Brooks Saddles & Tandem Randonneuring

MG and I have had very good experience with leather Brooks saddles on our single bikes. I have just one bike left without a Brooks, and that one is an older Selle Italia Flite XP. It was one of my last stops, along with the Avocet Men’s O2, on the brevet saddle trail before going all Brooks, all the time. Both are about as wide as a Brooks B17, at least in usable area. I left the Flite XP on the Cannondale tandem that I ride around town with my daughter Super D.

(By the way, this last weekend Super D started riding her single bike all by herself. It was fun to watch the light bulb turn on. We all “got it” that first time and I still remember the feeling — so very nice. I’ll post about her bike soon — a refurbished 90s-era kids Specialized Rockhopper with 24″ wheels and single-speed drivetrain.)

Back to the saddle story. MG and I have worn out antique brown sprung Champion Flyer saddles this spring. We have about 1,500 miles on them and hers is badly sagged, mine is not so bad but is no longer comfortable. We used only Brooks Proofide on them and kept them covered in the rain, save for about 20 miles this last Saturday when we used the Brooks saddle covers that are not waterproof. We put grocery store bags under the Brooks covers when we got to a rest stop.

Here are some photos.

MG\'s Champion Flyer S, saggedMG’s Champion Flyer S, sagged

Ed\'s Men\'s Champion FlyerEd’s Men’s Champion Flyer, also sagged

The Flyer’s springs are stiff but work well for us. We use them on our Bike Fridays, which have some kick to them due to the small wheels. MG found hers so good that she had me remove the Thudbuster suspension post and unsprung B17 from the tandem and install the Flyer alone.

We know at least one other tandem team that uses Brooks saddles and has had mixed results, so they are not for everyone. Our dealer is going to send ours back to Brooks for inspection. Leather is a natural product and we’re not complaining too much here. Maybe the cows did not produce tandem-suitable hides. We’ll let you know how it works out.

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5 thoughts on “Brooks Saddles & Tandem Randonneuring

  1. Ed,

    Those saddles don’t looks so bad. To a tubby guy like me they look “broken in”. Are you looking to sell them?

    The missus and I are also an all-Brooks tandem team. I’ll send you pictures of the new coupled 650b Bilenky after our permanent, when we’ll officially be tandem randonneurs.

  2. I’ve used mine for 5 years and get it wet all the time (sweat, rain) I just give a couple turns on the tension bolt every couple months.

  3. Very interested in Russell’s comment: that sounds like an awful lot of turns! I got a B17 a year ago, and now have 4600 kms on it, and is is definitely softened a lot. I’ve taken about a turn and a quarter on the tension screw, mindful of the “not very much, not very often” advice I’ve seen practically everywhere.

    So – two questions to you guys: Ed, have you tensioned at all? And Russel, have you really tensioned that much? Interested in your thoughts …

  4. We haven’t tensioned ours, because they haven’t sagged in the middle. They’ve given way under the sit bones. Tensioning them would just increase the a**-hatchet factor.

  5. Ed,

    I’ve used used Brooks saddles (primarily the Professional model) since the mid-1990’s, and there was a distinct difference in leather durability between late 1990’s saddles and post 2003 production. I still have a Brooks Pro from the late 1990’s that has broken in, but have not sagged in the way you’re describing. My Ti-railed B17 has also fared well (I got it in 2001), though it required stitching the skirts. The B17 required some tensioning to keep the nosepiece from rattling. The Pro has required only enough attention to keep the leather happy.

    All five of the Brooks saddles (two Team Professionals, one B17 narrow, one Swift, one Conquest) I’ve gotten since 2004 have broken down pretty quickly immediately in front of the cantle. Once this breakdown occurred, pressure sores were sure to follow. I sold the broken-down saddles to eager hordes at the local swap meet.

    I have switched to plastic saddles for day to day use, reserving my favorite Brooks Pro for special occasions. I’ve not yet decided whether a 400K is a “special occasion”….

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