bye bye brooks

If there’s one brand synonymous with Audax and long distance endurance cycling then it’s Brooks England. They manufacture traditional bags and saddles with the majority of their original designs made from leather.

b17
challenge saddle bag

They’ve also moved into more modern materials.

scape saddle roll bag
c17 cambium

Ever since I’ve come across Audax and started researching bikes and gear I’ve wanted to get a Brooks saddle. The traditional leather versions don’t react well to prolonged exposure to rain so not suitable for Irish weather. The Cambium range is made from rubber to give the same comfort benefits of the traditional models but more weatherproof.

There are a number of models in the Cambium range. They are pretty much the same design in various different widths for different riding styles. There are also “carved” versions with a central cut out to reduce pressure for anyone prone to numbness. The most popular options seem to be the C15 and slightly wider C17.

I’d pretty much decided that the C15 would be the best option for me but there was a discussion on the Audax Ireland WhatsApp group and one of the guys had an almost unused C17 for sale for €50. As this is a massive saving I jumped at the chance to try out a Brooks without gambling too much money.

My first ride was a simple 40km and it was quickly apparent that this saddle required a very different position compared to the original one that came with the bike.

My main issues were that I was sitting much too far forward on the saddle, putting way too much weight on my hands and over stretching at the bottom of the pedal stroke. This was creating discomfort in my lower back as well as numbness in my hands. Advice from the group and tinkering over the next few rides improved all of this but on my last 75km ride I decided that unfortunately Brooks is not for me. I’m unable to get rid of the hand issues but I’m sure I could if I got my bike fit tweaked professionally but my major issue is that I can’t seem to prevent sliding forward. The saddle has a scoop shape that seems to disagree with my posture on the bike. The only way to prevent this is to tilt it up at the front which then creates numbness in a more sensitive area and something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to contend with.

Shortly after buying the saddle one of the other guys posted the GCN video below that discusses flat v curved saddles for different postures. This confirmed my feeling that the curved saddle won’t suit me.

If the current spell of wet and windy weather ever passes I’ll be switching back to the original saddle that came with the bike (Selle Royal Seta RS). Thankfully I took lots of photos and measurements before removing it. There was a lot of interest when the C17 came up for sale so I should have no problems selling it on for what I paid for it.

selle royal seta rs

7 thoughts on “bye bye brooks

  1. threewheelsonmywaggon

    I remember Brooks wee factory in Yorkshire, even visited there once, now I may be wrong but I think they went belly-up and were bought by a company in Italy. That is not to say that the product has suffered in any way by this, they have been making bikes and their equipment for a long time there and they have always had a name for design classics.

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  2. capejohn

    I always read about having to break in a new Brooks saddle. I installed my new B16 and from the first ride, it was like sitting on air. I loved it. When I sold my touring bike a few months ago, I left the B-16 on it for the new owner to enjoy.

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    1. idlecyclist Post author

      From what I’ve read that’s the leather versions only. Part of the selling point of the rubber Cambium range is that they don’t need breaking in. I have a feeling that the leather would be more comfortable long term but that’s a non-starter for our “damp” climate

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  3. Pingback: metric challenge: november | the idle cyclist

  4. threewheelsonmywaggon

    When I first started touring a Brook saddle was the only one to have and the old-timers in the club all had their own version of how to break it in, however, there was only one way to break it in use it every day. When you bought a second-hand bike it never had a saddle – the owner kept that since he had spent a long time making it fit his bum.

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