July 25, 2009
Brooks B17 Standard
The Brooks B17 saddle is an excellent upgrade for any touring bike. Providing cyclists with miles of comfort for over 100 years, it's sure to receive respectful nods of approval from fellow riders. This handmade, leather saddle is made in England, and is one of the best selling saddles in their lineup thanks to its versatility. It will be right at home both on and off road. For all of you seasoned cyclists out there, this is old news to you. This post is for people just getting into cycling, and for those of you who have known about Brooks saddles, but for whatever reason, haven't made the jump.
Years ago, my first introduction to the Brooks B17 was filled with mixed feelings. I had read the reviews, listened to the hype, checked out the competition, and decided to give it a try. As I pulled it out of the box, I was skeptical. Being accustomed to more modern saddles with gel cushioning, anatomic design, and center cutouts, it seemed bulky and stiff. Having already put down $80 for the B17 Standard model, I mounted it to my bike, treated it with Proofide, and rode away.
As I recall, the maiden voyage wasn't groundbreaking, but it wasn't bad. At 145 pounds, the break in process wasn't instantaneous, but with each ride I began to feel and see big improvements as the imprint of my sit bones began to shape the leather cover for an almost custom fit. After just a few weeks in the saddle, I was convinced that there was no turning back.
Rear view of the B17
For riders interested in the saddle, I often hear concerns about maintenance. It's true, a Brooks saddle requires a little more TLC than your average seat, but it's nothing to be worried about. Brooks recommends using Proofide to treat the upper portion of the saddle. Apply the wax based formula lightly with a soft cloth, and allow it to air dry. Once dry, give it a smooth polish with a clean, soft cloth, and start riding. This treatment will aid in the break-in process, as well as protect the leather from cracking. As far as rain is concerned, it does provide a small amount of protection, but you will still want to cover your saddle when left out in the rain. Fenders are also recommended to keep water off the underside.
After you start breaking in your saddle, you will notice that it begins to sag over time. Once this occurs, it's time to check out the tension screw on the underside of the saddle. This is best accessed with the Brooks spanner wrench, but a small adjustable wrench can also do the job. As you tighten the bolt, the leather tightens up as well without sacrificing the comfortable feel you've worked so hard to obtain. Be sure to make small adjustments, as once the bolt has reached the end of the thread, it's time to send the saddle into a dignified retirement.
While breaking in the saddle contributes greatly to your comfort, there are a few other features that help you look forward to long rides. There are some small holes punched through the center of the saddle that provide airflow, which makes hot days in the saddle very bearable. The leather surface itself is plenty wide for excellent weight distribution, and the sides are shaped nicely to prevent chaffing of the thighs.
So what could be more fun than riding a B17 saddle? How about picking one out. There are a plethora of options available with the B17 model. Aged leather, copper rivets, titanium rails, and various colors are all choices you can find yourself obsessing over. While some people might be anxious about spending $80+ on a saddle, you have to ask yourself how much you're willing to spend for years of comfort in the saddle.
Adventure Cycling riders love their Brooks saddles
Photos by Josh Tack.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack, a part Adventure Cycling's Member Services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.
As I pulled it out of the box, I was skeptical. Being accustomed to more modern saddles with gel cushioning, anatomic design, and center cutouts, it seemed bulky and stiff.
I agree with the enthusiasm displayed here for the B-17, and other Brooks saddles. I would add a few items for your consideration:
One, part of the reason the Brooks saddles are so comfortable is that they breath. The natural leather breathes better than any synthetic and really helps keep your body cool and dry.
Two, keep your Proofide in the fridge. I've left a can out in the garage and it went rancid (it has animal fat in it). I don't think the performance of the product was affected, but at $12.00 a can, you may as well keep it nice.
Three, I love the sprung saddles (Flyer, B-66) as well. I have a Flyer on my old Stupjumper -- rear suspension! -- and a B-66 on my town cruiser bike, and they work fantastic. Cheers!
I recently purchased a black B17 Brooks saddle for my Surly LHT and love it. Currently, just shy of 100mi on it(92)and it gets more comfortable with each ride. Love it.
Also, for anyone looking to get one, the saddles with the springs are the Flyer model (or Champion Flyer depending on the retailer). I find that with my more upright position on my touring bike that the Flyer is a better ride for me than the standard B17.
I've been riding Brooks saddles for the past ten years on all of my bikes--which totals tens of thousands of KM--and over that time, have only needed to adjust the tension spanner on the front of the saddle on one of seven bikes.
I think it needs to be added to this article that adjusting saddle tension is something one may need to do no more regularly than every five years or so, if that. The adjustment should be, at best, a quarter turn.
This point is pertinent because a Brooks saddle can be ruined by playing around with the tension adjustment, especially by making adjustments of a whole turn or so.
Great timing with your article! Just picked up the B17 last night and put 40 miles on it. It felt great and it's not even broken in yet. On my previous saddle, 25-30 miles was all I could manage without discomfort.
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Just last year I bought my first brooks saddle, the brooks pro. A racing saddle with the toughest leather therefore requiring the longest break in time. I've read all the daunting tales about breaking in those saddles and was curious if it's that bad. On my first ride with that saddle, my live has changed for the better. I could not believe it. It was the most supportive and comfortable saddle I've ridden. Hard stiff leather? Yes, you bet! Hard but supportive. Now over a year, it feels completely broken in.
Now I got to get the b17 or flyer for my soon to be aquired touring bike, which in comparison to the brooks pro is supple by default.