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lacing brooks saddle

Old 05-12-16, 12:38 AM
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lacing brooks saddle

has anyone done this? has it proven to be helpful? my brooks is starting to squeak at the metal/leather interface in the nose of the saddle, because the leather acts like a trampoline whenever my butt bounces. proofide hasn't helped, but I know this can be mitigated if I can alleviate the trampoline effect by lacing the sides of the saddle. My intuition tells me that by doing this, the longevity of the saddle will be improved, because the leather flexes much less.

so has anyone done this? how did you do it? how much did it help?
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Old 05-12-16, 03:00 AM
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I did this just a couple of weeks ago and I'm very happy with the result. I loved my Brooks right out of the box... and then it gradually got more and more uncomfortable as it broke in. I have the special edition with the big copper rivets on the back, and as the leather broke into my butt shape, the rivets seemed to become more pronounced and I ended up with nowhere comfortable to sit on it. I noticed the skirt was flaring out a bit too, so I decided to lace them together to bring the shape back closer to how it was out of the box. I think I have achieved that, and I'm much happier with how it feels now.

I'd spring for a Cambium, but the price is absurd and I can't convince myself to do it when my B17 is still in such good condition (aside from the sag).
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Old 05-12-16, 06:16 AM
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Three points!

First, if the nose hardware is squeaking, tighten the nut a little bit. Just a little; only enough to keep it from moving around.

Second, please, take it easy with the Proofide! I've seen a lot of saddles that were killed with Proofide, and only a few that died for lack of it.

Third.... Lacing the skirts makes a fundamental change to the way the saddle supports your weight. Normally, with a leather saddle like Brooks or the many others, downward pressure on the top causes the whole thing to sag, which causes the skirts to spread out. You'll see this if you press down on the top of it with your hand. But while you're sitting on it and pedaling, the skirts can't spread out very much because your thighs are there. The effect is to spread pressure a bit; your thighs hold the saddle in, and your weight is spread out over the whole saddle, even including the sides. If you lace the skirts, they won't spread out, so now your weight will be concentrated on the top of the saddle. Furthermore, since the top can't sag, it will be much harder, and it will be harder on a specific part of your body.

As I say, lacing the skirts makes a fundamental, architectural change to the saddle. It makes it from one kind of a saddle into another kind of saddle. That's not to say it's a bad thing; Brooks has offered a 'Swallow' model for many years, which has the skirts cut away and connected together with a metal plate riveted on. They can be pretty unforgiving! If that's what you want, by all means, go for it. My guess, however, is that it isn't what you want.
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Old 05-12-16, 07:44 AM
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People do , B17 basic ( a tourists bike , not mine,) has some skirt flare, another 17, Imperial another ship ahead, has been laced.

I have 2 Team Pros, decades of use... mine does not need that..
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Old 05-12-16, 10:42 AM
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My experience is very similar to what @DanBell described only I have the standard steel rivets on my B-17. I like to ride on the rear of the saddle and the sag was forcing me to point the nose quite high to prevent my butt from sliding forward off of my preferred sweet spot on the saddle. I tightened the bolt a bit and then laced it. Big improvement and I can now position it with just a minor up tilt and I have 2 older Brooks that will get the same treatment soon.

I've logged 100+ miles since I laced it a few weeks ago and the the true test will come on a 2 week tour later this month.
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Old 05-12-16, 01:22 PM
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oh, I thought proofide was supposed to help. I suppose you can have too much of a good thing... how much is too much? I've had it maybe 6 months, and have done 2 applications, one for preventative measures, and the second one a couple of days ago, to address the creaking.

about changing the saddle's flexing skirt, can't you just remove the laces if the saddle doesn't work out as it should? what if you loosen the laces a little, to introduce some flex?

what laces have you guys used? I'm thinking I'll mark the holes, and use a drill for the holes, and maybe tie it up with a spare shoe lace.
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Old 05-12-16, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by rhm View Post
Three points!

First, if the nose hardware is squeaking, tighten the nut a little bit. Just a little; only enough to keep it from moving around.

Second, please, take it easy with the Proofide! I've seen a lot of saddles that were killed with Proofide, and only a few that died for lack of it.

Third.... Lacing the skirts makes a fundamental change to the way the saddle supports your weight. Normally, with a leather saddle like Brooks or the many others, downward pressure on the top causes the whole thing to sag, which causes the skirts to spread out. You'll see this if you press down on the top of it with your hand. But while you're sitting on it and pedaling, the skirts can't spread out very much because your thighs are there. The effect is to spread pressure a bit; your thighs hold the saddle in, and your weight is spread out over the whole saddle, even including the sides. If you lace the skirts, they won't spread out, so now your weight will be concentrated on the top of the saddle. Furthermore, since the top can't sag, it will be much harder, and it will be harder on a specific part of your body.
Very good points, second in particular. Probably 10X more B17s ruined by leather treatment than those ever helped by it. Do you think Proofide is actually Brooks' strategy for ensuring repeat saddle sales?

WRT to lacing, I find a laced B17 is still a pretty bouncy, forgiving saddle relative to modern plastic saddles.

Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
so has anyone done this? how did you do it? how much did it help?
I did it after I had given up on B17 in it's original state, in evaluative stages. First I treated the leather specifically to soften, which takes away the wooden hardness but also greatly compromises the whole support structure of the saddle. After a few hundred miles I then laced B17 to regain some of the support.

Make 6 holes on each side 1cm apart about 1cm up from skirt. The holes should be located opposite each other as if you're drilling a hole from one side of the saddle to the other, 90 degrees to the rails. If they're off a little it's no big deal. Don't use the "Brooks Champion Standard" stamped areas as a guide, as Brooks seems to just eyeball these locations without measuring - mine were offset by 1cm. Use whatever string you like for lacing, but be aware the larger the string diameter the more likely it will rub you or abrade your clothing.

B17's skirts splay outwards in the area behind the center of saddle (lengthwise) back to a point where movement is increasingly restricted by the outermost rivets. The holes and string which control the skirt need to be located in this area. Tying from the center of the saddle forwards does very little to control skirt spread. So start drilling holes about center of saddle length and move rearwards with subsequent holes.

I used an electric drill and 1/16" bit to make my holes, because I own these tools and was unwilling to buy a leather punch set for this one job, although they'd work better (neater holes) but it hardly matters. When lacing the saddle, the string does not have to be taut to keep skirts from splaying. If you tighten string too much you'll pull the sides inwards so that the skirts may interfere with saddle mounting, or the string may be abraded by vertical movement against sharp edges of the seat post clamp mechanism.

You can do this whole job without removing saddle from bike if careful, however I removed mine so as to prevent drill bit, saddle rail and/or seat post damage.

WRT results of lacing, for most users I suspect it is definite improvement if the saddle has sagged a lot from use, or lost it's structure as a result of accidental of intentional leather softening. Lacing is basically a method to extend the life of a Brooks saddle once it is already sorta ruined.

I've never loved the B17. It's hard as a board when new and slippery as snot. Once it breaks-in it works good for a while, then it starts sagging too much for my comfort, and begins to put more pressure on the soft bits (perineum). B17 will sag much more than any decent "plastic" saddle, such that it makes it difficult to shift forwards or backwards a bit to temporarily relieve pressure points, or change hand positions on drop bar. This is a highly contentious subject, so I'll just conclude with YMMV.
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Old 05-12-16, 02:15 PM
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I have an old Brooks B15 Champion narrow fitted on my daily commuter. I bought it approx 6 weeks ago

I only paid 10 for it from a LBS and it was in a sorry state. I have given 2 really good coats of Proofhide (top and bottom) and use the Giles Berthout Proofhide ....

It has come back to life and is comfortable. It has holes on the side, but no lacing. The leather is thick (this is the old 'proper' Brooks saddle), and no squeeking anywhere

so, proofhide works (I have been very generous with my applications) ...
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Old 05-12-16, 10:29 PM
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Originally Posted by seeker333 View Post
Very good points, second in particular. Probably 10X more B17s ruined by leather treatment than those ever helped by it. Do you think Proofide is actually Brooks' strategy for ensuring repeat saddle sales?

WRT to lacing, I find a laced B17 is still a pretty bouncy, forgiving saddle relative to modern plastic saddles.



I did it after I had given up on B17 in it's original state, in evaluative stages. First I treated the leather specifically to soften, which takes away the wooden hardness but also greatly compromises the whole support structure of the saddle. After a few hundred miles I then laced B17 to regain some of the support.

Make 6 holes on each side 1cm apart about 1cm up from skirt. The holes should be located opposite each other as if you're drilling a hole from one side of the saddle to the other, 90 degrees to the rails. If they're off a little it's no big deal. Don't use the "Brooks Champion Standard" stamped areas as a guide, as Brooks seems to just eyeball these locations without measuring - mine were offset by 1cm. Use whatever string you like for lacing, but be aware the larger the string diameter the more likely it will rub you or abrade your clothing.

B17's skirts splay outwards in the area behind the center of saddle (lengthwise) back to a point where movement is increasingly restricted by the outermost rivets. The holes and string which control the skirt need to be located in this area. Tying from the center of the saddle forwards does very little to control skirt spread. So start drilling holes about center of saddle length and move rearwards with subsequent holes.

I used an electric drill and 1/16" bit to make my holes, because I own these tools and was unwilling to buy a leather punch set for this one job, although they'd work better (neater holes) but it hardly matters. When lacing the saddle, the string does not have to be taut to keep skirts from splaying. If you tighten string too much you'll pull the sides inwards so that the skirts may interfere with saddle mounting, or the string may be abraded by vertical movement against sharp edges of the seat post clamp mechanism.

You can do this whole job without removing saddle from bike if careful, however I removed mine so as to prevent drill bit, saddle rail and/or seat post damage.

WRT results of lacing, for most users I suspect it is definite improvement if the saddle has sagged a lot from use, or lost it's structure as a result of accidental of intentional leather softening. Lacing is basically a method to extend the life of a Brooks saddle once it is already sorta ruined.

I've never loved the B17. It's hard as a board when new and slippery as snot. Once it breaks-in it works good for a while, then it starts sagging too much for my comfort, and begins to put more pressure on the soft bits (perineum). B17 will sag much more than any decent "plastic" saddle, such that it makes it difficult to shift forwards or backwards a bit to temporarily relieve pressure points, or change hand positions on drop bar. This is a highly contentious subject, so I'll just conclude with YMMV.
thanks for the tips. I'll definitely bookmark this stuff for future reference. I just did a quick tensioning (1/2 -3/4 turn maybe), and that solved the squeak. So I think I'll hold off on the lacing until a later time.
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Old 05-12-16, 11:37 PM
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Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
oh, I thought proofide was supposed to help. I suppose you can have too much of a good thing... how much is too much? I've had it maybe 6 months, and have done 2 applications, one for preventative measures, and the second one a couple of days ago, to address the creaking.

about changing the saddle's flexing skirt, can't you just remove the laces if the saddle doesn't work out as it should? what if you loosen the laces a little, to introduce some flex?

what laces have you guys used? I'm thinking I'll mark the holes, and use a drill for the holes, and maybe tie it up with a spare shoe lace.
Too much Proofhide makes the saddle too soft. I'd stop right now.
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Old 05-13-16, 10:17 AM
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I used a drill and some old left over cord from Rhode Gear leather handle bar wrap.
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Old 05-13-16, 04:56 PM
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I would highly recommend lacing and older Brooks. I have two B-17's. The oldest accumulated over 30K miles before I notice serious issues. I had been tightening it an using Proofide but it eventually started to really sag. So, I did the lacing thing (mine uses eight holes) and never looked back. That saddle will go forever now with the added advantage of endless adjustability.
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Old 05-13-16, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by tcarl View Post
Too much Proofhide makes the saddle too soft. I'd stop right now.
Noted. I did notice my saddle is much softer than first purchase. What's the best way to harden it back up? Bike shop suggests tension, but I already 3/4 turn,and don't want to overdo it
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Old 05-20-16, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
Noted. I did notice my saddle is much softer than first purchase. What's the best way to harden it back up? Bike shop suggests tension, but I already 3/4 turn,and don't want to overdo it
Leather tears under tension. You cannot undo too much Proofhide either. Find the Brooks site on Google (something like brooksengland.com) and ask them by email...

Good luck.
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Old 05-20-16, 11:59 AM
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No, not tension. It won't help, and may lead to damage to the saddle.

To harden leather... well, in my experience, every time a saddle gets soaking wet and dries out again, it dries harder than before.

I'm not going to claim this is a good idea, but consider the following as a thought experiment. You could fill a bucket with clean water and dunk your saddle in it for a few hours, long enough to get really wet, then let it dry out again. If you do this, you will notice that the water has turned dark brown, suggesting that some soluble substance has been removed. Probably not good in the long run, but as I say, in my experience, the saddle subjected to this treatment will dry harder than it was before.

Baking the saddle for a half hour in your kitchen oven, at the lowest possible setting, for a half hour or so, will also tend to harden the leather.

Anything you do, to harden the leather, is basically speed-aging the leather. You are making it older; and the effect, whether it turns out to be good or not, cannot be undone.
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Old 05-20-16, 10:53 PM
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I laced a newish B17 Special to eliminate skirt flare; it flattened the top fore-aft just a bit; I suppose lacing makes more difference on an older saddle.
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Old 05-21-16, 03:42 AM
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Everyone has an opinion on leather saddles and up to now I had promised myself I wouldn't comment on this subject...however...here goes.

In the "forming" process which shapes these saddles the natural oils are leached out of the leather...this is the reason that the saddle is so hard when new. Having no natural oils in the leather does allow the "breaking-in" process to happen as the leather fibres are now brittle which means that they can now break making the depressions caused by the rider's sit-bones.

The problem is that as they leather ages, being without the natural oils, it eventually crumbles and develops cracks. It is possible to slow/stop this by replacing the original oils with some product but whatever used should not over-soften the leather making the saddle useless. Proofide, at one time vetoed by Brooks from being applied to the underside of their saddles is now approved by them for this purpose....wrongly in my view as this will eventually over-soften the saddle. The reversal of the original advice only came about when the new company realised that their saddles in the US were ridden by riders who did not use mudguards.

As to a suitable product, again everyone has an answer and even Sheldon got this one wrong when he advised Neatsfoot oil.
Neatsfoot oil is organic in nature and attracts various types of fungus over time so should not be used. A modern product which may slightly soften (used with care) but which waterproofs and preserves is the answer, and today those working with leather would probably recommend "Hydrophane" or something very similar.
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Old 05-21-16, 09:53 AM
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Had to lace my champion flyer, and hope that will get a few more miles out of it. One tip, do not use the stamping on the sides to line up the holes, as they are not even themselves.

I used a leather punch from my tack tools. It looks much better than a drilled hole. The leather I used was from a woven leather belt, it matches the saddle very well.

The leather on my flyer is substantially thinner than on the older leather saddles on my older bikes. It started to sag almost at once, with more stretch on one side than the other, as that side is slightly thinner than the other. When it hit the end of the adjustment after about two thousand miles(tightened only when it was about to hit the rails) I did the soak and slow heat thing. Brought it back to almost the original length. I then gave it a treatment of very dilute Lanolin to rehydrate it a bit. That was about a thousand miles ago, and it has developed a small crack on the side(the slightly thinner side)right on the rear rail.
A part of me just wants to keep the lemon brooks I bought new going as long as I can make it. Even with my experience restoring saddles and the like, there is not much else to do with it though.
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Old 05-21-16, 10:31 AM
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bin it buy a good saddle like the fizik alanti carbon. expensive but your arse will thank you for it.
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Old 05-21-16, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by onbike 1939 View Post
Proofide, at one time vetoed by Brooks from being applied to the underside of their saddles is now approved by them for this purpose....wrongly in my view as this will eventually over-soften the saddle. The reversal of the original advice only came about when the new company realised that their saddles in the US were ridden by riders who did not use mudguards.
Another good reason to use mudguards! I'm a bit surprised at this though as most of the local Brooks-using tourists/commuters seem to use mudguards & also many of the Brooks saddles are designed for sport use which one would presume often goes w/no mudguards, even in UK etc. Heh, locally for past month it's rained almost everyday w/temps about 10 C below avg. Great weather for testing out the rain gear.
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Old 10-01-16, 03:55 PM
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just laced mine, finally.

accidentally punched two extra holes on the left side, the one on the nose due to stupidity, and the one in the back because I realized too late that it overlaps with the seat post

started out with 1/16" holes, and ended up with 1/8", but I think I could've got away with 3/32. oh well

no more sagging!
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Old 10-01-16, 04:05 PM
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DK about your too much of a Good thing . in 1974 I got my Brooks Pro, warmed it in the oven to about 100F

put a Tablespoon of Proofide in the up turned under side ,
the waxes melted at those temperatures and the leather soaked it up like a sponge ..

and rode upon it for Many Decades.
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Old 10-01-16, 05:45 PM
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[QUOTE=spectastic;18760907]has anyone done this?


I laced my B-17 but for a different reason. The shirts of the saddle spread out and wear holes in my bibs and shorts very quickly.
Lacing put an end to the wear.
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Old 10-01-16, 06:51 PM
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Saddle looks almost new apart from the lacing. I bought a Brooks Swift recently since the prev B-17 nose was still a touch too wide after lacing. Gotta put some miles in to see how the fit turns out.
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Old 10-01-16, 07:15 PM
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This Brooks B17 Imperial comes pre-laced. I can't give much of an opinion yet with only 150 miles on it so far. I'm just showing it to illustrate the factory lacing. I have another leather saddle, a Selle Anitomica, that is back at the manufacturer getting laced. It is a free service by the company.


However, I've had 30 years experience on this Brooks Pro. In my experience with this saddle, I can say that dozens of applications of Proofide did not significantly soften the leather. Most of those treatments were applied with the aid of a hair dryer.

Last edited by Doug64; 10-02-16 at 12:24 PM.
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