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Old 10-03-08, 07:34 AM   #1
VeloMakak
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Synthetic Brooks Alternative?

Hello,
I'm going to be building up a dedicated long-distance bicycle from an old Trek 520. It'll be a moderately geared fixed gear bike with fenders, and I'd like the bike to have a 'traditional aesthetic'.

I've got almost all of the components sorted out except for the saddle. Most everyone extolls the virtues of a Brooks saddle, but I am looking for a non-leather equivalent, if such a thing exists.

Your experienced help and guidance would be much-appreciated as I'm very new to this sort of build and genre of cycling. I've built my fair share of track bikes and fixedgear conversions, but nothing yet in the vein of a Rivendell-sort of long-distance bicycle. Please forgive my absolute rank amateurishness!

Any suggestions on components overall would me most welcome also. The only absolutes at this point are the frame and forks, which are late 80's Trek lugged steel (56cm), and the wheelsest which is 36h Level hubs laced to Open Pro's. Cranks will be 165mm, but not sure yet which to use. Gearing will be 44x18 with a 3/32" drivetrain.

thank you for your help!
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Old 10-03-08, 08:06 AM   #2
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I am wondering why you want a non-leather Brooks like saddle. What is the concern with leather?

Is it all weather concerns? If so many people use these saddles in wet environments (heck they are made in England). You can also put a plastic bag on the saddle or get a purpose made cover for the saddle.

Is it environmental concerns? Sure cows are pretty bad for our environment. Selle Anatomica makes an ostrich saddle. Ostriches are far better for the environment and their meat is pretty darn good too. I had ostrich kabobs in South Africa this summer.

Is it ethical issues of killing animals? Well I got nothing there. Maybe look at that funky, SMP maybe, with the bent down nose and large groove. That is reported to be a very comfortable saddle.
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Old 10-03-08, 09:20 AM   #3
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If your concern is aesthetics, try a Regal. It's a Team Pro lookalike, complete with the big rivets around the back, but built on a "modern" (plastic shell, foam padding, leather cover) platform. Purported to be quite comfy as well.

If it's fit, flex, and weatherproofness, the OLD Cinelli Unicanitor mod 50 or 55 is what you want. This is just an unpadded, uncovered, nylon shell, but it feels just like a well broken in Brooks. Rumor has it that that was the original design goal. They're still pretty popular with cyclocrossers and trackies. THey come up on eBay pretty often, and can usually be had at a reasonable price. I've got 3, and no, they're not for sale.

Scott P
Bend, OR
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Old 10-03-08, 09:39 AM   #4
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I'd like to juggle aesthetics with a suitable non-leather choice, if that's possible.
I know Brooks enjoy their legendary status because they deliver on all the things that they are famous for; but I don't use, wear or eat animal products. I know what you're all thinking: tree-hugger vegan kook alert!
And to some exetent you'd be right, except for the fact I don't preach about my beliefs and I try not to make my personal convictions other folks' problems. I actually enjoy seeking out alternatives to animal-based products, even if it means I have to get creative and make it myself.

So, I'd like to find something that has the comfort, durability and aesthetics of a Brook saddle, but that is made from non-animal materials.

I've also noticed that many folks who build and ride the sort of bike I'm hoping to build use leather bar wrap; I think I can acheive a similar look/feel with shellaced cork?

Many of the bags which people have on their bikes are gorgeous, but for a pest like me I'd have to track something down that doesn't use leather for the straps or trim. Has anyone come across any items like that?

I've found plenty of canvas and nylon toe-straps, so I should be all set there.

Thanks to everyone who has responded so far!
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Old 10-03-08, 12:14 PM   #5
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rido R2

I am just trying to get used to the new Rido R2 saddle (have it for two weeks now). It clearly is not a cushy beginners saddle. I will report once I have ridden some longer distances. So far no numbness issues.

http://www.rido-cyclesaddles.com/

Last edited by lutz; 10-03-08 at 06:54 PM.
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Old 10-03-08, 02:24 PM   #6
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I saw your suggestion of shellac/cork bar tape instead of leather, and another way to go which might hold up better than cork is shellaced cloth tape. I've seen that on a few bikes and it's a really nice old-school touch. Although, if you're looking to stay strict vegan on this project, you might want to stay away from shellac since it's made by refining insect secretions.
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Old 10-03-08, 02:37 PM   #7
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For cushiness and longevity I vote for cork tape covered with shellaced hockey-stick tape.

The hockey tape is thinner than regular cloth tape (and much, much cheaper) so it does not contribute greatly to the thickness of the bars.

I use it on several of my bikes, and love it.

One bit of advice: Make sure you have your stem, brakes and other handlebar paraphenalia set up properly before you start shellacing anything. Also let it dry for at least two days before using it.
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Old 10-03-08, 03:33 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VeloMakak View Post
So, I'd like to find something that has the comfort, durability and aesthetics of a Brook saddle, but that is made from non-animal materials.
You're probably looking at a two out of three situation. Leather is very durable, and will handle abuse in a way that most synthetics won't. It also has a very distinctive look, and you can't really replicate the look in synthetics without damaging the performance.

Given what else you've said, I'd prioritize durability and comfort. If the looks really matter to you, it *might* be worth considering used. Depends on how your particular set of ethics work.

For bags, I'd contact Acorn. They do semi-custom work and this sounds to me like something that's right up their alley. They do have a waiting list, so your bags would not be ready right away.
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Old 10-03-08, 05:07 PM   #9
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Well, there's the Selle San Marco Regal in white Lorica. Traditional, with a side of pimp:


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Old 10-03-08, 05:27 PM   #10
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Good on ya for your choices VeloMakak. While I have not personally made that choice I applaud your convictions. I love the look of the Selle San Marco Regal. I was going to recommend that but didn't take the time to look it up, sorry I'm lazy. Also the recommendation on Acron is good. I think they should be back from their vacation by now so you can see about a vegan bag from them.
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Old 10-03-08, 06:09 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VeloMakak View Post
So, I'd like to find something that has the comfort, durability and aesthetics of a Brook saddle, but that is made from non-animal materials.
I admire your conviction - it's one I used to practice myself. But I'm afraid the bad news is that although we are quite smart critters, there are still many things for which man has been unable to come up with a synthetic substitute that performs as well as animal products. IMHO, leather is one of these cases.

But for saddles, there are many options available that are non-leather. They just won't have the same attributes of a Brooks - either aesthetically or that particular type of "feel".
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Old 10-06-08, 09:59 AM   #12
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Thank you to everyone for their insightful guidance so far- I'm learning quite a bit in a very short time.
I did contact Ron @ Acorn Bags- an absolute gentleman. I asked about the possibility of purchasing a bag with a leather substitute and he replied that they didn't have anything at the moment, but he was looking into a few things that might pass his rigorous standards. So, there might be some hope there, as his bags are gorgeous and seem like a steal at what he charges for them.
Thank you all for the recommendation of the Selle San Marco 'Regal'. Aesthetically- that one looks to be right on the money, though the white may not be the exact right choice for the sublimely understated "gentlemanly" bike I'm hoping to build.
Thank you folks also for the bar wrap ideas- I've used hockey tape on track bars, and it was a great, budget solution. Thanks as well for the reminder that shellac is not vegan- I'll see if I can find an alternative.
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Old 10-06-08, 05:50 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VeloMakak View Post
Thank you to everyone for their insightful guidance so far- I'm learning quite a bit in a very short time.
I did contact Ron @ Acorn Bags- an absolute gentleman. I asked about the possibility of purchasing a bag with a leather substitute and he replied that they didn't have anything at the moment, but he was looking into a few things that might pass his rigorous standards. So, there might be some hope there, as his bags are gorgeous and seem like a steal at what he charges for them.
Thank you all for the recommendation of the Selle San Marco 'Regal'. Aesthetically- that one looks to be right on the money, though the white may not be the exact right choice for the sublimely understated "gentlemanly" bike I'm hoping to build.
Thank you folks also for the bar wrap ideas- I've used hockey tape on track bars, and it was a great, budget solution. Thanks as well for the reminder that shellac is not vegan- I'll see if I can find an alternative.
The regal has a leather cover. it does come in black too. I looked at the shape in person, and I don't think it's a team pro clone, but it's pretty close.
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Old 10-06-08, 09:46 PM   #14
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The regal has a leather cover. it does come in black too. I looked at the shape in person, and I don't think it's a team pro clone, but it's pretty close.
The white Regal is made from a synthetic material called Lorica. That's why I posted/linked the white one, not the black one. It contains no leather.

Unfortunately, I don't think they make a black version in Lorica. All the black ones I've seen (there's one model with chromo rails and a more expensive model with ti rails) are leather.
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Old 10-15-08, 01:20 AM   #15
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although they don't have a very porteur/vintage-ish feel/aesthetic, fizik saddles are wrapped in microtex(sp) which is a durable, breathable synthetic. i ride almost exclusively fizik alliante saddles anymore - and a riding buddy swears by his arione.

also, i've heard that many selle san marco saddles are synthetic, not just the white regal.

alternatives to shellac for tape may include long-oil varnishes (also called spar varnish) - it is a marine grade wood sealer/finish that utilizes a synthetic resin. they come in a couple finishes (luster, semi-gloss, etc.) and can be found in the paint area of nearly any hardware store/paint store.

one last thing to consider is glue/adhesive. i'm in no way informed enough to offer insight into what adhesives are vegan-friendly, but have heard rumblings about contemporary adhesives and "glue factory" associations.

Last edited by porkchop; 10-15-08 at 01:41 AM.
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Old 10-15-08, 06:22 AM   #16
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one last thing to consider is glue/adhesive. i'm in no way informed enough to offer insight into what adhesives are vegan-friendly, but have heard rumblings about contemporary adhesives and "glue factory" associations.
There are a wide range of adhesives used these days. Some (like silicone based glues and cyanoacrylates) are completely synthetic, and I'd tend to guess that they come from petroleum sources. Others are likely derived from animal sources. IME, the completely synthetic glues work well on plastics, and the bonds are more durable than the ones formed by glues that are likely derived from animals.

But it's not a simple issue, so if the OP is concerned about glues, I'd recommend doing research. If nothing else, glues can be pretty fascinating .
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Old 10-15-08, 01:22 PM   #17
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Well, there's the Selle San Marco Regal in white Lorica. Traditional, with a side of pimp:



Now that is wierd; The Lorica is $2 more than the leather! Those little lorica's must be tough to catch and skin.

I've been looking at the Regal myself. I am perfectly happy with the Sella Italia Flite Ti on my road bike, and the Brooks Swift Ti on my mountain/touring bike, but I am building a Soma Double Cross for fast/light touring, and just for something a bit different I have been considering the Regal. I'd be interested in hearing any feedback on them.
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Old 10-15-08, 03:07 PM   #18
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You realize shellac is an animal product, don't you?
Yep. We covered that earlier.

Here's the big question, though: What else to use? Someone mentioned spar varnish, like they use for marine fixtures, but I thought that varnishes got brittle when they dried. The other question I have about varnish is regarding the solvent base: Would that potentially damage something like cork or cotton tape?

I'm cheap and not so classy, so I just use plain old unvarnished cork-blend on my bars. I don't know much about varnishes and shellacs aside from what I've read.
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Old 10-15-08, 03:12 PM   #19
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What is the problem with a vegan using shellac? It's like saying a vegan can't use wool. Shellac is *secreted* by an insect:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shellac
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Old 10-17-08, 03:57 PM   #20
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What is the problem with a vegan using shellac? It's like saying a vegan can't use wool. Shellac is *secreted* by an insect:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shellac

Actually...

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/in...4072551AAAwvpP
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Old 11-17-08, 01:43 PM   #21
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Fizik Aliante.

A few folks I know who like the Brooks B-17 have said they find the Aliante comfy. Apparently it is available with a synthetic cover.
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Old 12-03-08, 08:47 PM   #22
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http://www.cambriabike.com/shopexd.asp?id=49193

I know it's not quite as pretty as the others, but the logo on the side wears off and the black one doesn't stick out too much on any bike.

It's synthetic, and it takes a LOT of abuse, and as far as I can tell it's based on pretty much the same "hammock" principle as the brooks-- stiff material stretched longitudinally. I love mine, and it's broken in much like a leather saddle would.
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Old 12-03-08, 08:47 PM   #23
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http://www.mtbr.com/cat/controls/sad...49_140crx.aspx

sorry to double post; see above for reviews of the ithys saddle.
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Old 12-12-08, 10:01 AM   #24
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Try a Turbo. There is also the Brooks Vitesse, I have one but I found it less comfortable than a turbo. Another option is a Brooks or Schwinn Mattress type saddle which has rear springs plus smaller longitudinal springs beneath the surface of the saddle. Not to bad for shorter rides of 30 to 40 minutes. Try to find a new old stock or an example that isn't deteriorated by age.
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Old 12-12-08, 10:23 AM   #25
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The Specialized, Body Geometry, saddles are pretty comfortable.
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