Brooks B17 fanatics: your thoughts please!

For discussions about bikes and equipment.

Brooks B17 fanatics: your thoughts please!

Postby freedomfighter » 20 Aug 2008, 3:24pm

I've had a B17 for about a hundred miles; I bought it new. Now, although the actual contact points are very comfy, the outside edges of the saddle surface are not. During a ride these areas dig into, well, my hamstring/buttock interface, if you get what I mean.

I have attached a picture (of a sample saddle, not my behind) for clarity: contact areas in blue, obviously; painful bits in pink.

What I'd like to know from you, please, is if the pink areas in the picture are going to break in significantly over the next few hundred miles, or whether I should just accept that the B17 doesn't suit me.


Posts: 58
Joined: 8 Jul 2007, 8:05am

Postby cambsos » 20 Aug 2008, 3:33pm

Not sure about breaking in, but if it doesn't try one of the Fizik saddles.
Those exact areas have the wing flex bit which has some give in it and would no doubt suit you just about right

Posts: 92
Joined: 31 Oct 2007, 4:53pm
Location: Walsall


Postby mikeitup » 20 Aug 2008, 3:42pm

I had a similar problem when I first fitted mine.
Used it for my 7mile commute to work and was aching when I got to my destination. After a coupla days I decided to alter the saddle positioning.
It took me a while to get mine in a suitable position (I have a Flyer).
I just played around with saddle height, whether it needed to come forward or back, tilted up/down and have managed to find the right spot. I have been applying Brooks Proofide also. Done 150mile on it and it has been fine. I recommend padded cycling shorts. The Lusso ProGel one's are excellent.
Sorry mikeitup. The sig just had to go. The forum staff are revolting ! Graham

Posts: 4519
Joined: 23 Jan 2007, 10:50am
Location: N. Derbys.

Postby PW » 20 Aug 2008, 4:04pm

It will break in, and faster if you give it plenty of proofide or ride it in the rain then proofide it. Possibly if you buy another in the future you might be better off with the Champion Narrow rather than the Standard but you should be able to tame this one.
As an aside, I reckon the leather on the new ones is harder than it used to be, anyone agree?
If at first you don't succeed - cheat!!

User avatar
Basil W Bloke
Posts: 191
Joined: 4 Apr 2007, 9:37pm

Postby Basil W Bloke » 20 Aug 2008, 5:53pm

I recently replaced my 10 year old B17 recently, with a new B17 :D
The mistake I made was to simply remove the old saddle from the clamp and replace it with the new. Thinking "Job Done"
After a week I was in real pain, in exactly the area you describe. As I knew that I have a Brooks Bum I was somewhat confused.

Then I checked my saddle height properly. It was way too high! The difference in ride height between an old B17 and a new is quite something!

By the way, 100 miles is not really enough to break in a B17.
We are normal and we want our freedom
We are normal and we dig Bert Weedon

Posts: 27998
Joined: 9 Jan 2007, 2:44pm

Postby thirdcrank » 20 Aug 2008, 6:43pm

PW wrote:As an aside, I reckon the leather on the new ones is harder than it used to be, anyone agree?

Some Brooks saddles seem to be rock hard. Perhaps 10 years ago, when Brooks were in and out of existence, I bought two for stock when they were on special offer at SJSC. The are both like bullets even though they are embossed 'pre-softened.' I hate to imagine what they were like in their natural state. On the other hand, I have a sprung 'Conquest' on my shopping bike, bought cheap from the CTC shop at the York Rally in the days when it was still called that. As supple as shoe leather - beautifully comfortable from day 1.

When they brought out the Professional in the early 60's, they were available 'pre-treated' which were softer and certainly required no breaking in. I went on a long tour of Scotland with one bought the day before I set off.

Incidentally, the present Brooks Pro is not the same shape as the original and has different rails - looks to me like a B17 without the holes.

Posts: 548
Joined: 22 Feb 2008, 11:32am
Location: Aberdeenshire

Postby aesmith » 20 Aug 2008, 6:59pm

Both mine are the B17 Narrow. Maybe you just don't suit a wide saddle.

Posts: 21
Joined: 5 Jun 2007, 11:45pm

Postby fatbob » 20 Aug 2008, 8:45pm

One of my legs is shorter than the other and I had a similar problem on the 'short leg side' of the standard saddle once the leather had started to soften up and sink down a bit. I switched to a b17 narrow and haven't had the problem recur. As for 100 miles being too short a distance for breaking in, I adopted the Sheldon Brown method (neatsfoot oil) with the narrow and had broken it in after a few hundred miles - a bonus as the B17 standard took forever to soften up, even with the application of Proofide. The only reason I returned to a Brooks is because of the long distance comfort - I don't think a bike used for shorter rides is worth the hassle.


Postby freedomfighter » 21 Aug 2008, 8:39am

Thanks for the thoughts.

The set-up is right; I've already played about with height/fore-aft etc etc, and arrived at its current position. I realise, of course, that 100 miles is not enough to completely break it in; though the actual contact points seem to have softened-up considerably while the edges haven't at all. I'm skeptical that these are going to give, because a) there isn't any signifiant pressure being applied in the same way as at the seat-bone points and b) the leather at the edges is much stiffer as it is reinforced by the side flaps of the saddle. If anything, I reckon this problem is going to get worse with time, as I sink down into the contact points...

Hmmmm... do I need to mess with the tension? How do I gauge if the tension is right for me? (I believe, since they are hand tensioned, that they come out of the factory differently)

Has anyone got a pic of what a broken-in B17 looks like?

Posts: 27998
Joined: 9 Jan 2007, 2:44pm

Postby thirdcrank » 21 Aug 2008, 11:49am

In 50 years cycling, I've never needed to tension a Brooks saddle. I fancy you might normally only have to do it if it got really wet and stretched.

Posts: 1716
Joined: 8 Dec 2007, 10:26am

Postby andymiller » 21 Aug 2008, 1:12pm

This will probably provoke outrage from the Brooks faithful, but as an experiment I had a B17 'upgraded' by Selle Anatomica. The upgrade (their word not mine) consists of cutting a big slot in the saddle.

[mod: have changed the above img to a link as the size of it was causing people problems]

The idea of the slot is basically so the saddle moves with you rather than banging against you. I have one of their own manufactured saddles and it has stretched quite a lot and is very comfortable.

I've had the mod done on a B17 but unfortunately I haven't been able to get many miles in on it yet, so can't say how comfortable it is long term.

Posts: 5973
Joined: 6 Jan 2007, 9:12pm
Location: Yorkshire

Postby JohnW » 21 Aug 2008, 11:00pm

Freedomfighter -

I've not had real problems with a B17, not ever, but from your description, I know what you mean. I found out, years ago ago, that the brooks pro was the shape that suited me best.

I know what is comfortable and suitable for me, but when it comes to other peoples' bums, I'm a complete amateur. However, are you sure that the discomfort is actually in the position that you sketch? The place where a B17 has been less suitable for me has been at the bottom of the side-cheeks, not at the top where you show it. The cause of the problem is that my thighs are not exactly skinny!!!

And, are you sure you're sure that the position is exactly right?

I hope that you solve the problem - discomfort soon takes the pleasure out of cycling.

What kind of saddle did you have before?

Have you written to Brooks about it? Their address is :

Brooks England Ltd,
Downing Street,
West Midlands,
B66 2PA.

and their e-mail address is :

The above details were taken from "Brooks Book for Cyclists" 2006.

Let us know how you get on, won't you?

Posts: 27998
Joined: 9 Jan 2007, 2:44pm

Postby thirdcrank » 21 Aug 2008, 11:22pm


In a way, your pic shows that there is nothing new.

Around fifty years ago (and before that for all I know) when leather saddles were the only decent ones, it was the fad among racing cyclists, especially the rather decadent* 'massed start' riders from the League (British League of Racing Cyclists) to 'butcher' saddles to save a bit of weight. Filing off the bagloops was one example and any leather seen as surplus, especially around the nose, was trimmed off. The rails were sometimes bent a bit at the the back so the cantle plate was angled forwards so the top of the saddle curved downwards to increase comfort. So the Brooks Professional was born in the early 1960's as ready butchered. Yours seems to carry on that tradition.

* Decadent in the sense that anything to do with 'The Continent' was considered suspect.

Posts: 10649
Joined: 24 Jul 2007, 2:37pm

Postby pete75 » 21 Aug 2008, 11:42pm

I found this site a while ago. ... exhibition

Most of the pre 1970's riders seemed to use the B17.

And look a the drive tarins on the Coppi and Merckx bikes - they both pedalled massive gears.....

Posts: 27998
Joined: 9 Jan 2007, 2:44pm

Postby thirdcrank » 22 Aug 2008, 7:17am

pete75 wrote:And look a the drive tarins on the Coppi and Merckx bikes - they both pedalled massive gears.....

I think they probably look bigger than they were because in those days (especially Coppi's) 13 or 14T were the smallest sprockets.