Friday, September 25

Butchering my Brooks B67 saddle

 Here's the result of that butchering -

and here's the story behind it -

I haven't ridden my Koga much this year, owing to the Brooks saddle becoming uncomfortable again. When I first had it, once I had got the tilt and height correct for me, it was extremely comfortable, and I could ride long distances on it without needing any padded underwear. Then I had some trouble with it last year when it became very uncomfortable, and also creaked a lot, and on that occasion tensioning resolved both issues. Did it now need more tensioning? I tightened it up a small amount while it was on the bike, but it didn't really help. I was a bit mystified as the change seemed quite extreme. I had read one or two cases of people finding their Brooks saddles uncomfortable after having been comfortable, so thought that perhaps I was unusual in this, but maybe not unique.

I decided to take the saddle off, and have a good look at it to see if I could see any reason why it might have changed. Amongst other things I found that underneath it wasn't quite symmetrical, and that the tensioning bolt didn't run parallel to to the rails, but I couldn't see why this would affect it now and not have done in the past, unless perhaps the extra tensioning that it seemed to need now just wasn't happening due to this. I had tightened the nut quite a lot more  and tried it out again, but although the creaking was much improved, probably due to my having given the saddle clamp and seat post a good wipe (though they weren't very dirty) it was still uncomfortable.

Tension bolt not parallel to rails

I should explain that the discomfort was at the front of me (that's quite enough explanation...). At the back under my sit bones was fine. Another important thing to take into account was that the saddle on my Trek, which I have had for years, was also not quite as comfortable as it had been, so I was beginning to think that maybe it was me and not my saddle that had changed. So I started to look online at saddles with cut-outs, thinking that this was what I probably needed. In the end I bought this Bontrager one from my local bike shop, as it was only £20, had good reviews online and I knew I could get a refund after 30 days if I didn't like it -

Bontrager saddle

According to the width measurement, 167mm, it wasn't as wide as I needed, but with the 30 day comfort guarantee I thought I might as well try it. As it turned out, it was surprisingly comfortable, but in the process of tightening the two bolts, which I should add I had always found very fiddly compared to adjusting the saddle on my Trek, which has one bolt, I managed to break one of the washers, although I didn't realize what I'd done until I went to adjust it more - 

Broken washer and underside of seatpost

I contacted Cyclesense where I bought the bike and asked if it was possible to get new washers. The answer was no, and the only solution was to buy a whole new seat post, for £30. That seems to be the case with a lot of things these days - you can't get a tiny replacement part for something and have to buy a whole new one. My local bike shop hadn't got any similar washers either. However, Husband is very handy and cleverly managed to fix the saddle back on by using a different washer and a bit of wood. Very Heath Robinson. It worked, but although I had made sure it was in the right position before he finally fixed it in place, I could no longer make any adjustments to it at all should I want to, or swap the saddle again, without having to ask Husband's help again. Although this new saddle was pretty comfortable - and on the whole I'd recommend it - I knew the Brooks was more comfortable under my sit bones. I really sit "in" the Brooks, rather than on it, which someone somewhere on the net said was what you should be doing. Maybe, maybe not! Not all experts agree, as we have all been finding lately.....

After some more weeks of thinking (slow thinking is good sometimes...) I wondered what I would now do with the Brooks saddle. Sell it? Probably hardly worth the bother. Keep it and maybe try it again at some point in the future? Or - have a go at butchering it, which I knew some people had done? I really wanted it back on my bike, for the comfort under my sit bones, so I thought I might as well go for the latter, and after reading anything I could find on the subject (not a lot to be honest) I got out my Stanley knife..... I made a stencil of the cut-out bit on the Bontrager saddle, drew inside it on the Brooks, and then began to slowly cut through the leather.

Just in case you're wondering, Husband had written "Haven't seen cat"

I was expecting the cutting to be difficult, but it was quite easy. Once done I skived off bits to make sure it wasn't too rough. I did a bit of filing as well using the emery board (I'm not a nail filer - it came with  corn removing stuff!!) and the grater that came with a tool kit -

After this photo was taken I did enlarge the cut-out slightly at the front.

Now I had to try it out, which of course I couldn't do on the Koga, so I put it on my Trek. I did a bit of riding up and down the road, and it seemed pretty comfortable, so a few days later I rode it a few miles. Still seemed good, so after another few days I rode it about 14 miles to go shopping, adding on more miles to give it a better trial. I also altered both the height and tilt of the saddle en route. I was very pleased! The next step was - put it on the Koga..... but to do this I'd have to ask Husband to go through his Heath Robinson thing again, and I wouldn't then be able to adjust the saddle further. I decided then to bite the bullet and buy a new seat post, not the £30 one from Cyclesense but a Bontrager one I had looked at earlier in the year (£22) but which I had decided against partly because it did not have as much setback as the Koga one. This was important to me as I had had the Brooks set back as far as it would go and even that at times didn't seem enough - a common problem with Brooks saddles owing to their short rails, and the position of them on the saddle. I looked at seatposts online with more setback but there wasn't one that would fit my bike (31.6mm). However, knowing that I had possibly not had the saddle as high as I needed it, which would give me more set back - as you raise the saddle, it goes back further -  I decided to buy it and hope for the best. Here it is back on the Koga, higher than it was previously -

It actually makes adjusting it easier, as you can see what you're doing from the top -

Note the trendsetting combination of Keen sandals, socks, and rolled up jeans...

I rode it up and down near our house and am now pretty confident that all will be well. That's as much as I can say at present as I haven't been able to ride it more this week as my lovely little granddaughter kindly gave me a present of a cold last weekend, since when I have done very little, but am now on the mend and am looking forward to trying out the saddle properly.

Just for comparison, here is the Bontrager saddle on top of the Brooks -

Actually, now I come to look at them both, there doesn't seem to be much difference in the length of the rails, but if you imagine that the Bontrager saddle were set as far back as it would go according to the rail markings, then you can see that the rider would be sitting further back on the bike.. It's not just the rail length that counts, but the position of them on the saddle.

So hopefully I have now got an improved version of my Brooks saddle! I wonder why Brooks don't make a version of the B67 with a cut-out as they do of some of their other models? If this really works for me then I'll suggest it to them.

I would love to hear of anyone else's experiences and opinions of butchering their Brooks, so if you have any please let me know in the comments!

And here, for your delight and delectation, as they used to say on some old TV programme, is another little bike bag I made from a rucksack I got from Freegle. Not at all waterproof, but useful on dry days! I might try a waterproof version.