Brooks Saddles for Bicycle Touring | Your backside will love you forever!
I have always known about the iconic cycling brand Brooks being famous for their leather saddles; very popular with touring cyclists across the world. It wasn't until I got the cycle touring bug that I actually thought about delving in and seeing what all the fuss is about.
Up until my love of bicycle touring started, I had only been interested in road and mountain bike lightweight saddles - the kind of ones that can bring tears to your eyes! Maybe not quite that bad, but you get my point. I wanted to give Brooks a try and see if the forum posts and reviews were correct; as in, do these magical leather saddles actually mold to your backside and make you feel at one with the bicycle. And with cycle touring and Brooks going hand in hand, buying myself one, I thought of myself as part of the club.
Although I was mildly concerned about the 'breaking in' period a lot of people mentioned, I was prepared to give them a go. That is how it is with bicycle saddles; you do need to give them a try to decide if they are for you. None of us are the same - it isn't one size/brand fits all. You must experiment and listen to your body, and be prepared to go back to the drawboard if it doesn't work out.
My first Brooks saddle was the Team Pro - the version with a slit through the middle to protect your vital area! I have now moved onto the B17 model. As with any Brooks saddle, opening the box and seeing this perfectly presented saddle in well thought out packaging draws you in to the history of this company. So little has changed with the design over the years and you get a real sense of the quality through years of experience. I know I'm a grown man and it is only a saddle, but seeing this saddle perfectly presented just makes you want to get out riding and show it off like a 5 year child with their new bike at Christmas!
The saddle itself is well made and the quality of the materials is excellent. First impression is you get what you pay for and it looks like it will stand the test of time, On it went to my newly converted mountain bike touring bike and off I went for my first ride. I was slightly concerned about this breaking in period and how it would feel on my back side. I prepared myself for the worse and purchased some appropriate creams for both myself (I'll let your mind boggle) and the saddle (Brooks proof ride).
As with any saddle, spend spend time to set it up just right. Don't skimp on time here. Take your time and make all the adjustments you need until you get it perfect. The one thing I found is that you do need to tilt the front of the nose up slightly to ensure you don't slide off the saddle; the leather is very slippery and you need to keep your sit bones nicely at the rear. Having the saddle tilting up really helps keeping this position when riding in my experience.
You need to take care of this saddle - it is made from leather and needs TLC to keep it in top condition. Do yourself a favor by picking up some Brooks Proof Ride. This wax type substance softens and protects the leather and really helps during those first few hundred miles during the break in period. Rub it into the saddle every few rides and let it work it's magic! Also, if you find the leather too tight or slack, use the tension tool to adjust a little turn during the breaking in period. All these tips will soon have you molded perfectly and experiencing mile after mile of comfort.
It is worth keeping up the Proof Ride routine during the first few hundred miles - although my saddle started comfortable, it will get better and better by taking care, and as it naturally breaks in. Today I barely notice it is even there! I can ride 100+ miles a day over a week or more and not really feel any discomfort. There are cycle tourists out there who ride for miles and miles everyday across the world and they rave about them.
Let stalk about the weight. People do say the weight of these saddles isn't worth it, and whilst I accept they are heavy, I feel the comfort, especially over long rides, more than makes up for it. I'm not racing on my touring bicycle anyway - comfort (in my opinion is paramount).
To sum up, Brooks saddles do work for me and thousands of others. Although I love their history and brand, it isn't all because of that, it is because they are well made from quality materials, and over time you become as one on the bike. Mile after mile they are a joy to ride. They stand the test of time. As with anything in life, there are people out there who haven't had the same positive experience. That is life and might just be the way it is for them, and they need to move onto to another brand as part of the process. But before doing so, I would recommend one final try at the setup. That advice goes for any saddle - sometimes the smallest of changes can be the difference between comfort and torture device!