Brooks Select

From tough old Swedish cows, not the sadly normal too-tender feedlot stuff.

We just received these.

In the 80′s, in Germany, I bought a leather coin purse. A lot more street commerce occurs in coin there than bills, so you needed a way to schlepp all those chunky Deutschmark coins. The purse was pale, stiff, almost pink leather, flesh-tone. I hated the color, or lack thereof. But soon enough, oil from my fingers and the constant burnishing from being in my pockets darkened and softened the leather. After a month or so it was mottled honey color. By six months it was light nut brown, with russet spots. When the purse finally wore out several years later, it was nearly ebony, velvety supple: beautiful. I was sorry to retire it.

I’ve been riding Brooks saddles for as long, and I like about them the same things I liked about that coin purse: better, more beautiful with use. Grant Petersen coined it beausage.

Everybody talks about the break-in period with Brooks saddles, frequently with reference to the narrow hard thing that came on the 1970s 10-speed that somehow never broke in (probably because it wasn’t actually ridden very much). As leather articles made for an intimate place, their metal bits on bright display, they have a whiff of masochistic pleasure-pain about them, like Victorian sex toys.

This whole theme is totally overblown. With the exception of a few especially hard and narrow models intended for racing and race-like riding, Brooks saddles are pretty comfortable out of the box. The popular model B17 takes me about 100 miles to become as comfortable as one with 5000 miles on it. The broader B67 and similar are comfy almost immediately.

This is especially true in more recent years. Brooks saddles aren’t as stiff as they used to be. In fact, there’s been quiet murmuring in some quarters about them wearing out much faster than in days of yore. The reason, I speculate, has something to do with modern agribusiness in the UK, where cows are raised as quickly as possible to slaughter weight, in part to avoid that nasty bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The skin never develops the integrity characteristic of older, slower-growing animals.

The new Brooks Select line of saddles comes from old Swedish cows raised on pasture. Tough like in ye olden days. What’s more, like my pinkish coin purse, they are un-dyed. This means that while they might look shockingly like the skin they are at first, they also should undergo the most beautiful patina development process, recording stories over their many years of service, progressing naturally through most of the colors of the standard Brooks dyed lineup: Honey, Antique Brown, perhaps almost to Black if you’re a very, very good boy or girl.

If you’re more the type to buy acid washed jeans, distressed faux-antique furniture, or to eat your pudding before your meat, why then there are the “Pre Aged” saddles. Me, I’ll take a ghastly flesh-tone Select version any day; just give me some time.

Note that the B67 has hand-hammered rivets, smooth to avoid abrading clothing. Haven’t seen this treatment on other than the B17 Special and Pro models before.

3 thoughts on “Brooks Select”

  • Stewart

    Amen to the article. I've bought three B17 Specials for 3 different style bikes, and have no idea what people are talking about for a break in period of more than a few miles. They do get better over time, but are quiet comfortable from day on.

  • Mark

    I have many Brooks saddles, mostly mounted on bicycles that I use. I have never felt that I was punished for "N" miles before they were comfortable. Saddle comfort has much more to do with overall bit on the bike than the material itself. I cannot imagine using any other saddle or at least not any other type of saddle but leather.

  • Mark

    Thats "overall 'fit.'" No bits or bites involved.

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