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 purchasing one.
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 now wanted to give Brooks a try and see if the forum posts and reviews were correct; these magical leather saddles actually mold to your backside and make you feel at one with the bicycle. I chose to ignore the posts about the 'breaking in' period and the suffering people have reported! 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.
My first Brooks saddle was Team Pro - the version with a slit through the middle to protect the vital areas! 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 (sure you can guess where for!) and the saddle (Brooks proof ride), but I was pleasantly surprised. It didn't cause me any discomfort at all and my backside was still in tact! I had survived!
What I will advise is spending 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 when new. What you want is your sit bones to be placed perfectly on the leather, towards the rear (widest part) to ensure you are well supported. Having the saddle tilting up really helps keeping this position when riding in my experience. But don't go too mad; there is a fine line to the amount of tilt.
It really is worth taking care of the saddle; do yourself and it 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, Rub it into the saddle every few rides and let it work it's magic! Also, if you find the leather too tight, use the tension tool to slacken it off a little 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 - the saddle better and better. 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. And they are well placed to! People do say the weight of these saddles isn't worth it, but whilst I accept they are heavy, the comfort, especially over long rides, more than makes up for it. I'm not racing on my touring bicycle anyway.
To sum up, Brooks saddles do work for me. And 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. And 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!
If you are in the market for a new saddle, and like a bit of bicycle touring, then do take a look at these Brooks range. You may quite like them!
Cycling Touring Community