Brooks saddles are unique in that they offer a very custom-fit riding experience. Sure, there are a ton of different saddles out there that meet a variety of different riding needs, but the Brooks saddle is the best. Why, you ask? Brooks saddles (or 'Brooks seats,' if you are not familiar with the terminology) are leather saddles. And not just a regular saddle with some leather stretched over it for aesthetic purposes, but an actual treated leather hide shaped, pulled and riveted to a frame. The only part of the saddle that your body is coming into contact with is this leather hide; the tensioned leather itself is your seat. Why is this special? Namely in that the leather of the saddle will break in and shape itself specifically to your body, making the Brooks saddle the most custom-fit saddle you can get.
Brooks saddles also offer the perfect in-between: a saddle that is not so firm that you feel uncomfortable on it (in the case of performance saddles, where you sacrifice comfort for performance, a stiffer surface is easier to push off of and causes you to lose less energy into it), nor so soft that you sink into it and fight it at every turn (comfort gel saddles feel nice and plush at first, but ultimately give you the 'soft couch effect,' where you get sucked into it and lose energy into it as you fight the saddle with every pedal stroke, sacrificing performance for comfort and ultimately getting not as much as you want of either): the Brooks saddle is just right. Furthermore, when treated right, leather saddles offer great durability and can last a very long time. Mind you, Brooks saddles are also beautiful and classic. Even if you only opt for one for aesthetic reasons, know that you're getting a great saddle along with those great looks: the Brooks saddle is the full package. Take a seat on a Brooks saddle for a period of time and you'll honestly never go back.
Brooks saddles come in a variety of models, each representing different shapes, cuts, and features. First and foremost, you will be considering the width of the Brooks saddle. Your riding position will determine which width is right for you; as with any saddle, selecting an incorrect width for your riding position will create an uncomfortable ride. The basic rule is that the more upright you are on your bike, the wider the Brooks saddle should be, and the more you lean forwards (the more aggressive your riding position is), the narrower the Brooks saddle should be. For example, if you're sitting completely or mostly upright on your bike, a Brooks B-67 saddle will treat you very well. If you're in a very forward, aggressive riding position, perhaps on a road or touring bike, whether you're racing or justin the drops of your handlebars riding very long distances, you'll want to consider a Brooks saddle such as the Swallow or the Swift. If you're riding with your back close to a forty-five degree position (as will be the case with the widest range of bikes), you'll want something right in the middle, like the Brooks B-17 standard saddle. This model is suited for many bikes, including most folding bikes and electric bikes. Brompton folding bikes even have the option of a special Brompton edition of the Brooks B-17 saddle. You can order it separately or specifically select it if you're getting a custom Brompton folding bike.
Then there are other things to consider. The narrower, performance-based road saddles will have different cuts of leather. A model like the Swift will have a deeper cut of leather, making it so that the saddle stays firmer, which is better for performance. A model like the Swallow will have a shallower cut of leather, making it so that the saddle softens up a bit more and more quickly. Then you have the 'Special' edition Brooks saddles. These hand-crafted models feature different frame materials such as chrome, copper, and titanium, as well as larger hand-hammered rivets (which are gentler on the leather, increase the longevity of the saddle, and can be hammered back down if say ten years from now one of the rivets starts to raise from the leather from intense use), maximizing comfort and durability. If you don't mind spending a little extra, they are well worth the investment.
In addition to all of these options, many Brooks saddles also come with springs built into the frame. If your ride isn't about performance and more so one of comfort, springs add some welcome suspension to your ride. The aforementioned Brooks B-67 saddle is one such example, as well as the Brooks Flyer. If you're concerned with unwanted perineal pressure, the Brooks Imperial saddle comes with the center cut-out. Saddles such as the Imperial also feature lacing, yet another method to tension the leather. Brooks even designs many models specifically for female riders (such as the Brooks B-17 Special Ladies' saddle), in which each women's version of a saddle is a bit wider where it should be for naturally wider sit bones, and with a slightly shorter nose. And of course, beyond all of these variations in models, let's not forget the color options!
The leather of the saddle needs to be broken in. The leather saddle will start off quite hard and will soften up the more you ride it. The break-in period will be determined by the width and cut of the saddle, how often you ride, and how much you weigh. Wider Brooks saddles and Brooks saddles with shallower cuts of leather tend to break in faster. And naturally, a person that weighs about 160 lbs and up will break in a leather saddle rather quickly, potentially within the first ten miles (depending on the saddle.) A smaller rider that weighs under 120 lbs, for example, might find that it takes weeks of riding before their leather saddle softens up. Whatever minor discomfort you might feel at first (if at all) is well worth the end result: a Brooks saddle that is shaped specifically to you. No other non-leather saddle on the market will fit you as well. If you don't plan on using your bike that frequently but still want the benefits of a Brooks saddle, aim for one of the pre-aged models; they will come a bit softer right out of the box.
With the proper maintenance, your Brooks saddle can last decades. Proper maintenance includes keeping the leather parts of the saddle dry, periodically treating the leather (when it's gotten very wet or just once or twice a year regardless) with Brooks proofide leather conditioner, and periodically adding a small amount of tension to the leather hide with the easy-to-use tensioning tool that comes packaged with the standard B-17 saddle (worry not if you lose it, a basic wrench will also do the job in a few quick seconds.)
Unless you're in a very aggressive riding position, you generally want to tilt the nose of a saddle up a bit. If the nose of the saddle is tilted down or if the saddle is level with the ground, your weight could slide forwards onto the narrower parts of the saddle where you don't want it. In the case of a Brooks saddle, you generally want to tilt the nose slightly higher than you normally would, that way when the leather saddle breaks in and a slight pocket forms you're in the ideal position.
Still, every rider is a little different. If you're having your Brooks saddle installed at NYCeWheels we can make sure it's adjusted properly. If you're ordering a Brooks saddle over the internet and installing it yourself, be sure to experiment with the tilt of the saddle in a few positions that way you get an idea of what's most comfortable. Your body will do a good job of telling you what's right and what isn't. Proper saddle adjustment can be an ongoing project if you really want to dial it in to perfection. And if you've selected a Brooks saddle, you're probably the type of person that wants the best they can get out of their ride.
A Brooks saddle is one of the best additions you can get for your bike, so order yours today!