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RANT: I am so done with Brooks saddles

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RANT: I am so done with Brooks saddles

Old 08-24-14, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by shipwreck
Ah, but you see, there are those who are claiming that their saddle is failing faster than its supposed to. Thus, they must be doing something wrong. Therefore its not worth discussion, because in millions of miles their saddle or saddles have not done it. Sometimes a manufacturer has a bad run, sometimes it is user error. No one can tell which is which over the net, and that's made harder by refusal to ever concede in any way that it may be the former.
So you'd argue that if something fails earlier than it's supposed to, it's the user's responsibility to keep quiet and slap their own wrists for being so foolish as to misuse it?

Data is data. The OP posted a detailed and well-written account of the problems he had with a Brooks. just because you, or the majority, didn't have the problem, that doesn't make it silly or wrong for there to be a thread about it.

I swear, insult Brooks or Ortlieb on here and people act like their mother's honor is on the line.... Brooks is not a sacred cow.
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Old 08-24-14, 08:33 PM
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I have a new B17 with titanium rails arriving Tuesday. The OP has me all scared.

Do I soak it in 10W30 or 10W40? Synthetic or conventional.

Can I just jump on it and ride 1000Km?

It is certainly possible that Brooks is using a different source of hides, maybe vegan cows. But it sounds like the OP either got the saddle overly wet and stretched OR put too much oil or fat on it.
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Old 08-24-14, 08:41 PM
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Just chock me up as another who tried Brooks way back when and could never find comfort with them. They're just like all the other saddles out there, they work for some and not for others.
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Old 08-24-14, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by mdilthey
So you'd argue that if something fails earlier than it's supposed to, it's the user's responsibility to keep quiet and slap their own wrists for being so foolish as to misuse it?

Data is data. The OP posted a detailed and well-written account of the problems he had with a Brooks. just because you, or the majority, didn't have the problem, that doesn't make it silly or wrong for there to be a thread about it.

I swear, insult Brooks or Ortlieb on here and people act like their mother's honor is on the line.... Brooks is not a sacred cow.
Reread the thread, or even slowly read the post you just quoted... I am one of those who has a brooks that's in my opinion not up to my expectations. And my expectations are based on experience with multiple older brooks and other leather saddles that I have owned for just as long or longer. If you mention that, then there are some who have a tendency to, as you say, treat brooks as the sacred cow.

For what its worth, I find brooks to be comfortable, new or broken in(or in my case down). I will however be doing most of my longer tours on an old vetta, or my Avocet touring II from now on, because not only are they comfortable for me, but maintenance is lower. That's another topic that gets some brooks enthusiasts goat.
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Old 08-24-14, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by GP
Was it a recent B17? I had a problem with a new one a couple years ago. it seemed like the leather was thinner and it needed regular adjustment. My previous B17, from the mid-70s, had never been tightened. I ended up selling the new one, trying a ti Swift and selling that before getting a B17 Special. I've used the Special now for 9 months and it seems fine.
Purchased in Fall of 2011.
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Old 08-24-14, 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by shipwreck
Ah, but you see, there are those who are claiming that their saddle is failing faster than its supposed to. Thus, they must be doing something wrong. Therefore its not worth discussion, because in millions of miles their saddle or saddles have not done it. Sometimes a manufacturer has a bad run, sometimes it is user error. No one can tell which is which over the net, and that's made harder by refusal to concede that it may be the former.
I had a lousy experience with THREE Brooks saddles. It appears that my B17 might be given a second chance given I've discovered that turning the tightening screw many times seems to have improved the comfort.

There is no way I'll take it on a long ride though. FWIW, my only weekend mini-tour was in 2012 at the peak of the B17's comfort. And I could barely finish because of how sore my ass was.
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Old 08-24-14, 08:50 PM
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Originally Posted by RR3
I have a new B17 with titanium rails arriving Tuesday. The OP has me all scared.

Do I soak it in 10W30 or 10W40? Synthetic or conventional.

Can I just jump on it and ride 1000Km?

It is certainly possible that Brooks is using a different source of hides, maybe vegan cows. But it sounds like the OP either got the saddle overly wet and stretched OR put too much oil or fat on it.
Keep calm about it. Don't let a few of us squeaky wheels worry you to much. You will probably get a fine saddle. I would suggest doing what Machka says about breaking it in. She really knows what she is talking about on that subject.
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Old 08-24-14, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by RR3
I have a new B17 with titanium rails arriving Tuesday. The OP has me all scared.

Do I soak it in 10W30 or 10W40? Synthetic or conventional.

Can I just jump on it and ride 1000Km?

It is certainly possible that Brooks is using a different source of hides, maybe vegan cows. But it sounds like the OP either got the saddle overly wet and stretched OR put too much oil or fat on it.
My advice is just ride it and keep it dry. I don't know where I went wrong-- either too much proofide, the couple rides with wet shorts, or I got one that is stretching out quickly compared to conventional wisdom.
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Old 08-24-14, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by ppg677
Purchased in Fall of 2011.
Mine was from late 2010.
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Old 08-24-14, 09:27 PM
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Hmm... I just got a Team Pro (brass rivets) to replace a Sella An-Atomica NSX (no slot) that has sagged like crazy and become hammock-shaped. There's a critical review on the Team Pro page at Amazon where the guy says that he's "heard" that different, thicker leather is used in the traditional Team Pro than in the newer "Classic" with the small steel rivets. Anyway, I'm 100 mi. into it now. It's still hard, but the dimples are forming under my sit bones, and there are flashes of what I hope is the comfort to come. I haven't done the first Proofide (because it hasn't arrived yet), but every thirty minutes or so of riding, I need to stand up and "shake my booty." I would prefer to not be observed doing this.
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Old 08-24-14, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by RR3
I have a new B17 with titanium rails arriving Tuesday. The OP has me all scared.

Do I soak it in 10W30 or 10W40? Synthetic or conventional.

Can I just jump on it and ride 1000Km?

It is certainly possible that Brooks is using a different source of hides, maybe vegan cows. But it sounds like the OP either got the saddle overly wet and stretched OR put too much oil or fat on it.
You don't need to be scared. Thousands of people over more than a century have been riding Brooks saddles. They wouldn't have stayed in business that long if the failure rate was high.


But I will tell you this ...

You will open the box and lift the saddle out ... and perhaps be a little bit surprised by the weight. It may weigh more than a plastic saddle. You may also be a bit surprised by how hard it is. Brooks saddles appear to be like rock at first glance .... but if you push down in the spots where your sitbones should go, there should be some give.

The saddle should maintain its rock-like appearance throughout its life. Random strangers may come up and knock on your saddle, then turn to you with a horrified look on their faces and ask you how you can possibly ride something that hard. You'll just smile and tell them that's how a comfortable saddle should feel. (Yes, this has happened to me so many times I've lost count)

Apply a layer of proofide ... or not, your choice. I have applied proofide to a couple of my saddles, but there are a few which have never seen proofide. But do not apply anything else ... no oils, creams, etc. etc. They are not needed ... you are not trying to make the saddle soft. A soft Brooks is a ruined Brooks.

Also, don't touch the adjustment nut. I've read accounts where people have decided to loosen off the saddle when they first get it because they are shocked at how hard the saddle feels. So they try to make it soft by loosening the tension. This usually ends unhappily. Again, a soft Brooks is a ruined Brooks.



Regarding installing the Brooks ...

First, remember that many plastic saddles are also very flat, they don't have much height to them. The Brooks may be higher than your previous saddle, so you might need to make some height adjustments. Measure the distance from the centre of your bottom bracket to the top of your current saddle ... install the Brooks, and adjust the height to the same measurement. This might mean lowering your seatpost slightly.

From there, you'll spend your first month adjusting the saddle ... nose up, nose up a bit more, nose up ... oops, nose down a little bit ... nose off to the left slightly, nose off to the right slightly ... raise the saddle slightly, lower the saddle slightly ... move it forward or back. And yes, there are potentially some issues with the rail length. Depending on how you ride, you might find yourself sitting on the rivets and you'll need to get a setback seatpost. By the end of the month you should be feeling quite comfortable. The tell-tale sign that you've got it right is when you can hop on and go for a ride without a single thought about the saddle.

Some people like their saddles right out of the box ... they don't need to do a lot of adjusting.
And once you've ridden a Brooks for a while, it seems like the process is easier for the next one.



About riding ...

Plan for a short 10 km ride the first time out, and bring tools with you so that you can make fit adjustments. Note: the saddle will be slippery ... don't worry, this doesn't last long.

You might be one of the lucky ones who is immediately comfortable. But if not, you might want to take the next day off the bicycle to give your sitbones a bit of a break.

Then try again the following day with another 10-20 km ride. Bring your tools so you can make adjustments. Keep increasing your distance gradually.

And generally try to keep it out of the elements ... I tuck a plastic bag under the saddle in the rails while I ride, and then cover the saddle with it if the bicycle happens to be parked in the rain.



(I got some of these tips from 3 Brooks riders I knew when I was making the move to a Brooks saddle for the first time back in 2004 ... one of whom was Rowan. And some of these tips come from personal experience now that I've broken in and ridden long distances on several Brooks saddles. In fact, I'm in the process of breaking in a new Brooks right now. It's a beautiful blue B17 Men's Standard.)

Last edited by Machka; 08-24-14 at 09:55 PM.
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Old 08-25-14, 09:01 AM
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thanks for taking the time to write down this good description of living with a leather seat, it sums up very well how you need to approach having one (although I'm sure Mr 5w30 fellow was kidding around with his questions).

Lets face it, using these things is more finicky wise than a plastic seat that doesnt change and you dont have to worry about rain--for me though the benefits outweigh the negatives----for me the benefits were less sweatiness, I appreciated the slight "suspension" effect, and overall a big enough improvement in bottom comfort with spending 4, 5, 6 hours in the seat day after day compared to my other bike seats.

When I got my first one I had the attitude of "I'll see how it works, if it doesnt , it doesnt". I read as much as I could about caring for them and all that, and then was attentive to small adjustments that ended up making a big difference in its comfort. I really dont think any seat, plastic or not, is that much different in terms of small adjustments making a big difference in bum comfort, plus you can throw in all the variables that affect riding comfort like specific bike shorts, underwear/no underwear, bike setup such as bar to seat drop--all this has an impact too.
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Old 08-25-14, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka
You don't need to be scared. Thousands of people over more than a century have been riding Brooks saddles. They wouldn't have stayed in business that long if the failure rate was high.


But I will tell you this ...

You will open the box and lift the saddle out ... and perhaps be a little bit surprised by the weight. It may weigh more than a plastic saddle. You may also be a bit surprised by how hard it is. Brooks saddles appear to be like rock at first glance .... but if you push down in the spots where your sitbones should go, there should be some give.

The saddle should maintain its rock-like appearance throughout its life. Random strangers may come up and knock on your saddle, then turn to you with a horrified look on their faces and ask you how you can possibly ride something that hard. You'll just smile and tell them that's how a comfortable saddle should feel. (Yes, this has happened to me so many times I've lost count)

Apply a layer of proofide ... or not, your choice. I have applied proofide to a couple of my saddles, but there are a few which have never seen proofide. But do not apply anything else ... no oils, creams, etc. etc. They are not needed ... you are not trying to make the saddle soft. A soft Brooks is a ruined Brooks.

Also, don't touch the adjustment nut. I've read accounts where people have decided to loosen off the saddle when they first get it because they are shocked at how hard the saddle feels. So they try to make it soft by loosening the tension. This usually ends unhappily. Again, a soft Brooks is a ruined Brooks.



Regarding installing the Brooks ...

First, remember that many plastic saddles are also very flat, they don't have much height to them. The Brooks may be higher than your previous saddle, so you might need to make some height adjustments. Measure the distance from the centre of your bottom bracket to the top of your current saddle ... install the Brooks, and adjust the height to the same measurement. This might mean lowering your seatpost slightly.

From there, you'll spend your first month adjusting the saddle ... nose up, nose up a bit more, nose up ... oops, nose down a little bit ... nose off to the left slightly, nose off to the right slightly ... raise the saddle slightly, lower the saddle slightly ... move it forward or back. And yes, there are potentially some issues with the rail length. Depending on how you ride, you might find yourself sitting on the rivets and you'll need to get a setback seatpost. By the end of the month you should be feeling quite comfortable. The tell-tale sign that you've got it right is when you can hop on and go for a ride without a single thought about the saddle.

Some people like their saddles right out of the box ... they don't need to do a lot of adjusting.
And once you've ridden a Brooks for a while, it seems like the process is easier for the next one.



About riding ...

Plan for a short 10 km ride the first time out, and bring tools with you so that you can make fit adjustments. Note: the saddle will be slippery ... don't worry, this doesn't last long.

You might be one of the lucky ones who is immediately comfortable. But if not, you might want to take the next day off the bicycle to give your sitbones a bit of a break.

Then try again the following day with another 10-20 km ride. Bring your tools so you can make adjustments. Keep increasing your distance gradually.

And generally try to keep it out of the elements ... I tuck a plastic bag under the saddle in the rails while I ride, and then cover the saddle with it if the bicycle happens to be parked in the rain.



(I got some of these tips from 3 Brooks riders I knew when I was making the move to a Brooks saddle for the first time back in 2004 ... one of whom was Rowan. And some of these tips come from personal experience now that I've broken in and ridden long distances on several Brooks saddles. In fact, I'm in the process of breaking in a new Brooks right now. It's a beautiful blue B17 Men's Standard.)
I can certainly understand the up or down adjustments, but I'm wondering why you wouldn't always want to keep your saddle pointed dead center at the stem.
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Old 08-25-14, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by ppg677
I had a lousy experience with THREE Brooks saddles. It appears that my B17 might be given a second chance given I've discovered that turning the tightening screw many times seems to have improved the comfort....
And so did turning the screw many times "remove" the dip near the center of the B17??
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Old 08-25-14, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Route 66
I can certainly understand the up or down adjustments, but I'm wondering why you wouldn't always want to keep your saddle pointed dead center at the stem.
I'm just guessing, but some of us are a little asymmetrical in the way we ride. I know I am, though I've never tried changing my saddle orientation in that way. But I wonder if that might have been worth exploring with some of the saddles that didn't work for me? I would primarily get some pinching and numbness only on one side.
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Old 08-25-14, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by MRT2
I tried the nose up position but found that nose level worked best for me.
Yes, exactly where I'm finding my new B17 is the most comfortable.
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Old 08-25-14, 10:45 AM
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I have a Brooks B17 Imperial (has a slot cut in the center) on my Fuji "Touring" that I use as my daily commuter. I haven't toured on it, yet, but I find the saddle and the bike extremely comfortable. No break-in time was required for this saddle. I probably have 1,500 miles on it so far. While the bike serves as my daily commuter, I have ridden it on typical weekend rides with distances up to 65 miles, +/-, and the saddle was always comfortable. I have ridden 35 miles, +/-, with regular, non-padded, shorts without any butt pain. I think it is a great saddle.

On my road bike, I have a Swift with maybe 750 miles on it. The Brooks replaced a Specialized Toupe with Ti rails and a carbon fiber base. I can tell the Brooks is beginning to break in and it feels better than the Specialized saddle. Much heavier, but it feels nicer and I'm not getting butt burn as I used to.

So far, I've bought two Brooks saddles and I'm completely satisfied.

That said, I must add the price of the Brooks is higher than what I paid for any chair in my house! :-)
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Old 08-25-14, 10:57 AM
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For the record, breaking-in a Brooks saddle does not make it comfortable, it makes it MORE comfortable. If you can't make a B-17 pretty comfortable right away, then it probably is not the saddle for you. No anger is necessary, just switch it out for something else.

Lots of people love Brooks saddles. On the other hand, a lot of people think a Selle San Marco Rolls is a great saddle. I rode a Rolls one time and I was shocked at how painful it was. I could not get it off my bike fast enough.
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Old 08-25-14, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by djb
earlier this summer, I saw a young fellow with a "new" Brooks, new this summer he told me. I dont know how he did it, but in a few months, this guys B17 looked like it was about 50 years old, not in the leather quality, but totally sagging, totally splayed out, it was like a banana shape. I am sure he will complain about it also, but how he managed to get it to be that banana shape I have no idea.
I have 2 B17 Narrow models with at least 1,000 miles each on them and they still look much like they did when new but with a little more give. In contrast I have a plain B17 with fewer miles that is showing some sag. There seems to be a difference in the thickness of the leather between the models. Overall I'm pleased with the comfort on all of the Brooks models I own but I don't know that I would go with the straight B17 again because I like some firmness and less sag for longer rides. On the other hand I have a leather Sprint saddle that I bought used and have put at least 2K miles on and it hasn't even developed any flex. I could crack walnuts on it and it wouldn't phase it but for some reason it feels comfortable to me.

It is the most user-specific component on a bike and everyone's view of comfort is different.
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Old 08-25-14, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Route 66
I can certainly understand the up or down adjustments, but I'm wondering why you wouldn't always want to keep your saddle pointed dead center at the stem.
As winston63 says, some of us are a little asymmetrical in the way we ride. My hips are not straight. I can see that in my broken-in Brooks saddles ... the sitbone divots are different. And for me, ever-so-slightly off to the left is more comfortable than dead straight.

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Old 08-25-14, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by winston63
I'm just guessing, but some of us are a little asymmetrical in the way we ride. I know I am, though I've never tried changing my saddle orientation in that way. But I wonder if that might have been worth exploring with some of the saddles that didn't work for me? I would primarily get some pinching and numbness only on one side.

Originally Posted by Machka
As winston63 says, some of us are a little asymmetrical in the way we ride. My hips are not straight. I can see that in my broken-in Brooks saddles ... the sitbone divots are different. And for me, ever-so-slightly off to the left is more comfortable than dead straight.


Thanks Guys, I learned something today.
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Old 08-25-14, 04:22 PM
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Leather is a technology, like tying knots or sharpening knives. If you don't have any meaningful skills your mileage with saddles, rope, or knives may vary. Significantly. Try reading something to make up for your shortcoming vs. starting posts advertising them.
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Old 08-25-14, 06:02 PM
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Yeah what he said ^^^^

If you don't use and love the Brooks then you are not a real cyclist, just a simple bike rider...LOL

Someone should start a post about the real things that cyclist need to know, you know like chain lube, which bike should I buy, should I wear a helmet, how do I go faster without putting in the miles and hard work and ask about bike related medical questions from strangers on the internet and not a real DR.

I don't want to know why my butt hurts, I just want to whine to strangers on the www about it.
Yeah that's my real hobby, not actual cycling...lol
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Old 08-25-14, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Route 66
Thanks Guys, I learned something today.
I became conscious that "slightly to the left" worked for me when I started riding our tandem. And if issues with saddles are going to show up, it'll be on a tandem.

I had been riding reasonably comfortably through a few rides, and then before one ride, Rowan noticed that my saddle wasn't straight and straightened it for me ... and I struggled with various seating issues throughout that ride, and the next couple rides. Finally we adjusted the saddle to the left, and all was good again.
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Old 08-25-14, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by MassiveD
Leather is a technology, like tying knots or sharpening knives. If you don't have any meaningful skills your mileage with saddles, rope, or knives may vary. Significantly. Try reading something to make up for your shortcoming vs. starting posts advertising them.
Please, reassure me this was sarcasm.
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