Tuesday, August 06, 2013

My bike wears English leather

When you find a saddle you like, buy several of them. For me, the Avocet Racing II was a great fit. When those disappeared I switched to Sella Italia Turbo saddles. Even when Sella Italia quit making the original model I was able to scavenge lightly-used ones and even found a new-old-stock saddle still in a box. Then Sella Italia reintroduced the "Turbo 1980." I bought one.

After only two years, the Turbo 1980 looks like this:
Looking at that I realized that all the older ones had gone the same way. The leather covering is paper-thin. So screw it. I'm investing in real leather. I'd had a leather saddle before. My old Peugeot came with an Ideale leather saddle, but I bought the bike used and the saddle had suffered some abuse before I got it. That's when I started using Avocet saddles on the advice of a friend.

This return to real leather is the end of a research program lasting years. I've almost bought a Brooks several times. Two things kept me from going ahead with it: the weight and the care of the leather itself. At this point I can't claim to care a whole lot about bike weight, with rack, fenders, generator hub and lights. So I'll undertake the care of the leather.

After exhaustive study of the Brooks catalog I narrowed it down to the Team Pro, the Swift and maybe the B17 Narrow. I kept glancing past the Colt. But then I checked the dimensions more carefully on the Brooks site and decided it sounded like a good transition from the saddles I had used before. It's a few millimeters wider than the Turbo/Avocet, but not wide enough to cause problems. A saddle that's too wide for your bone structure will just push you forward onto the narrow part of itself. So choose wisely.

The saddle just went on the bike today, so I have not ridden more than a few yards on it. We'll see how the notorious break-in goes. Some people have a very easy time. Others willingly suffer to achieve the personalized fit for which fine leather saddles are known. Then there are the riders who run as fast and as far as they can to get away from the old leather torture device.

The way the rails are shaped the saddle can't be set very far back, but measuring with a plumb line I was able to get the nose of the saddle the same distance behind the bottom bracket as the nose of the Turbo had been. The saddle itself is taller, so I had to adjust the post height slightly. After just a couple of minutes riding I could feel that the leather had begun to reshape. Rapping on that wood-hard saddle in the box I would not have believed it.

So there it is.

1 comment:

greatpumpkin said...

My experience with Brooks saddles is that no real break-in is required and the leather requires very little maintenance. A tiny bit of Proofide on top and underside once a year is about enough. You don't want it to become soft and flabby. If I haven't ridden in a while, I will have some soreness (bruising) after the first ride, but it's gone by the third ride. I found, when i switched from a Selle Italia back to Brooks, that I also felt in more control of the bike, more secure in my seat.