Brooks saddles are a topic of heated discussion in the cycling world. Some people love for their superior quality and comfort. While others think that they are overpriced and hate them. In this article, we will take a look at how Brooks saddles measure up in different aspects and find out if they are truly worth it.
Despite having a hefty price tag, Brooks saddles arguably offer the best value-for-money in the long run. When properly taken care of, a Brooks saddle can last for years, especially their leather saddles which can last a lifetime. Additionally, they have great aesthetics and provide an unmatched level of comfort.
The Brooks Saddle Range
The Brooks England company was founded in 1866 and they have been making bike saddles since the 1880s. They offer a wide range of saddles for all kinds of uses. All Brooks saddles can be divided into two main types – leather saddles and cambium saddles. The leather saddles, such as the legendary B17, are made of a thick layer of natural leather stretched out on a frame. The cambium range replaces the leather with a vulcanized rubber covered with canvassed cotton.
Many of Brooks’ saddles have a classic old-school design. The rails can be made of steel, carbon fiber, or titanium. Some have a copper coating. The rivets are usually either of steel or copper. Plenty of colours are available as well. Moreover, you can get saddles specific for road racing, touring, gravel riding, e-bikes, etc. There is a choice for pretty much everyone.
Many people have described Brooks saddles to be the most comfortable saddles out there. This can be confusing to someone who just bought a new leather saddle because initially, it seems to be quite hard. However, the beauty of natural leather is that it eventually conforms to the shape of your body and the position of your sit bones. This “break-in period” varies from person to person and can range anywhere from a few days to a few months. But once the saddle takes the shape of your bottom, you will be able to ride on it for hours and not feel sore the next day.
The newer cambium saddles are a little different. The rubber feels softer and more comfortable right off the bat. So, there isn’t much of a break-in period. For many cyclists, this might be more preferable. However, a leather saddle after breaking in is more comfortable than a cambium saddle. Note that they are still more comfy than most other saddle brands. To help you get a good idea, let’s consider the comfort level of a fully matured leather saddle to be 10. A cambium saddle would in comparison be an 8 or a 9.
Looks are a highly subjective topic, but most cyclists can agree that the Brooks leather saddles look amazing. The leather along with the rivets simply goes well on touring bikes, urban bikes, and old-school mountain bikes. The saddle changes shape according to the rider and is exposed to different amounts of sunlight and moisture, giving each saddle a uniqueness that adds character to the bike. The cambium saddles are more about functionality, but even they have great aesthetics. However, if style is what you’re going for, a leather saddle is the better choice.
Other than the seat material, you also have the option to choose from multiple rail material and colours. You can get steel, titanium, or carbon rails. Some models have copper plated rails and rivets. The common colours for Brooks leather saddles are black, brown, and honey. But there are a bunch of other colours as well.
Even though leather saddles are so comfortable and good-looking, their biggest downside is the amount of maintenance that they require. They must not be brought into contact with moisture, otherwise the leather will get completely ruined. You also should take care not to leave them in the sun for too long. You will have to buy and carry a waterproof cover for the saddle, especially if you expect rain. You will also need to use Proofide, a conditioner sold by Brooks. This keeps the leather from getting too dry and also softens it up to help with the break-in period. Apply the Proofide right at the beginning and once every 3-6 months.
As you continue to use the saddle, the leather will sag a little bit. This can be adjusted with the tension bolt found under the nose. All you need is a half-turn every 6-12 months. Be sure to equip your bike with fenders in the wet season as the spray could damage the underside of the saddle. On the flip side, cambium saddles are extremely low maintenance. They can withstand sun and rain without any issue whatsoever. The one problem with them is the canvas top. If you ride wearing cotton pants a lot, the canvas will eventually make holes in them. To avoid this, keep a good rotation of pants or just buy a leather saddle.
With Brooks saddles being so expensive, it is a good thing that they are quite durable as well. Given that you take proper care of a leather saddle, it can last you for 10 years at least. The natural leather is of a very high quality and endure a lot (except moisture). Cambium saddles on the other hand, are slightly less durable. But they are weather proof and require very little maintenance. The rivets and the nose in particular are weak points where the canvas might start tearing. In general, you can rely on a Brooks saddle more than other bike saddles due to their premium build quality.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Does Brooks make mountain bike saddles?
Ans.: Unfortunately for all you mountain bikers, Brooks saddles are not the best choice for trail use. They are however, excellent for commuting, touring, and casual use. Riding over bumpy terrain requires MTB saddles to have more padding. Otherwise, your rear would be sore all the time. Brooks leather saddles do not feature the level of padding required. Their cambium saddles are a better choice due to the softness of the rubber. Still, we would recommend buying a dedicated MTB saddle over a Brooks saddle for your trail adventures.
Q2. How much do Brooks saddles cost?
Ans.: We already know that Brooks products are expensive. Even their cheapest saddles cost around $100. However, the exact price depends on the model and the materials used. Steel rails are the cheapest while carbon rails are the most expensive. Brooks has a few lightweight performance saddles with carbon rails in their lineup. These, made for road racing, have the highest price and cost around $200.
Q3. Should I buy a leather or cambium Brooks saddle?
Ans.: Both leather and cambium have their advantages and disadvantages. As mentioned earlier, leather saddles have better aesthetics, last longer, and once broken in, are extremely comfortable. However, they do need a lot of maintenance. Cambium saddles feel great right from the start and can handle any weather. So, the choice depends on which aspects you give more priority to.
➥ In this article, you will get an in-depth analysis and comparison of Leather or cambium Brooks saddle.
So, what’s the final verdict? Brooks saddles are expensive, no doubt about it. But the stylish looks, superior comfort, and the long lifetime makes them worth every penny. Using a high quality $120 Brooks saddle for around a decade is a lot better than buying a low quality $30 saddle every year. Of course, this is just our opinion. Whether you agree or not is up to you.