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Tech Leather Saddles

Slowburner

Cruising
Sep 27, 2019
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I happened to see a solid leather saddle on sale at Aeon Bike at half price, down to ¥4500. It seemed a little heavier than similar-sized plastic and gel saddles, but they’re all up around the ¥10,000 themselves, it’s roughly the same size as the cheap plastic one I’m using on my small-wheel shopper, and it seemed like a bargain. What’s the general consensus about leather saddles these days, please?
 

jdd

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Three bikes, three brooks. One B17, one B17 narrow, one swift w/ti rails. None have ever been soaking wet, one worry to consider.

I think the B17 narrow is the sweet spot among the three--best profile/cost for road riding. The swift is fine, but ¥¥¥ (and shoulda got the swallow at the time).

These date from when the yen was stronger, these days there may be a brexit discount.
 

microcord

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Aug 28, 2012
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They're heavier than plastic; you should avoid getting them soaking wet (not just from above; also from below); if you do get them soaking wet you should dry them carefully -- I think that's about as far as the consensus goes. @joewein goes on rides of 300 km or longer with a (Brooks) leather saddle, and I think would use nothing else. A significant percentage of his fellow riders do the same, and I'm sure they don't do so for nostalgic or similar reasons. A significant percentage of his fellow riders are well aware of leather saddles (and can afford them) but prefer plastic alternatives. Nine thousand yen isn't much for the recommended price of a leather saddle; is this one really OK? And is it perhaps discounted because it's significantly narrower or wider than what most people want?
 

Slowburner

Cruising
Sep 27, 2019
42
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These date from when the yen was stronger, these days there may be a brexit discount.
Would this be because the strength of the British Pound might fluctuate in our favour, or because Brooks’ might offer a discount to apologise for UK politicians all losing their minds? ;)
 

Slowburner

Cruising
Sep 27, 2019
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Leather saddles were common when I were a lad (1970s) and the common wisdom was that they moulded to fit the rider over time. I can see that moulding over time to fit your personal sitting bones (ischial tuberosity) would be very advantageous indeed, especially to avoid saddle sores, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen a leather saddle that looked like it had any such moulding.

More simply, I can see that leather pulled taut across the frame might offer a good balance between flex and support, and that even tanned leather would likely breathe more than plastic, which could be important. Also more simply, that the leather surface might offer good balance between grip and free movement, but that would seem highly dependent on the material of your shorts.

Can someone explain what the theory is behind leather saddles’ comfort?
 

joewein

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Oct 25, 2011
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Some people would never consider a leather saddle simply because it would add a bit more weight to their sub-8 kg carbon bike, but many of us long distance cyclists would only ever replace their Brooks with another Brooks.

I am not claiming a Brooks is perfect for everyone. Some people try them but are happier with other products.

I find I basically don't really need cycling shorts with a pad when I ride a Brooks. Regular shorts or trousers are fine even for rides of 200 km and more.

Regarding how leather saddles work, my understanding is that they work a bit like a hammock. They support the weight not so much by resisting compression, but by stretching the leather between the opposite ends of the metallic saddle frame. That leads to a different form of interaction between the seat and the sit bones and their surroundings.
 

Slowburner

Cruising
Sep 27, 2019
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Thanks for the feedback. It seemed like a bargain, so I bought one. For anyone else interested, this is the item.

Aeonbike_leather_saddle.jpg
 

Slowburner

Cruising
Sep 27, 2019
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21
Update: I’m aware from other sites that leather saddles require some breaking in for as much as the first few hundred kilometers. 24 hours and 25kms later I have to ask if the feeling that you’re riding a concrete bollard is normal, or maybe just the penalty for buying a cheap one? :confused:
 

jdd

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To check that I'd suggest stopping by some shop that has some brooks saddles, and just push on them for comparison. Also see how they compare measurement-wise.

Next, get some of their proofhide conditioner and slather that on, both top and underside. I've found it best to do that in the dead of summer--burning hot days, sun, and it soaks in pretty well. These days probably not so much. There are probably some other things here that would work. Do not use silicone waterproofing sprays--very bad for leather.

Third, be careful, but one of the wrenches pictured can be used to set the tension. Give that bolt a 1/4 turn in the loosening direction (not sure about that specific saddle). You can do this without taking it off your bike, so maybe try this first.
 

microcord

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I've seen saddle that have adapted to their riders' sit bones, and I've seen at least one web page on how this was achieved. I forget the details, but it involved making the saddle very wet, riding it carefully, and drying it carefully. The JPEG of the result made it look almost new, but for two neat indentations.

Somewhere (recent, but not here), Jan Heine warns against Proofhide, somehow managing not to mention it or its seller by name (which makes Googling difficult), but clearly identifying it.
 

joewein

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Oct 25, 2011
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The current Brooks on the NFE is my third B17 on my two bikes. On the last two saddles I did not feel that it took hundreds of km for it to become comfortable. It pretty much worked the same way from day one. However, if it isn't properly tensioned, perhaps because the leather stretched after exposure to rain, it can be uncomfortable. Then it needs to be retensioned (but only when the leather is dry).
 

Kangaeroo

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I've got a Brooks that I bought second-hand. It had basically been unused and I figured I am fat enough to shape it quickly. I have used it for a few thousand kilometers now and have mixed feelings.
When I used the saddle for longer rides up around the 100-km mark, it was great after I overcome a modicum of discomfort....which I get at about 25-30 km, which is about the distance of 90% of my rides.
I like the Brooks, but I don't get the feeling that it is the be-all, end-all for me. Having said that, I'll get a brand new saddle next time, break it in and see how it goes. (Mind you, that has tended to be my policy with wives so far, and it hasn't worked out too well, so I hope it's a more successful strategy for saddles).
 

jdd

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I haven't tried any of the cutout versions, but the B17 and B17 narrow are pretty different saddles. It's been a while, but I think brooks says that the Team Pro and B17 narrow are their firmest/hardest saddles, and so those two models would probably take longer to break in (if they were not suited to you from the beginning).

The B17 I have is fine, and plenty comfy. It's the first one I got, and is the most broken in. But it is broader, and when I'm on it (coming off one of the others), it's easy to understand how some folks would use the word 'hammock-y'.

The B17 narrow is a harder saddle, and between that and the narrower design, I wouldn't call it a hammock (at all). But it's very comfortable, and it'll easily go the distance. I think it's suited to more aggressive riding. I like how it sits, which is likely personal--its measurements, shape, my sit bones, how I ride, and so on. I actually bought a second one of these some years ago, to have 'just in case', but later sold it since the ones I have seem to be doing fine. For some reason, this one has the slickest surface--easy to move to slightly different positions, and its sides seem like they're not there between my legs (which is partially its surface, part its narrowness).

The Swift is also hard/firm, again not a hammock, but I've got no complaints. It's slightly shorter than the others, so you can't move around on it quite so much (the Swallow is longer, shoulda got that one). Hard/firm, but less so than the Team Pro. But like that one, it's a road bike design.
 
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