Classic profile still looks good
Leather upper moulds to rider’s shape
Brooks Team Professional £65.00
Morgan cars, Worthies original toffees, coal tar soap; all very traditional and iconic brands that to do this very day still compete with more modern and as such supposedly superior alternatives. Brooks leather saddles from Smethwick in Birmingham also fit perfectly into this category.
Saddles are one of the many items of bicycle equipment that can divide opinion. Where one rider swears by a particular saddle, another can quite justifiably swear because of it; let’s face it, the interface between the rider’s ‘seat’ and the bicycle is something that we simply need to get right! So, do Brooks saddles deserve to be considered as little more than just a piece of well made, feel-good retro nostalgia, or do they deserve to be considered on merit?
Well, many riders, myself included, do indeed fall into the category of swearing by them. The fundamental reason is comfort. Some also comment that they find leather is cooler and less ‘sweaty’ to ride than plastic-based saddles, although personally I can never tell the difference in that respect. Once broken-in the leather moulds and its tension slackens, leaving it with the sag of a hammock and meaning that if the saddle is not retentioned by tightening the nose bolt you can effectively sit in the saddle, as opposed to on it as you do on a plastic-based saddle.
You will often see that a leather saddle is set up slightly differently; for a male rider the saddle will often be almost horizontal but slightly higher at the front or nose of the saddle, whereas many riders set their plastic-based saddle up near-horizontal but slightly lower at the front. Note the latter generally applies to all ladies’ saddles, which are also often shorter overall as well as slightly wider at the rear.
For sure, leather saddles do take a while to break in, but this does not actually take that long; a few hundred miles should be sufficient. They do need maintenance in the form of ‘Proofide’ which is Brooks’ own leather dressing. As for how often, it depends on the elements and protection. A mudguard-weraing bike used mainly for fair weather cycling will require fewer ‘Proofide’ applications than, say, a bike with no ‘guards and used all year round in all weather; essentially, if it looks like it needs some ‘Proofide’, then it probably does.
If well maintained, these saddles can and very often do last for decades. It was once a common to talk of “changing your bike but never changing your saddle”. That was an expression that applies perfectly to Brooks saddles now, just as it did then. There is an extensive range to suit intended use, riders’ sizes and budget, with prices from £25.00 up to £165.00. The steel-railed Team Pro shown here has an RRP of £65.00 and is my personal saddle of choice; this particular model being one their most popular saddles over the years.
Be under no illusion; Brooks saddles will not suit every rider, although no saddle ever will. But, deserve a place in today’s market on merit they definitely do. Having ridden a Brooks saddle for thirty years and for literally tens of thousands of miles, my backside agrees; after all a comfy bottom is a happy bottom. [Thanks for that, Ed.]