tend to like a narrower saddle so I'm wondering if the B17 Narrow or Professional might not be better (a guy I talked to commented that he got a Professional because he also liked a narrower saddle).

Of course, I'm probably gonna get it online, and I'm supposed to do a lot of riding on Sunday, the day I get back...oh boy. All that is going to make me REALLY look forward to it.
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Old 09-12-09, 07:55 AM
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I ride a B-17. I love it. The break-in was pretty quick. This may be TMI, but after a long (around 70 miles) ride on a really hot day, I think all the sweat helped form it to my bony butt.

Maintenance is a non-issue. Proofide it once or twice a year. Try not to get it wet, but don't worry too much if you do once in a while. That's what the Proofide is for. And use Proofide on the bottom of the saddle, too, especially if you don't have fenders on your bike.

As to narrow versus wide, I think the rule is, if your handlebars are level with or higher than your seat, the B-17 would likely be right for you. If your bars are lower than your seat, you will probably like a narrower saddle.

I've heard that the leather on the B-17 is quicker to break in than the leather of some of the narrower saddles. It may be thinner.

As to oil baths, etc., don't. Just use the Proofide, and don't use it often. It's simply not necessary. I've heard all kinds of recommendations for saddle treatments, from neats foot oil to motor oil. It's like discussing chain lube -- you're venturing into the realm of religion and personal revelation.

I've found my B-17 to be the most comfortable saddle I've ever owned. I don't even bother with bike shorts anymore. Obviously, your mileage (and your butt) may vary, but lots of riders love them.
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Old 09-13-09, 11:44 AM
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I'll have to see if I can find a shop with a Narrow or another skinnier model that will let me try it out and compare the shape. The B17 did feel good but I do generally like something narrower.
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Old 09-13-09, 12:19 PM
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Proofide should mostly be applied to the underside of a Brook's saddle like the B17. Just a light amount on the top. Several good coats under.
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Old 09-13-09, 01:29 PM
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Interesting discussion. I am starting to look at Brooks saddles again. I have a Rivendell and an old-school Zinn custom begging for something like a Brooks. I seem to remember an old post, somewhere, indicating that people with certain width "sit" bones should gravitate toward certain Brooks models, and avoid certain others, and vice versa. Does anyone recall such a correlation?
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Old 09-13-09, 03:38 PM
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Nope, but I have both a B66 and a B17 Brook's. The '66' is on an upright 3-speed bike and it's so comfortable that I don't even notice it being there. And the '17' is on a very fast road-bike where I'm riding in the crouched position frequently. As with the '66' - I don't even know it's there.

I hope your sit-bones will make this possible for you too!
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Old 09-14-09, 09:42 PM
  #23  
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My b-17 and flyer were great right out of the box. My pro took awhile to break in.

For me the both the b-17 and flyer are very comfy and great for long rides, as long as the bars are no more than 2 inches below the saddle. The team pro was used on bike with a low bar setup and was much better than the other brooks.
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Old 09-15-09, 09:02 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by chevy42083 View Post
Didn't do any oil bath on mine. I assume it's supposed to soften it for break-in (that's what most suggest).
Possible source of the "oil bath" theory: Supposedly that originated with Lon Haldeman, co-founder and longtime record holder in the Race Across America. Some reporter interviewed him about his equipment, and they got around to Brooks saddle break-in and treatment. At one point Haldeman said something like, "I've tried neatsfoot oil, Proofhide, blah blah blah, I've used motor oil...." Somehow that got distorted so Haldeman was saying he treated his leather saddles with used motor oil. When I read about this 10 or 12 years ago, the story said he'd been trying to correct the impression for years without much success.
Random thought: A Brooks is a fairly expensive piece of equipment that needs some care. Nobody knows more about it than the manufacturer, so why would you NOT follow the factory's advice?
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Old 09-15-09, 09:23 AM
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Gonna go see if I can get a test ride of some of the narrower models today. I'm pretty excited about the idea of not riding on my current seat anymore.


Edit: OK, just decided to go for a B17 today. Since I couldn't find any other models that I could test ride and knew I liked a B17. Just put some of the goop on it...about to take it for a spin down on the river trail.

Last edited by Jude; 09-15-09 at 05:14 PM.
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