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Did I ruin my Brooks?

Old 03-15-08, 07:26 PM
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Did I ruin my Brooks?

Hey everybody,

I bought a Brooks B-17 a couple years back from the lbs in anticipation of getting into touring, and on advice from the manager, soaked it in linseed oil overnight before attempting to break it in. I then rode it exclusively for several months, doing some charity metric centuries and lots of ~20-40 mile rides (I'd estimate 500-700 miles total). The saddle now seems too flexible, if that makes any sense. I'm a big guy (6'6", 260lbs), so what Iím thinking is a combination of all the oil and my weight has stretched the leather. This creates a hammock effect with the leather that is incredibly uncomfortable on some sensitive areas, if you get my drift. I know that breaking in a Brooks is supposed to be uncomfortable, but is this normal? Is it possible that I'm simply anatomically unsuited for this saddle? Does anyone have any experience with this kind of thing? Should I order the little wrench and try tightening it a little? I understand the tightening that bolt is playing with fire, but I have no use for the saddle as is.

In hindsight, I probably should have just used the proofhide so please don't criticize, I didn't know any better at the time. Any advice is appreciated.

Thanks for the help,
Pete
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Old 03-15-08, 07:36 PM
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Try tightening the nut, just a little at a time (1/4 turn ). If you think you've damaged the saddle already, what do you have to loose? By the way a 13mm wrench works.
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Old 03-15-08, 08:28 PM
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I'm a big guy as well (a bit bigger than you). I didn't treat my brooks at all, and after a few hundred miles it started to sag. I tightened it up twice, but it kept sagging, to the point where I was kind of riding it perched on the back.

I read that riders used to routinely lace the sides of leather saddles together to stiffen up the top, so I punched holes in sides and laced them together, like this picture, except I used coated wire. 150 miles in, it's working great, but it's too early to really tell.

Right before the first saddle started sagging, I bought another brooks for trainer. This one is tan, and is much stiffer (and less comfortable) than the first (black) one I bought. Others on this forum have commented that the tan brooks has slightly thicker leather. The tan brooks hasn't started sagging yet, but I probably don't have more than a couple hundred miles on it.

The brooks is easily the most comfortable saddle I've ever owned, but the sad fact is that it may not be meant for guys as big as we are. Give me another months on the laced-up saddle and I might have a different opinion.
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Old 03-15-08, 10:06 PM
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given your height and size, you may want to consider trying a bigger brooks saddle. wallbike.com gives you a 6 month return policy.
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Old 03-15-08, 10:26 PM
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Yes, tighten it. It sounds like you could go half-turns without too much danger (an interesting word in the sense of leather saddles -- maybe "potential for damage" would be better).

As you say, you don't have much to lose, but you might gain a bit more out of it. Lacing also might be a viable option that is worth trying. I am about to try lacing on a really old Brooks saddle I have acquired to restore its usefulness.
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Old 03-15-08, 10:38 PM
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Brooks... love 'em or hate 'em. Pass...
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Old 03-16-08, 12:38 AM
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All saddles eventually stretch and sag to some extent if you ride long enough. Look at this pic of 2 bikes, each with brooks saddles. The far one has a pronounced sag/distortion and is ridden by a person who is about 100 lbs lighter than you.

https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p...v=v&size=large

Oiling your saddle to soften the leather for faster break-in will cause it to sag sooner, and probably more.

Brooks saddles have a tension adjuster expressly for the purpose of removing this sag (thats why they got it, cause they need it). Give it a turn, ride, repeat if necessary.

"Tying" the skirts together will help control sag. Looks like this:

https://www.wallbike.com/content/JPG/b17lace2.jpg

Try holding skirts together with hand, then press down - it will require more effort. A piece of string and some holes will probably solve your problem.

Use a small drill bit and any piece of string. Unless you have a leather punch set, which would be real useful for this job.

BTW shift the holes about 1cm further back than in the picture. You want to control it a bit back from center area, where it starts to flare out. Don't rely on the Brooks stamp as a reference point. I think they stamp them free hand, mine were offset by ~1cm. Just measure a right angle off the rails, work from that. The lacing doesn't have to be tight at all - you just want to limit lateral movement.

I see now that Questor recommended tying, sorry for the redundancy. Ha, we even used the same picture.

Last edited by seeker333; 03-16-08 at 12:45 AM.
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Old 03-16-08, 06:54 AM
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Did you ruin your Brooks saddle

It is unfortunate that there are so many places on the web advocating the "soak it in oil" approach to breaking in a Brooks saddle. The Brook's care guide and website both explicitly state NOT to do that, for the exact reasons that you discovered. It causes the saddle to soften into a sling or hammock which is exactly what you don't want. The way to break in a Brooks saddle is to RIDE IT. I would also personally recommend not wearing padded shorts with a leather saddle.
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Old 03-16-08, 07:35 AM
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Having participated on this forum for a goodly time, having read much discussion about breaking in Brooks saddles, and having owned several leather saddles over the years, I've finally come to a belief about them that I think will stay with me for the endurance: If Brooks knew of a quicker, better way to break in the B-17 than it already recommends, it would let the bicycling world know about it. Because it would thereby ethically overcome one of the major issues in marketing saddles that so famously hurt like hell for the first fifty or hundred miles. It is hard to account for the industry professionals who recommend such patently destructive techniques as soaking the saddles in oil, without bringing into question their knowledge or their honesty.

Last edited by RalphP; 03-16-08 at 11:53 AM.
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Old 03-16-08, 08:50 AM
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I would venture to say that most Bike Shop owners/sales people know very little about Brooks saddles, and only stock a couple of them for those odd-ball customers who have heard great things about them, but also know nothing. Thus, the idiotic advice to treat a saddle like a pair of workboots, which you throw away after a couple years or sooner.

You have little to lose at this point. Wrench it up. The linseed oil will continue to soften the fibers now. It's likely that it will sag until it either touches the frame rails or tears at the rivets, but give things a go.

If you were 175 lbs, it might be different. I run about 240, and tend to break them in pretty fast, except for the honey colored ones, as has been noted. Mine are .020" thicker than the black ones, which is alot.
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Old 03-16-08, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by seeker333
All saddles eventually stretch and sag to some extent if you ride long enough. Look at this pic of 2 bikes, each with brooks saddles. The far one has a pronounced sag/distortion and is ridden by a person who is about 100 lbs lighter than you.
Ouch, that saddle looks painful!
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Old 03-16-08, 03:41 PM
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Thanks for all the advice, so I think I'll try a very gradually tightening/lacing and see what happens. As stated, I have little to lose.

In response to the guy who said maybe I should try a larger saddle, is the B-68 the way to go? That was the only Saddle I saw at wallbike that seemed larger than the B-17 (actually I have the B-17 champion special). I'd be interested in trying out another Brooks before giving up completely on the idea, so would a b-68 make sense for a bigger guy like me?

Also, it seems mixed between people reccomending proofide (sp?) or nothing at all. I don't mind toughing it out on the untreated saddle, but boes the proofide provide protection against mositure? I would be afraid that the dry, untreated leather would soak up any road-water that may get splashed on it and deform the leather, is this a concern?

Anyways, thanks again, I'll post the result of my great Brooks experiment.

-Pete
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