…and sore groins as well
I prefer the bespoke aesthetic of olden days, I’m just not a huge fan of the saddles that looked like they came from an alien ship or bloated ones that have discolored gel inserts for comfort. Nowadays, you can’t really have comfort and the vintage look, or inversely, the vintage look and comfort. I’ve tried Selle Italia saddles but they just didn’t fit my style despite how comfortable they were. Then I tried buying some vintage “look-a-like” faux leather saddles off Ebay, but they made my balls numb after a short ride. Now I love bicycles and riding, but I’d prefer to keep everything in working order down there to avoid complications. Most saddles I have used caused a scrotum and thigh inducing numbness where I felt like my balls would just eventually fall off due to lack of circulation. I thought that maybe I had a bony ass? Or maybe my sit bones were awkwardly shaped? I felt like I didn’t need to pay $250 for the top of the line Selle Italia saddle for comfort even though I had no interest in the looks of those new fangled things.
So I discovered Brooks. After 150 years of being in the bicycle saddle making business, I was hoping Brooks seats would relieve my pain and also satisfy my taste in vintage items. Brooks England satisfied both. Their saddles ARE vintage. Nothing much about them have changed over these 15 decades, they provide brochures and photos of their old seats made in the 1800s. They look virtually the same as the seats they make now. Obviously these seats are not completely hand made nowadays, but the formula is still the same excepted automated because Brooks saddles are used everywhere in the world now, that’s how awesome they are.
When you first take it out of the box, the saddle is going to be very firm and will require a break in period in order to, more or less, mold to bottom. I’ve read testimonials where they had to break their saddle in for over 500 miles…Well for me, mine was nice and comfy after the 40th mile which was just about a weeks worth of commuting. Even when it’s broken in, it’s still quite firm but that is a good thing. Those ultra comfortable mushy gel saddles? Well they’re actually not very good for you, your sit bones or your posture. In the end, you will be in more long term pain with those gel saddles. The Brooks saddle is firm but most importantly supportive in such a way that it isn’t uncomfortable, nor too comfortable. Imagine yourself sitting in a chair, upright, versus lounging on a couch. Another example which is analogous to this are Mercedes car seats compared to Lexus car seats. Often times, Mercedes seats are very firm and people complain of discomfort compared to the more lush seats of the Lexus. Again, the cars seats of the Mercedes are designed in a way to be supportive and comfortable instead of just comfortable.
Some people recommend getting some “Proofhide” to condition the leather every few months. I haven’t done that yet, but I know if you don’t take care of leather every now an then, it will deteriorate. I wish I took care of the leather seats in my car more, now they’re just cracking and wasting away. I definitely don’t want that with this beautiful Brooks saddle.
But back to how awesome this bicycle saddle is, It’s very comfortable. It’s like sitting on a sort of…firm leather bar stool? I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just very firm and supportive with no numbness or pain anywhere in my thighs, legs or nether regions after hours of heavy riding. That’s my definition of comfort. It looks like a million bucks, it has class, style and hardware that harkens back to days where quality was expected and not a premium you paid for.
There is a tensioning bolt to laterally tighten the saddle if it ever begins to sag or get loose. I would not recommend tampering with this bolt unless your saddle has really become that soft because you risk over stretching the leather. On the B17 Imperial (which has an anatomical cut out…you know to uh…release tension on my crotch), there are also eyelets on the side for you to tie a lace around. This allows you to also tighten the saddle. Because there is a cut out on the Imperial version, there is less tension on the leather over time, compared to the Flyer and Standard B17. On the supports, there are 2 rings for you to attach a saddle bag to.
Often times I ride without hands and I just plop myself and shift all my weight directly onto the B17 and it feels great. I could ride the bike like a unicycle for an entire day easily with a Brooks B17 Imperial saddle.
The only remote downside I can think of for the B17 Imperial is the weight. It has chrome bars as support and the thick leather can be quite heavy compared to your usual run of the mill seat. The B17 Imperial easily weighed 200grams more than the existing saddle that came on my Bianchi, or over 300 grams more than sleeker Titanium seats. You can definitely feel it when you pick up the bike. Everyday of my commute, I have to carry my bike over my shoulders to traverse difficult terrain on foot for about 100 ft or so and I can definitely feel this seat add on a lot to the my already semi heavy steel bike. Also heavy rain will damage this saddle and make it sag prematurely due to its leather construction, be wary about riding in heavy rain.
I may give the Brooks C17 Cambium a try due to its much lighter and waterproof design as well, stay tuned for that.