Brooks B17 – About One Year In (+a bit of rambling)

   I bought my first brand new leather saddle last year after the bike swap. I originally meant to write a review immediately and then again after 500 miles. But guess what. That’s not how things went down. In the end I had it on a bike that I didn’t ride as much as I originally thought I would, mainly because the weather really held out for so much of the past winter that I was able to ride my slightly fairer weather bike most of the time right up until I had to switch to my full-on winter bike. Basically I built up a bike that didn’t actually fill a niche in my collection. So in the end I removed the Brooks from that bike after about 300 miles and left it sitting on my dresser for most of the winter. 


   Then, when I finally had to put Judi away for the winter I stole her C17 and put that on my foul weather bike since its weatherproof. Recently I took Judi down off the wall and got her prepped and ready for the spring. When I went to put a saddle on her I ended up going with the B17. The original Fuji saddle was black, so this black leather number looks a little more, I don’t know…traditional. 


   But most importantly, I ride Judi more than anything, and I know that the B17 is less likely to destroy the crotches of my various pairs of pants. The Cambium is super comfy but it also wears out pants like sandpaper. It’s worse on pants with some texture to them like jeans or cords. So that’s how I ended up finishing out the first 500 miles for the new saddle on Judi. And for now that’s probably where it will stay. But enough backstory. What do I think of this thing when it’s pressing into my nethers?

   I went through a few phases. The first few rides it felt immediately comfortable, but they were all pretty short; maybe three or four miles tops. When I finally managed to take some longer rides I noticed that it would start to feel a little uncomfortable after five miles, and the longer I’d go the more I would get this soreness in my inner thighs. Sexy, I know. But now is not the time. Luckily most of my rides during the break-in process were of the shorter, more comfy variety. 

   After I put it away for a few months and then put it on a different bike it felt comfortable and pretty much stayed that way. So I’m not sure how much it was the change in my riding position because of the different bikes and how much it was just my having ridden it 300 or so miles already.  At this point it’s got well over 500 miles on it. I did a 27 mile ride recently and did not have a sore ass afterward, so that’s something. 

   I should mention that I’m no expert in this area. I’ve ridden on a bunch of different saddles, but most have been original saddles on vintage bikes.  None were all that great.  The rest have been soft, squishy gel seats in a variety of designs; lots of cut out centers. My first bike had a Zéfal seat of that type. I rode it a lot. I didn’t do any long rides back then. Five miles still kicked my ass. Oh, and I just remembered that at some point I replaced that seat with a cheap eBay saddle from china. That one was hard plastic with yellow leather over it. It wasn’t more or less comfortable than the squishy Zéfal on those short rides. Other than that I have owned a couple of used leather saddles. One was nearing the end of its life. It was an old Brooks that was so stretched I couldn’t read the imprint on the sides. I’m pretty sure it was a Professional model.



   The other was a B17 narrow that the original owner had overtightened early on, but I managed to sort that out and save it. It never did get all that comfortable, though. It retained a sort of wooden quality. To be fair, I didn’t ride it as much as I could have. 

   

   So in the end what I did was get myself a combined birthday/xmas gift from the parents, as is my occasional right as a late December baby. I got the aforementioned Brooks Cambium, and I’ve basically been comparing the comfort of my other saddles to that. It is very comfortable. I can ride on it for hours and never give a second thought to my butt. It disappears beneath me and I love it, except for the also aforementioned pants-destroying properties. 


It matches my shoes!
   So I say all that to say this…the B17 is very comfortable, but it’s not yet reached Cambium level comfort. I feel like it will get there. In fact, I’m pretty sure that what it needs is some long rides, and I’m looking forward to testing my theory this summer. I spent last summer escaping from an impressively unpleasant job into an infinitely better one (that’s accurate so far since my enjoyment of the job hasn’t yet ceased to wax), and thus didn’t get to do much riding at all. But this new job comes with the perk of a 40 hour work week as opposed to 60, so that’s 20 extra hours that I should be able to spend riding. Subtract some of that for family time, like, 10 hours (15 if we’re being honest), and I still get to go on a couple long rides and another longish one. So maybe we’ll see how things shake out and revisit this at the end of the summer. 

It’s been months now with me riding around on the B72 from 1975, so I thought a proper update was in order. For a saddle that’s four years older than me it really is in good shape!
When I first installed it at the beginning of winter I did two coats of proofide a week apart, and the second was very light. I rode it around a lot but the flaps were always flipping out and chaffing my thighs. I went to a couple of leather repair stores in town, but the quotes to punch a few holes down either side were ludicrous ($50+). So I just drilled five holes down each side, measuring the distance of each from the nose as well as from the edge to try to keep them equal on both sides. I laced it up with a long shoe string and voila! Any time I want to make an adjustment to the seat angle I have to untie the laces, but otherwise it has worked out great and the seat immediately became much more comfortable. The tension under my butt bones feels perfect, like a supple leather hammock. My thighs no longer ache after riding around town all day. There is still a little tension left to tighten should I need to do so, but right now I’ve got it right where I want it. I rode this saddle all winter here in Maine and I kept a bag over it during ugly weather. Thus far it hasn’t stretched or suffered any ills. Plus I’ve received several compliments on the saddle in particular.