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Breaking in Brooks B17 Imperial

Old 01-03-22, 06:37 PM
  #26  
GhostRider62
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
A leather saddle does not have to look like a hammock to be comfortable. This is a Brooks Pro that I used for 30 years. It has some very shallow indentations, but it does not look like some leather saddles that I've seen.

I quit using Mink Oil on my work boots because it made the leather too soft. Snow seal is more leathr friendly.

Just out of curiosity, I'd like to see what one of your leather saddles looks like.

Where did I say hammock?

I said dimple.

I really hate when people put words in my mouth.

My saddle has a little bump where my sit bone is, no sag.

And the guy who posted a picture of the Fred who turned his bike upside down in the rain as if that is comparable to a brief dunk in warm water. Seriously? I have ridden my Berthoud for around 48 straight hours with zero butt discomfort and rode my B17 Special Ti for 5 weeks of 1000 miles per week. Both broken in the same way. A Brooks saddle is what 100-200 bucks? Much less than a high quality plastic saddle. All the tales of woe and pain breaking a B17 in. It can be done quickly and worth the risk to me. YMMV. One problem is the lousy QC on their leather and storage. Some are very thin, some are thick leather, and some are so dried out that they are brutal to break in.
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Old 01-03-22, 07:45 PM
  #27  
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
...
And the guy who posted a picture of the Fred who turned his bike upside down in the rain as if that is comparable to a brief dunk in warm water. Seriously? ....
When I was a kid in Boy Scouts and we were doing some leather tooling, you soak the leather in cold water for maybe five minutes so that the leather could absorb the water and become quite pliant. Then when you tooled it (stamping various shaped dies with a mallet) the leather would retain that shape after it was dried.

So, yeah, the article you referenced that said hot water for five minutes and maybe another five minutes if you still thought it was stiff, that was pretty much equivalent to a soak in cold water that we did to make the leather pliable for tooling. And pretty similar to soaking in rainwater for a few hours.

But I suppose the tooled leather tool holders on one of my work belts that I made decades ago and used to use before I retired is a figment of my imagination.

I have used a Brooks that was broken in, probably as described as that article you cited. In the 70s I bought a used bike, had a Brooks Pro with a 1962 date code, it was as soft as glove leather. Very comfortable for a 20 mile ride, but at century distance was not so comfortable for me. That said, some people like soft saddles and would probably love it, others would hate it more than I did. I still have that vingtage Brooks on a shelf somewhere, but it came off that bike in the 1980s when I could afford a replacement.

There are people that like soft saddles, a friend of mine used this one on a tour. And he liked it. But I thought he was nuts.



That said, if he liked it, it was his butt and not mine so I did not argue with him about his saddle.

Maybe that soak method works for you, and if so great. Glad you like it.
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Old 01-04-22, 06:05 AM
  #28  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
When I was a kid in Boy Scouts and we were doing some leather tooling, you soak the leather in cold water for maybe five minutes so that the leather could absorb the water and become quite pliant. Then when you tooled it (stamping various shaped dies with a mallet) the leather would retain that shape after it was dried.

So, yeah, the article you referenced that said hot water for five minutes and maybe another five minutes if you still thought it was stiff, that was pretty much equivalent to a soak in cold water that we did to make the leather pliable for tooling. And pretty similar to soaking in rainwater for a few hours.

But I suppose the tooled leather tool holders on one of my work belts that I made decades ago and used to use before I retired is a figment of my imagination.

I have used a Brooks that was broken in, probably as described as that article you cited. In the 70s I bought a used bike, had a Brooks Pro with a 1962 date code, it was as soft as glove leather. Very comfortable for a 20 mile ride, but at century distance was not so comfortable for me. That said, some people like soft saddles and would probably love it, others would hate it more than I did. I still have that vingtage Brooks on a shelf somewhere, but it came off that bike in the 1980s when I could afford a replacement.

There are people that like soft saddles, a friend of mine used this one on a tour. And he liked it. But I thought he was nuts.



That said, if he liked it, it was his butt and not mine so I did not argue with him about his saddle.

Maybe that soak method works for you, and if so great. Glad you like it.
So, you still did not address your ridiculous example. How is some Fred turning his bike upside down in the rain for an overnight soak remotely comparable to a soak in not HOT but warm water. You obviously did not read the blogpost since you used the word HOT or what.

Obviously, one needs to be careful because Brooks leather can be thin or thick, relatively pliant or hard as a rock. Berthoud leather on the other hand is very consistent. SO......YMMV
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Old 01-04-22, 07:09 AM
  #29  
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
A Brooks saddle is what 100-200 bucks? Much less than a high quality plastic saddle.
I'd quibble with that. Plastic saddle prices can vary widely but synthetic saddles that folks are likely to tour on are typically less expensive than a Brooks, some a lot less, some about the same if you splurge a little, and yea, some some are more, but generally those are real high end super light race saddles. My saddle of choice is the WTB Volt Pro (I think I paid about $40-80 for various Volt saddles). It is designed as a MTB saddle, but I find it comfortable enough that I like it for road and trail. My only complaint is that the models change often. I think it was the "Team" or the "Comp" at different points and each one I have is slightly different. One or more may have just been a "Volt" with no pro, team, or comp designation. I think I broke a rail on one of those. I don't think Brooks has suffered from that same kind of nonsense model confusion. FWIW the Titainium model Volt was something like $150 last time I checked. They also have a carbon one, but I don't see the point for touring.

On another note...
I'd just like to point out that what I originally said wasn't that any particular treatment woud ruin the saddle but that there was some risk of going to far and that there was no going back. Folks have had success with a lot of things and that is great. I just wanted to urge caution for folks who were new to leather saddles. It would be a shame if they ruined a new saddle by rushing break in.
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Old 01-04-22, 08:03 AM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
Where did I say hammock?

I said dimple.

I really hate when people put words in my mouth.

My saddle has a little bump where my sit bone is, no sag.

And the guy who posted a picture of the Fred who turned his bike upside down in the rain as if that is comparable to a brief dunk in warm water. Seriously? I have ridden my Berthoud for around 48 straight hours with zero butt discomfort and rode my B17 Special Ti for 5 weeks of 1000 miles per week. Both broken in the same way. A Brooks saddle is what 100-200 bucks? Much less than a high quality plastic saddle. All the tales of woe and pain breaking a B17 in. It can be done quickly and worth the risk to me. YMMV. One problem is the lousy QC on their leather and storage. Some are very thin, some are thick leather, and some are so dried out that they are brutal to break in.
dimples are where it's at, as you say the qc thing is a factor. I've got three leather Brooks that I ride and are just dimpled, and one c17 that's ok for fast riding but I prefer the B17s.
again, the issue here is that a new owner doesn't do something to a new (possibly thinner leather ) Brooks and oversoftens the whole thing.
Techniques that can work for a pro could easily go too far with a thinner leather one. Your saddles have obviously turned out fine, given your experiences.
But from your experiences, you also are a real hard ass, so there's that, but your saddles have to be in great shape to allow you to do the hard ass stuff you've done.

I'll look around to see if I have some recent photos of my Brooks, I'd be curious to see how your berthoud and Ti look.
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Old 01-04-22, 08:18 AM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
On another note...
I'd just like to point out that what I originally said wasn't that any particular treatment woud ruin the saddle but that there was some risk of going to far and that there was no going back. Folks have has success with a lot of things and that is great. I just wanted to urge caution tfor folks who were new to leather saddles. It would be a shame if they ruined a new saddle by rushing break in.
I hope this new owner reads this, and is at least cautious about trying stuff.
frankly I just found riding the thing works, and if you put proofide on it, use a very small amount.
I've also hardly ever had to touch the tensioning bolt after lots of kms and touring trips.
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Old 01-04-22, 02:58 PM
  #32  
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
...
I've also hardly ever had to touch the tensioning bolt after lots of kms and touring trips.
Good point to mention, a lot of people buy one with a wrench, so the first thing they do is use the wrench.

I have quite a few Brooks saddles, but I have only used the wrench on two of mine. One was the 1960s vintage one that was overly softened before I bought the bike it was attached to, that saddle needed a lot of tightening, retired that saddle in the 1980s. And the honey color one that eventually became dark brown (photo in post 13 above) needed about half a revolution of tightening after the leather got a bit too damp after several days of rain. I used a rain cover, but some water still got through it on that trip.
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Old 01-04-22, 11:09 PM
  #33  
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
I hope this new owner reads this, and is at least cautious about trying stuff.
frankly I just found riding the thing works, and if you put proofide on it, use a very small amount.
I've also hardly ever had to touch the tensioning bolt after lots of kms and touring trips.
I fully agree. I have a Proofide tin from my first saddle I bought in 2003. (I think they included a full sized tin back then.) It will probably last another 20 years. And I donít even know for sure where the wrench for the tensioning bolt currently is.
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Old 01-05-22, 12:19 AM
  #34  
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I got a Brooks B17 Imperial a couple of years ago, and followed djb's advice about breaking it in. I have been very happy with the results,
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Old 01-05-22, 05:32 AM
  #35  
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I think I am on my third tin of Proofide, maybe fourth, but my first one was bought in the 1970s. And since then 99.8 percent of my riding has been on leather saddles. At this time I have two Pros, one Flyer, one B-17 and five Conquests. Plus, one Pro that went into retirement in the 1980s that is in storage somewhere.
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Old 01-05-22, 08:13 AM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
I got a Brooks B17 Imperial a couple of years ago, and followed djb's advice about breaking it in. I have been very happy with the results,
+3 or 4 as I read through the thread. Particularly the Imperial. Mount it, ride it..that's about it. Hit it with a little Proofide (or SnoSeal) now and then, keep it dry. Not much mystery involved..no custom snakeoils, exotic care, or incantations needed to keep them going. I have several Imperials, along with a Flyer and a few std B17s. They've all been comfortable from day 1. Imperials are the best(for me). Never needed to adjust tension on any of them, yet.
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Old 01-05-22, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
My saddle of choice is the WTB Volt Pro (I think I paid about $40-80 for various Volt saddles).
The Covid pandemic killed my decades-long lust for Brooks saddles. The BBB (Big Bike Boom), plus pandemic-related supply chain issues made Brooks saddles nearly unobtainium for a while, well at least the ones I like such as the professional models. So I started riding the Volt, Deva, and Pure models on various bikes. So far the Volt has worked the best for my bottom, and other than initial setup and dialing it in, it requires very little care. To address the OP though, I never had to let a Brooks break in before a tour. Maybe get 100 miles on it carrying around whatever tools needed to adjust it. Most-important thing to break in is your butt, but that's just my honest opinion. Once your butt is hardened, nothing seems to bother it. My daughter does some pretty high mileage, and you should see the sorry excuse for saddles she rides. When I ask her about it, she just shrugs it off. "I got a hard ass, Dad."
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Old 01-16-22, 06:21 AM
  #38  
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From my experience Brooks do not break in. The break your ass and you get used to them. Then they start to sag. Eventually you realise they are crap.
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Old 01-16-22, 06:41 AM
  #39  
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Originally Posted by waddo View Post
From my experience Brooks do not break in. The break your ass and you get used to them. Then they start to sag. Eventually you realise they are crap.
good evening sir, that did make me chuckle with my morning coffee.
Don't be coy, tell us what you really think!
but seriously though, indeed they are just bike seats and while mine work great for me, there are so many bike seats out there that work well. Life is too short to ride on an uncomfortable bike seat.
cheers
I'll be off soon on my -20c commute, what's it like over yonder?
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Old 01-16-22, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by waddo View Post
From my experience Brooks do not break in. The break your ass and you get used to them. Then they start to sag. Eventually you realise they are crap.
Ha ha. That kind of mirrors my experience with them. I didn't mind mine much when new though. It was okay and as I got more used to it it was fine. From there it was down hill to terrible when the dimples formed. Nothing about it made it worth the extra weight, cost, or extra care for me. Others obviously find that they suit them much better.

I was young (it was 50 years ago) and abused it so perhaps now one would hold up better especially if it was one with stiffer thicker leather. The thing is why would I even bother trying? I love my synthetic saddles that cost less, weigh less, require no care, require no break in, and are comfortable on a multi month tour. Oh and if I were to break a rail on tour I can easily pick up another that is instantly ready for comfortable riding.

Some folks who have saddle issues with most saddles find satisfaction with a Brooks. I can generally get used to most saddles and the Brooks is nothing special and even maybe my least favorite of the saddles I have owned unless you count saddles on some pre 1970 and sub $100 bikes. So for some the Brooks is a god send, but I'll pass.
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