A supple leather
contours my loins; a passion
beguiles me. I ride.
There are various cults out there in the world. Many are religious. Some revolve around sports teams. Others yet are centered on bicycle saddles.
Let’s back up a little bit before we get on with this topic. After buying my Jamis Aurora Elite touring bike, I was disappointed to discover that it, despite surpassing my expectations in pretty much every other category, had a shit saddle. It looked pretty awesome, what with the color matching the grip tape on the handle bars, but that turned out to be the end of the benefits of this seat. Whether wearing padded bike shorts or not, I couldn’t ride 10 miles without feeling it in my ass. Truly, I don’t know what Jamis was thinking with this saddle.
Ok, so I had to buy a new one. Big deal, right? Well, I don’t know how many of you have tried looking around for a bike saddle before, but I have yet to learn any type of secret to help one discover the seat that works for them. The sizes, shapes, and styles of saddle are about as numerous as chess moves, and there’s no real way to discover which works for you short of simply trying them out. And that right there can be some expensive trial and error.
Working at Itasca Trail Sports, once again, helped out here. I was able to swap the saddle out with another, which made a huge difference. But still, despite the fact that the crotch ergonomics of this new one made rides far more comfortable, I had yet to be able to go past 20 miles without feeling it. This would simply not do if I was planning on riding 50 miles per day for weeks on end.
Knowing my problem, my boss, Don, mentioned the option of a leather saddle. He didn’t have any experience with them himself, but like all things bicycle, he had at least heard some things. The rumor was that a good leather saddle was a guarantee fit since they mold to your butt as you gradually break them in. So we perused the distributor catalogues to see what might work, and I saw this one called a Brooks B17. It looked nice, but cost a lot of money. But after doing a Google search for reviews, and reading over and over that the main pro to this saddle was comfort, and the most common con was just that it was kinda heavy, I had come to the conclusion that I likely had to drop some money on this problem if I wanted to fix it. A quality touring saddle wasn’t going to happen by swapping one shitty seat out for a slightly less shitty one.
Later that week, it showed up in the shop. As I opened this box the color and texture of artisan résumé paper, the Brooks name inlayed in a faux gold leaf, I had my first inclination that I had purchased something a bit more than just something to straddle. The second inclination came later that day when I mentioned to my brother that I had bought a new saddle, and his response was, “Attaboy! Real men have a Brooks saddle.” Ah, so the reputation is out there! And then, the next day, when I took the bike out for a ride and stopped at a local bar for a beer, a guy came in shortly after me and asked if I was the guy with the Brooks outside. Not “Are you the guy with the Jamis?”, or even “Are you the guy with the bike?”, but “Are you the guy with the Brooks?”
I had apparently just purchased the flag ship model of the most legendary bicycle saddle manufacturer in the world, and had no idea what I had done.
In the time since, I’ve done a little more research. Apparently, when it comes to bike touring, the Brooks B17 is the standard bearer. Those that own one, tend to completely own the fact that they own one too. After 150 years of company existence, there are examples of Brooks owners with all manner of ages of saddles to proudly demonstrate their longevity too. And it’s fair to say that I’ve never owned a more comfortable bike saddle, and mine isn’t even entirely broken in yet.
All in all, perhaps to say that Brooks fandom is a cult is to overstate the point. But in fairness, I didn’t realize I’d get as much attention as I have from a bicycle seat.
So what about when I’m not riding? I suppose I’m going to need a tent, at least.