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Brooks Saddle Break-in

Old 06-23-21, 12:58 PM
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Old Steelhead
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Brooks Saddle Break-in

I've always loved the looks of a Brooks B-17 but have been kind of leery of them. Can anyone relate their break-in stories... to either put my mind at ease or scare me away completely.
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Old 06-23-21, 01:26 PM
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Unlike the Brooks Pro, which I have found both uncomfortable and almost impossible to break in, I find that B-17s break in relatively quickly. In addition, I have found that they are pretty comfortable right out of the box, though they do improve over a few hundred miles of riding. YMMV.
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Old 06-23-21, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by davester View Post
Unlike the Brooks Pro, which I have found both uncomfortable and almost impossible to break in, I find that B-17s break in relatively quickly. In addition, I have found that they are pretty comfortable right out of the box, though they do improve over a few hundred miles of riding. YMMV.
Brooks used to offer pre-softened Team Pros, which were great. If you are patient enough to break it in, there is nothing like a Brooks Pro for the long haul.
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Old 06-23-21, 01:40 PM
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I have owned several Brooks saddles and two, both B17 models, were very comfortable right out of the box. Any other models did require some break-in (500 miles or so) to achieve that same level of comfort. But remember, it is my butt that we are talking about and mine is different than anybody else's. Meaning that was is comfortable for me might not be so for other people.
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Old 06-23-21, 01:46 PM
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I own(ed) 5 Brooks. 2 B17 regular and 1 B17 flyer (sprung) which I never saw why people made a big deal of breaking in.

1 Conquest which is a Pro leather top on a sprung frame. No issues breaking in and is my most comfortable Brooks.

I am currently breaking in a B17 Narrow. It is taking the longest to get comfortable, though after 500 miles is beginning to show my sit bone areas. I still wear padded shorts with this one. I have high hopes for this one.

Before my first one I finally realized 100+ years and still making the same design it must be worth a shot. Worst case is you try it for a season and if you still don't like it you can sell it for 75% of what you paid.

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Old 06-23-21, 01:53 PM
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I ride 5 Brooks saddles (all Pros) and no two feel the same. I also prefer them on the firm side and not too broken in. My only advice is to try one. They're not for everyone.
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Old 06-23-21, 02:34 PM
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... to either put my mind at ease or scare me away completely...

There's two types of people in the world, those that ride them and those that don't. Many enjoy them not broken in, they fit well out of the box. I'm one of those.
Each model fits differently. Try to 'borrow' some test rides before you throw away $100 and have a snit, declaring Brooks saddles good for nothing. You may have picked the wrong model to start with.
The B17 is probably a good starting point in the middle of the pack.
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Old 06-23-21, 02:37 PM
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I’ve traded my Brooks for Berthoud the wider of both don’t take much time to break in but the narrower do.
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Old 06-23-21, 03:08 PM
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Make sure that your measure your 'sit bones' and ensure they fall within the cantle plate.
Make sure that the saddle width is appropriate for the style of riding you propose (wider saddles for a more upright riding style)
These are covered here and here

In 'breaking-in' a tensioned leather saddle you are aiming for it to mold to your sit bones.
The vegetable-tanned leather is soaked in water then pressure molded in the factory to the shape you buy. You are aiming to fine-tune that shape by applying pressure from your sit bones to the leather which subtly reshapes the leather at those higher pressure points.
Where the pressure is equalized, the saddle is then molded to your riding position.
The process is aided by the normal humidity found at that contact point when riding.

The thicker the leather, the longer the process is likely to take, but the longer the saddle will last. There has been a suggestion that a damp (not wet) cloth on the saddle top for about 30 min then a short 30 min ride can speed up the process of the pressure point equalization. Then let the saddle leather dry thoroughly.


If you apply conditioners to the leather to make it soft and pliable the leather will not retain the molded shape and it will quickly stretch and become unusable. Follow Brooks advice!
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Old 06-23-21, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by John E View Post
If you are patient enough to break it in, there is nothing like a Brooks Pro for the long haul.
This is definitely not true for everybody. My understanding is that a Pro is a racing saddle designed for down-in-the-drops riding whereas a B-17 is a touring saddle designed for more upright stances. For myself, I used Pros for years and always hated them but I am super-comfortable on B-17s (especially the Imperials).
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Old 06-23-21, 03:28 PM
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Broken in (bike in front) vs not broken in (bike in back) I hope you can see the dip and indents. The reality is I baby the bike in the back but don’t the bike in the front.
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Old 06-23-21, 03:30 PM
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I had to give up on a Brooks Saddle after 400 miles. Never worked for me.
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Old 06-23-21, 03:33 PM
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After trying my best to like them and putting hundreds of miles on a couple I’ve decided to dump all of them and go with something else.
beautiful saddles but not made for me.
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Old 06-23-21, 03:36 PM
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A hard saddle is not necessarily an uncomfortable saddle, I have found.

I bought this NOS example at a swap meet a few years ago. Nice thick leather but pretty hard. I dreaded the breaking-in part, but because I liked its looks I put it on my favorite touring bike anyway.

And it is still there after a couple of vacation trips and many hundreds of miles. Whenever I get on it, it feels hard, but I find I can ride it all day for days on end and never be uncomfortable. Go figure.

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Old 06-23-21, 03:53 PM
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For me, Brooks "Professionals" are comfortable right out of the box. YMMV, of course.
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Old 06-23-21, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Old Steelhead View Post
I've always loved the looks of a Brooks B-17 but have been kind of leery of them. Can anyone relate their break-in stories...
I shied away from leather saddles for a long while. Eventually, I made up my mind to try them. If I found something for a good price, I snapped it up and put it on a bike. (I have several, so comparisons were easier.) This included old and newish Brooks Pros, B-17s, Fujita Belt, VO something or other, Ideale 80 and 90. I've had pre-softened and not.

If I didn't like a saddle, I moved it on. There's not much of a cost other than time. I don't think the value of a leather saddle changes all that much over the course of a few miles (50-500).

I happen to like Brooks Pros and B-17s. I have some Pros that seem to be rock hard, but my butt likes them anyway. I have both Rebour (pre-softened) and regular Ideale 90s. Like 'em both. 80s not as much. I moved the Fujita Belt on. My sit bones simply didn't like it. The VO was good enough for commuting, but not that great for longer rides.

I think as you've seen from the other replies, saddle fit is a very personal thing. You're just going to have to run your own personal experiment. It will take some time, but in the end, you'll come to conclusions that work for you.
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Old 06-23-21, 05:51 PM
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You don't break in a Brooks saddle; they break in you.
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Old 06-23-21, 06:42 PM
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A Brooks is like any other saddle: if it doesn't fit you right out of the box, it never will. I just returned to a B17 (a NOS one, it appears) after a few years on C17s and I'd forgotten how well the B17 fits me. Rock hard, not broken in by any stretch of the imagination, but SO comfortable!
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Old 06-23-21, 06:51 PM
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Leather used on saddles are not all the same. There are harder and softer ones. If you push the palm of your hand into the wide part of 10 different saddles, you will be able to tell some differences. My 1st leather saddle was on my 1965 Schwinn Super Sport and that got me started using leather saddles on all my primary bicycles. Sometimes I get one that just doesn't work for me but I blame the cow it came from and not the general category of leather saddles.
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Old 06-23-21, 07:24 PM
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IMO, "breaking in" a Brooks is sort of a myth. Yes, they do change over time, but if you can't set it up in a way that you are comfortable right away, it will probably never be comfortable. They are best when they are hard and new. You may need to spend a bit of time making very small adjustments, but once you get it right, they're the best.
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Old 06-23-21, 08:45 PM
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I'm currently testing a B17 Imperial. When I had it on my 92 PDG Paramount, it was very comfortable, except in the drops(note: it's not yet broken in). I moved it over to my 84 Letour Luxe and cannot find the sweet spot. I also cannot ride a Team Pro, but love the B17 Narrow and the C15
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Old 06-23-21, 09:31 PM
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I found my B17 comfortable out of the box. I am 63 and just did a 5 day cycletour on it ,hard miles,lots of climbing and no pain in the butt.
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Old 06-23-21, 10:44 PM
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I have two bikes with B-17s and two with the Brooks Pro. I find the B-17 is more comfortable when first getting on the bike, but the Pro is better on a longer ride. The larger area of the B17 involves more of the soft tissue around the sit-bones which gets sore after a few hours. The Pro is all about the sit-bones and leaves the rest alone. Also better for circulation and preventing numbness you-know-where.

The Raleigh Professional Mk 1 I re-furbed recently came with a 52 year old Brooks Pro - Dry and hard as a rock, but comfortable from the get-go. I felt right at home, the previous owner must have had sit-bones in about the same place as me. I agree with the poster above who said that soft doesn't necessarily equal comfort. Riding a plastic saddle with a bunch of foam on it will confirm that quickly. The POS saddle that came on my DaHon folder made that point right away and was set aside pronto.
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Old 06-23-21, 10:53 PM
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everyone is different, no matter what saddle you ride it has to fit your bottom.....here is my experience

B17. was comfortable immediately, after I fiddled with seat position and tilt. out of the box it was pretty slippery, ended up with a slight nose tilt up, 15 years later I have only tightened the bolt once, a little bit, use only proofide on it am starting to see dents

B17 Imperial Narrow.....simple did not fit, was not comfortable from first ride, I got rid of it fast

Swift comfortable immediately,

other saddles that I ride or have ridden and work for me: Selle Turbo and Flyte
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Old 06-23-21, 11:28 PM
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Originally Posted by clubman View Post
... to either put my mind at ease or scare me away completely...

There's two types of people in the world, those that ride them and those that don't. Many enjoy them not broken in, they fit well out of the box. I'm one of those.
Each model fits differently. Try to 'borrow' some test rides before you throw away $100 and have a snit, declaring Brooks saddles good for nothing. You may have picked the wrong model to start with.
The B17 is probably a good starting point in the middle of the pack.

I am the same here. I was scared, but the draw to finally get a more classic look to my bikes finally got me to get a few saddles. Got a Team Pro, a few B17's, a couple of Swallows and a Swift. All of them feel good out of the box, except the B17 is definitely the one where there is more give. While all leather saddles rely on a "hammock" concept, the B17 feels the most bouncy, with the Team Pro still very solid, after close to 700 miles on it. The Swallow I have only ridden twice so far for a total of 70 miles, but it might be the most comfortable one yet to me.

Note: I also do NOT point my saddles up. I have them horizontal.

Note 2: Team Pro does not have saddle bag hooks on the back, so that is also something one should consider when purchasing it (especially if for a touring bike).

See these two:


Brooks saddles we’re out enforce

Last edited by Het Volk; 06-23-21 at 11:32 PM.
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