Tag Archives: saddles

Breaking in a Brooks

I knew a guy once who broke in his new Brooks saddle by riding a 145-mile sportive, at night, on a fixed-wheel bicycle – and what’s more he was so offhand about it that when he was telling me about the ride the next day he only mentioned casually and in passing that he’d been breaking in a new perch. I am not quite so hardy as all that, but I have to say that I have never found breaking in a Brooks saddle to be all that big a deal.

To be sure, I haven’t broken in all that many but then again with these saddles you don’t really need to; if you look after them properly they’ll last you the rest of your life. The five I have broken in were on different bicycles, and all of them moulded themselves reasonably well to my derriere within about 150 miles or so, or roughly the distance my friend covered in his overnight sportive. And they’ve grown ever more comfortable and armchair-like with the continued passage of miles. Saddles of course are uniquely personal and what’s comfy for me may be a burning spike to you, so bearing in mind those caveats – and if you are contemplating trying a Brooks saddle – let me say that in my experience I never found the process of breaking in these saddles an uncomfortable one. It just sort of happens: a little stiffness after that first ride on the hard, shiny new leather, slightly less on the second outing, less still on the third and so forth and so on until after a fairly short while you completely forget that you are – or were – breaking in a new saddle.

And a saddle you can forget is even there, looks good and lasts forever, is a pearl above price if you like to go out for long breezy rides through the countryside like I do.

A judicious application of Proofhide – Brooks’ proprietary leather treatment – beforehand and at regular intervals in the first few weeks of usage helps soften the leather, while the heat and pressure of your own backside over the miles does the rest. As I say, it doesn’t really take that many miles, nor is it really that uncomfortable – at least it never has been, for me, over the distances I generally go. I have to say I’ve never attempted any century rides on a new Brooks saddle, let alone a 145-mile nocturne. I leave that to other, hardier, souls.

One thing I have noticed is that new leather saddles tend to mould themselves to your anatomy better if it is the real you doing the moulding – not the padded rear in cycling shorts. Wear regular shorts for those first few outing and you’ll get a better fit. It my be in the natural way of things that a Brooks just isn’t for you, but if it is, the saddle-for-life you get as a result is well worth the effort.

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Finding the Right Saddle

Behold my venerable old Brooks saddle on which I have ridden many thousands of happy miles and which I hope to ride many thousands more in the future – hence my breaking out the Proofhide this morning and giving the saddles on my bikes their mid-winter buff and polish. Such regular treatment and looking-after keeps the leather well fed and nourished, prolongs the life of the saddle and makes even this one, with many years and miles on it, on a couple of different bicycles to boot, still look fairly new.

I love Brooks leather saddles; I have ridden on nothing else for more than thirty years since I first discovered them way back in the early Eighties. They’ve been around for ages, having been made individually in the same small factory here in England since the days of penny-farthings. Their flagship B-17 model, which I have on all my bikes, has been in their catalogue since 1898 and is said to be the oldest bicycle component still in production and in frequent, regular use by thousands of cyclists.

It is easy to see why. They are beautifully crafted and they last forever, and in an age of soulless mass production and exotic lightweight man-made materials, they evoke in my mind an era of old-fashioned simplicity, innocence and individualism that dovetails precisely with the values I associate with bicycles and cycling.

No component on a bicycle is more personal than the saddle, and no saddle could be more personal than an old-fashioned leather one which, although hard and unyielding at first, moulds itself over time to the precise shape of your sit bones. In doing so it becomes uniquely yours, for life, as comfortable as a cozy old armchair – something you never give a second thought to when you hop aboard and go for a ride.

And to me the old reliable well-broken-in Brooks B-17 is just that, supremely comfortable. It wouldn’t be for everybody, of course. No make or model of saddle is. We’re all built differently, with different sizes and shapes of pelvic bones and different styles of sitting astride a bicycle. A saddle that I find wonderfully comfortable might be an instrument of torture for you. Which is why asking anyone to advise you on which saddle to buy is pretty much a waste of breath, not that the question isn’t posed all the time on internet forums, and answered with an almost evangelical zeal by well-intentioned riders keen to share the saddle discovery that works really, really well for them. And who can blame them? Finding the right saddle is a cyclists’ Holy Grail and having found theirs they are naturally eager to spread the word. Kindly meant though all their advice may be, in the end, it’s down to a matter of trial and error. There are no shortcuts. Nobody can help. This is one you have to sort out for yourself.

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