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Brooks Swift: First Impressions

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Brooks Swift: First Impressions

Old 07-19-07, 07:59 AM
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Brooks Swift: First Impressions

My Brooks Swift arrived last night. I have yet to decide if this is a long-term relationship. But here's how it all started . . .

I open the box. There she is. Beautiful . . . just like they said she would be. Her antique brown skin has just the right patina. The brass rivets show the beauty of being hand-installed -- and perfectly flush with the leather. Even the frame, with its "unfinished" look, has just the right appearance. Beautiful . . . but what's this? A round darkened spot in the leather finish. At the very front of the bevel. It looks as if somebody at the factory spilled some kind of staining chemical on the saddle. And an application of Proofide only makes it worse. At first, it didn't bother me -- just a small, 3/4" blemish. The longer I see it, though, the more it does bother me. (If I like the saddle, I may trade it for another WITHOUT the blemish.)

I install it on my bike. Sitting next to my Fizik Arione, the Brooks looks terribly stubby. The Arione has that long, graceful nose and rear flash. On the other hand, the finish of the Arione looks pretty antiseptic. Very plain and boring compared to that of the Brooks. With both saddles off the bike, it is obvious that the alleged 130g weight difference just isn't that big a deal.

This morning, the first ride. It's my recovery ride day. (Heart rate at 55% to 70% of max and cadence at 65 to 70 rpm. Slow. Tedious. But I'm doing what the "doctor" ordered.) At any rate, my first impression of the Brooks is that it feels surprisingly similar to the Selle Italia SLR Carbon Ti I tested a week or so ago. Very hard. (Not firm . . . hard.) Fits my "sit bones". And the surface is very slick. After a few miles, my mind tells me that the Brooks has a little more "give" to it than the uncovered SLR -- but it might have been wishful thinking. After seven or eight miles, the saddle is inducing mild pain. I can definitely feel my sit bones. I alter my posture and seating position a number of times, trying to find a more comfortable position. None is as comfortable as in the drops -- and it's not very comfortable. By the time my ride is over, I am READY for it to be over. I was glad to get off the bike -- and this is the shortest ride of my week.

So . . . tomorrow, I do 2.5 hours of foundation miles and 30 minutes of a similated time trial. I'm not at all sure I want to do this on the Brooks -- not without it being broken in. Does anyone have any suggestions for surviving 3 hours in the saddle tomorrow? If you started with an uncomfortable Brooks experience, how many hours did it take you and/or the saddle to adapt?
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Old 07-19-07, 08:10 AM
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3 hours should do it .
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Old 07-19-07, 08:35 AM
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Mine pretty much felt comfortable right out of the box. But I did notice that with more rides it became even more comfortable.
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Old 07-19-07, 08:47 AM
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Your description is similar to my experience. I wouldn't recommend it for the 3 hours tomorrow.

What I did was work up - starting with shorter rides. I can go 40 miles now without much notice and it's getting better. It's not there yet but I can feel the potential.

I have a total of maybe 250 miles on it right now.

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Old 07-19-07, 09:12 AM
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55/Rad, that's the kind of input I'm looking for. My "sit bones" are still aching. I may try to do an hour or so on the Brooks and switch saddles for the rest of the ride.
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Old 07-20-07, 12:06 PM
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Day #2 of the Brooks experience:

With Wallingford's return guarantee, I feel an obligation to give the Swift a fair test. If it were a one-ride-and-decide deal, the Swift would have been in the mail back to them immediately. Day #1 was very uncomfortable.

Day #2 consists of 2 1/2 hours of foundation miles. (The simulated TT got rained out. Aluminum frames, lightning and mountain climbs don't mix.) I figure I'll give the Brooks half of my training time before switching back to my Fizik Arione. Today's impressions:

Mile 1 -- The cover sure is slick (again). My backside tingles on the same spots that hurt yesterday. I think about turning back even though there's nothing approaching pain yet.

Mile 8 -- There's pressure, but no pain. So far, so good.

Mile 18 -- There are occasional sore spots, but a very small adjustment in position takes them away. I notice that the saddle is extremely comfortable when I'm in the drops. It is comfortable when I'm on the hoods. It is not very comfortable at all when I'm sitting up (as I was a lot on Day #1). Lesson: Don't sit up.

Mile 24 -- I'm within 1/2 mile of my house but decide to take the whole 2 1/2 hours on the Swift. Pressure is certainly no worse than it would be on my Arione. No burning. No pain.

Mile 40 -- There's a climb here and saddle soreness "inspires" me to stand -- but it's my first time out of the saddle the entire day. I realize that I've NEVER gone this far without standing on the pedals with my Arione.

At the end of 2 1/2 hours in the saddle, my mind has been changed. After Day #1, I was 95% sure I would be returning the Brooks. After Day #2, I'm 95% sure it's a keeper. I got back home feeling good. The Brooks was saturated with sweat. It earned its comfort reputation today. Now, I wonder . . . did the Brooks adapt to me or did I adapt to the Brooks?
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Old 07-20-07, 12:23 PM
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A little of both. That saddle will get more and more comfortable with time. Your rear end will also get more tough as you ride with this saddle. Like Rad, I've got about 250-300 miles on mine and it's starting to get more and more comfortable. I only put 30 miles a day on it, but I ride it with running shorts instead of biking shorts. It's on my commuting bike. You'll be loving this saddle in a couple weeks.
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Old 07-20-07, 12:30 PM
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I'm glad you didn't give up on it. And with your next ride you'll be even happier with it.
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Old 07-20-07, 12:47 PM
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Mine was comfortable right out of the box. You do have to tweak the adjustment a bit to get it just right.
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Old 07-20-07, 08:37 PM
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Thanks for the post. I'd appreciate another update if possible. Any reason you chose the Swift over the Swallow? I have a bunch of miles on my Brooks (imitation actually) Team Professional I bought back in 1978 for my touring bike (I was 14 or so). I could ride that thing all day...every day. I got that bike out last year and started riding...put on 1500 miles last summer and while my buddy would gripe about saddle pain on his bike, I honestly couldn't relate. Now I have a new bike and that saddle looks, well, stupid on my new bike...and so I've tried some of the newer styles, like the Toupe, Aliante, Arione, Avocet and settled on a Terry Fly. I think that was a mistake...not as comfortable as I thought it would be. So...now thinking brooks. Keep us posted!

BTW...I always thought I broke into the saddle versus the saddle breaking in to me.

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Old 07-20-07, 08:57 PM
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I commuted (32 miles RT) on mine a few days before taking it on a long ride. 75 miles and it's easily the most comfortable saddle I've ever ridden. And I've got quite a stack of saddles I've tried. I still got slightly numb in the manly bits once or twice, but it wasn't even totally numb like other saddles. I suspect the nose may need to go down just a hair... although it already feels like I'm sliding forward. Maybe I'll move the seat forward slightly before I tilt the nose down...

One question for the experienced Brooks folks. I've got a Team Pro, which is supposed to take a long time to break in. Mine seems to sag quite a bit after only a couple hundred miles. I only used the Proofide once after the first ride. Is that normal? Should I quit worrying and go for a ride?

Az
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Old 07-20-07, 10:01 PM
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Any new saddle is going to hurt the first few times you use it as your butt gets used to the different pressure points. The Brooks is no different. The slickness will go away, or at least become less noticeable, as the saddle breaks in. You can speed the break-in along by using a coat or two of baseball glove oil (yeah, I know, it'll void your warranty and the Brooks police will visit your house at 5am but it works and doesn't hurt the saddle one tiny bit although it will darken the color). If your seat->handlebar drop is aggressive, or if you like to ride in the drops, tipping the nose down a bit will help with numbness. Until the slickness diminishes, though, you'll tend to slide forward on the nose so it's best to wait to tilt it down until you've got a few hundred miles on it and it's started breaking in.
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Old 07-21-07, 09:12 AM
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Day #3 - I wasn't sure if I would ride today or not. My plan was for a 2-hour tempo ride but my backside was sore from the last two days' riding and my legs were very tired. As for the backside, even sitting on a padded desk chair was painful. I went out anyway.

Mile 1 -- Gee, this hurts. The saddle doesn't seem as slippery as before. Let's see if I can work through the pain.

Mile 4 -- As I warmed up my tired legs, I worked through the pain. The backside is still sore but it seems to have stabilized at a dull ache and it's not getting any worse. I'm struck by the fact that it hurts a lot less than my Arione would on a "sore backside" day.

Mile 25 -- I have occasionally stood on the pedals in order to get a break from the soreness. Considering how I started, though, it's really not bad. Most climbs, I have remained seated and comfortable. On the dreaded 15% "big hill", I found myself with two extra, unused cogs near the top. Cool!

By the time I got home, it was general fatigue that made me stop 10 minutes early -- not saddle soreness. As I got off the saddle, I noticed that it was soaked with sweat -- and it has started to "dish" a little under each of my sit bones. (The leather has also started to darken so that the above-mentioned stain is starting to blend in.) I can see that this will be a saddle with a perfect custom fit as it breaks in. I also anticipate that it will be much more comfortable on Monday -- after a rest day for my backside to recover.

It's a keeper!
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Old 07-21-07, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by GPB View Post
Any reason you chose the Swift over the Swallow?
I studied both.

- To my surprise, both saddles are the same width.
- The Swallow is about 10g lighter. With variances in materials, that's not really a difference you can count on.
- The Swallow is 1/3" longer and its sides are cut so that it looks very sleek -- but it is joined on the bottom.
- The Swallow has small-headed nickel-plated rivets and the Swift has large-headed brass rivets.
- A poll on this forum indicated that Brooks owners overwhelmingly favor the Swift over the Swallow. (But non-Brooks people overwhelmingly favor the Swallow.)
- The Swallow costs a lot more.

I prefer the sleek look of the Swallow, but I prefer the big brass rivets of the Swift. Let's call it an aesthetic toss-up. Both saddles are functionally very, very close -- essentially identical. Same width where it matters. 1/3" of extra length "on the rivet" is pretty meaningless. The cost factor is pretty substantial. I'm very happy with my choice.

Incidentally -- My Arione was always adjusted pretty close to the midpoint of its travel. Adjusted to the same position, the Swift is at the farthest back end of its travel. If I needed the saddle to be farther back, I would need to go with the Swallow for its longer rails.
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Old 07-21-07, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Az B View Post
One question for the experienced Brooks folks. I've got a Team Pro, which is supposed to take a long time to break in. Mine seems to sag quite a bit after only a couple hundred miles. I only used the Proofide once after the first ride. Is that normal? Should I quit worrying and go for a ride?

Az
No sagging on my Team Pro...thing is hard as a rock even after 2 Proofide greasings. I slid the saddle forward like what you're considering. That seems to help
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Old 07-21-07, 08:31 PM
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Originally Posted by FlashBazbo View Post
I studied both.
Thanks...those are some good points to consider. Keep those updates coming...I want to know all the soreness has stopped!
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Old 07-21-07, 09:01 PM
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It only gets better.

Trust me.
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Old 07-21-07, 09:19 PM
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FB - are you going to chop your Swift? Good way to get the sleek look of the Swallow.
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Old 07-22-07, 05:47 AM
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Originally Posted by 55/Rad View Post
FB - are you going to chop your Swift? Good way to get the sleek look of the Swallow.
I don't know. I like the look . . . but if I'm getting the level of firmness and fit that I want, I know that I will hate messing with a good thing.
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Old 07-22-07, 10:35 AM
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First impressions of a Brooks? usually eeYOUCH!

It's taken 2,500 km to break in my Team Pro, but man what a nice saddle to sit on now.

It takes a little while for you and your Brooks to get to know each other, don't push things at first. I would never consider doing a 3 hr. ride on a Brooks "Right out of the box".

Dipping the saddle in a bucket of water for ~15 sec. (hold bike upside down) followed by a 1 hr. ride can speed-up the break in period considerably. I did this 3 times. BUT DON"T OVERDO IT!
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Old 07-23-07, 07:50 AM
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Brooks Swift, Day #4 -- Even after a rest day, my backside is still a little tender from last week's rides on the Swift. Today was a 30-mile tempo (foundation miles) ride with zero stops and zero time out of the saddle.

First impression -- As usual, this saddle is slippery . . . and hard. On Day #1, the slipperyness made me concerned about control issues -- but not anymore.

Miles 1 thru 16 -- No pain. No pressure. The most comfortable saddle I've ever ridden.

Mile 16 -- The first twinge of discomfort came near the top of a long climb. It was just a twinge and it was gone.

Mile 20 -- "Normal" saddle soreness starts to set in. Mind you, this is the same saddle soreness my Arione gave me starting sometime between miles 8 & 12 -- but it's there. Not severe. But not the kind of superb comfort I experienced in the first 20 miles. (Man, this is really whining!)

At the end of the ride, the saddle was pretty comfortable. No severe pain. No burning. Never any numbness. It again shows the signs of additional "dishing" where my sit bones rest. If my backside hadn't been tender to start with, I'm thinking this could be a saddle that provides "all day" comfort.

We'll see.

(By the way . . . other than two treatments of Proofide, I haven't done any of the water or Glove-o-leum stuff. I never liked what those did to my baseball gloves, so I decided to just go with Proofide. Of course, the Proofide may be one reason why my saddle is still pretty slippery.)
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Old 07-23-07, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by FlashBazbo View Post
Brooks Swift, Day #4 -- Even after a rest day, my backside is still a little tender from last week's rides on the Swift. Today was a 30-mile tempo (foundation miles) ride with zero stops and zero time out of the saddle.

First impression -- As usual, this saddle is slippery . . . and hard. On Day #1, the slipperyness made me concerned about control issues -- but not anymore.

Miles 1 thru 16 -- No pain. No pressure. The most comfortable saddle I've ever ridden.

Mile 16 -- The first twinge of discomfort came near the top of a long climb. It was just a twinge and it was gone.

Mile 20 -- "Normal" saddle soreness starts to set in. Mind you, this is the same saddle soreness my Arione gave me starting sometime between miles 8 & 12 -- but it's there. Not severe. But not the kind of superb comfort I experienced in the first 20 miles. (Man, this is really whining!)

At the end of the ride, the saddle was pretty comfortable. No severe pain. No burning. Never any numbness. It again shows the signs of additional "dishing" where my sit bones rest. If my backside hadn't been tender to start with, I'm thinking this could be a saddle that provides "all day" comfort.

We'll see.

(By the way . . . other than two treatments of Proofide, I haven't done any of the water or Glove-o-leum stuff. I never liked what those did to my baseball gloves, so I decided to just go with Proofide. Of course, the Proofide may be one reason why my saddle is still pretty slippery.)
Use the Profide sparingly as you alluded. It will soften the leather hammock and make it slump in the middle which is the downside of any of the so called hastening break in methods with oil. Having been a long time Brooks rider...too much Profide with do more to harm the saddle then preserve it. Lastly, as far as saddle pain...early saddle pain can linger even though the saddle maybe right for you. There are two aspects of break in. The soft tissue around your sitbones is actually changing as well. This is why most cyclists independent of saddle type and time spent on a partcular saddle will early in the season experience some tenderness. Last point is...the Swift or Swallow as beautiful as they are maybe too narrow for you. They are for me. I believe they are the most beautiful but I do much better on a B.17. If you are a clyde, consider this.
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Old 07-24-07, 08:24 AM
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Brooks Swift, day #5 -- (Isn't everybody tired of this already?)

Easy report: The saddle was comfortable. Eventually (the last 1/3 of the ride), it gave the same discomfort that all saddles give over a distance -- but it came later in the ride and was milder than any other I have ridden. And this, keep in mind, is while my backside really hasn't fully adapted yet. If my backside weren't a little tender, I don't think I would notice the saddle at all -- and that's a pretty dramatic statement.

I notice that the left side of the saddle is dishing a bit more than the right. Does this mean I ride with more weight on that side? (Actually, that makes some sense.) The saddle is coming into its own. It is starting to get that darkened patina that comes to a ball glove after a season of practice and play.

Unless something strange happens, this will be my last report.
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Old 07-24-07, 08:42 AM
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^^^^ - I, for one, have enjoyed reading your reports on the Brooks saddles. Thanks!
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Old 07-27-07, 09:46 AM
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Does anybody race with brooks saddles, or are they more just for comfort?
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