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Brooks B.17 Standard Saddle Review

Web Page Updated on August 29, 2001


What I Like

What I Don't Like

What You May Not Like

More Reviews

Technical Info

The Bottom Line

Adjusting the Brooks

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$55.00 - $65.00


Brooks Saddles
Downing Street
Smethwick Birmingham
B66 2PA, UK
Phone: 0121 565 2992
Fax: 0121 565 1630
Web: Brooks Saddles
Email: Brooks Email


Brooks B17 SaddleUnlike my woodworking background, when it comes to bicycles I don't have much to offer in the way of advice or product reviews. However, I feel compelled to describe by experience with the Brooks B.17 saddle and bicycle saddles in general.

Brooks logoOne of the most common complaints regarding bicycling involves the saddle. Most cyclists, regardless of experience, riding level, or fitness level, complain about bike saddles. The bicycle accessory manufacturers have made a mint on us cyclists. Currently, everyone is on the "ergo" bandwagon, selling channeled saddles that supposedly relieve pressure to the sensitive parts. I have a large box full of saddles. Most are well-ridden, some are literally worn out. Several were so uncomfortable, that I could only use them for a ride or two. I have ridden Avocets, Vettas, and most recently the Specialized Body Geometry. Personnally, I suffer from chaffing after rides of 30 minutes or longer. I experience numbing and tingling in my legs and feet on longer rides. And my backside gets sore after long rides. After completing a century a few years ago, I remained sore and tingly for several days.

Consequently, I purchased the Specialized Body Geometry saddle. It turned out to be an absolute waste of money. Saddles similar to the Body Geometry seat look and feel like they should work well. They're cushioned, provide the "channel", have flexible bases, offer energy absorbing rails, etc. Now that the saddles have been out for awhile, check the owner reviews-- owner satisfaction ratings are pretty low. The Body Geometry saddle chaffed me worse than any saddle I have ever owned. It felt downright uncomfortable from the first minute. I came to the conclusion that vinyl-covered, plastic-base saddles make us sweat, chaff, and cause soreness because they don't conform to individual's backsides-anatomy, the vinyl does not breathe, and their cushioning breaks down and/or spreads out.

Brooks logoAfter reading a number of positive owner reviews of the Brooks B.17 saddle, I decided to try one. I have been hesitant in the past since Brooks saddles have the reputation for being rock-hard. Fortuntately, Wallingford Bicycle offers a refund policy on used Brooks saddles. If within six months you don't like the saddle, you can return it to Wallingford for a full refund.

What I Like About the Brooks B.17 Saddle

Brooks B17 It is incredibly comfortable
I have put about 120 miles on the saddle in the past week, riding on extremely hot and humid days. I have had no chaffing, no numbing, no tingling, it really is an amazing saddle. The first minute riding the saddle I had the impression I was sitting on, well, nothing. It was amazing. The saddle is hard. It flexs a bit, but the saddle is hard to the touch. Yet when you sit on it and peddle away, it feels like the saddle literally disappears. I believe there are several reasons for this sensation:

  1. Though not the intention of the saddle design, evidently the combination of its shape and the way that I have it set (height and attitude) shifts a significant amount of my weight off of my backside and on to my arms. Thus less weight is directly planted on the saddle, making for a much more comfortable ride.
  2. The saddle is wide (according to today's standards) and thus does a great job supporting my backside.
  3. The taper between the rear section and the nose is abrupt and the nose is narrow along its entire length. Thus, this transition does not interfere or rub the inner thigh. Many saddles, especially the "ergo" saddles, tend to lengthen the tapered transition between the rear of the saddle and the nose, which causes inner thigh chaffing.
  4. The saddle is firm but at the same time it absorbs road shock. I ride a stretch of road that is incredibly rough, especially my "stiff-as-nails" aluminum frame road bike running 110 psi tires. The Brooks saddle seems to absorb this shock. It may be due to the hugh rails, the suspended leather, the leather itself, or a combination of all of these attributes.

The saddle surface is very smooth and slick
I can move around on the saddle or stay planted. The covers of my other saddles are somewhat sticky or rough (relatively speaking) which results in a lot of friction (leading to chaffing) and discourages sliding forward/backward.

The saddle seems much cooler (temp-wise) than other saddles
We all know what sitting on vinyl feels like on a hot (or hot and humid day). I sweat and heat up much less with the Brooks saddle. Also, the Brooks saddle has a set of three holes punched along the nose which allows at least some air transfer to the crotch.

It's a very handsome saddle
It's not sexy handsome like a Selle saddles, but the black leather contrasted with the copper-plated rivets makes the Brooks saddle very attractive.

It has the potential of breakin-in - conforming to ones anatomy
The saddle is designed to break-in and conform to your backside. Some claim that you can speed-up the break-in period using a variety of techniques. It is my opinion that the "break-in" requirement is highly overstated and overrated. No doubt it will occur, but the saddle is perfectly comfortable prior to the break-in. The bonus is that the saddle will only get better with time. Consequently, I see no need to risk ruining the saddle using the various quick break-in methods.

Brooks B17 Brooks B17

What I Don't Like About the Brooks B.17 Saddle

Hard to find anything bad to say, so I'll give you this....The tensioning hardware at the front of the saddle nose. It's a lot of metal that I am not used to seeing on a saddle. Plus, it needs a special spanner that should be supplied with the saddle.

I am paranoid to ride in the rain as I don't want to ruin the saddle.

What You May Not Like About the Brooks B.17 Saddle

Bag tabs
The seat has tabs to attach a bag. I would prefer not to have them. They're quaint, but not real sexy on a high-tech road bike. If they bother you, I suggest you consider the Brooks Team Pro saddle or their racing saddles.

Brooks saddles, being real leather, require some maintenance. First, you must apply Proofide or some other saddle lubrication every couple of months. Second, like any good saddle, you need to protect it from rain and moisture. Third, you must maintain/adjust the saddle tension. This should be done once a year or so. This is the only task that I am concerned about because I have no idea how tight to tighten it. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Brooks saddles are heavier than comparably-priced, top-of-the-line racing saddles. This is not a big deal to me since I am a relatively big guy. But if you're trying to shave every kilogram, the B.17 may not be for you. However, Brooks does offer both sport, touring, and racing saddles with titanium rails that I believe run in the 350-480 gram range. With that said, the B.17 and other Brooks saddles weigh less than many OEM and gel saddles.

I've read and been told that you really don't want to ride leather saddles like the Brooks in the rain. Even though your backside protects the topside of the saddle, the spray off of the rear wheel will soak the underside of the saddle.

More Reviews

Don't take my word for it! If you would like to read more reviews of the Brooks Saddles, click here: Mountain Bike Reviews. Last time I checked there were 59 Brooks Saddle entries with an average rating of 4.59 out of 5! No other saddle comes close.

Brooks B.17 Standard Technical Information

Here's some technical information, gleaned from here and there:

The leather hide is suspended on a steel frame and rails. There is no base (vinyl or otherwise) as the suspended leather is stiff enough that no base is required. The frame is attached to the saddle using copper-plated hollow steel rivets. The rivets are quite attractive against the black leather. Bill Laine of Wallingford Bicycle Parts indicates that the plating will come off over time.

Unlike the Brooks Team Pro and other higher-end Brooks saddles, the B.17 Standard is machine-assembled, not hand-assembled. Brooks assemblers hand set the costlier copper rivets of the hand-assembled saddles with a hammer. Conversely, they use a machine press to set the steel rivets of the machine-assembled saddles like the B.17 Standard. The B.17 Standard is referred to as the "affordable" model.

The B.17 Standard quality control seems to vary a bit. My first B.17 Standard was assembled perfectly. However, my second B.17 saddle has a few imperfections. The leather has stretch marks around each rear rivet and the leather at the front of the saddle is not perfectly centered over the tension adjustment mechanism. I doubt either imperfection will affect the performance of the saddle, but if you're a perfectionist.....

You can adjust the tension of the suspended leather via a tension bolt at the nose of the saddle. Some recommend that you loosen the bolt one half turn during the first 100-200 miles and then retighten it. I didn't find this necessary.

The B.17 Standard has steel rails. A titanium rail version of the B.17 is available.

I have seen different weights for the B.17 standard. Bill Laine of WBP has weighed a B.17 Standard at 580g and finds that weights can vary plus or minus 10 grams. The weights vary because Brooks specifies leather that is between 4-5mm thick. Harris Cyclery claims that the B.17 Standard is 690 grams and the titanium-rail version is 435 grams.

280mm (Long) x 170mm (Wide)

You should apply a thin coating of Proofide every three months or so. Proofide is a available from Wallingford and Harris Cyclery. It is a semi-solid blend of natural fats and is easy to apply and polish out. You should tighten the saddle, one turn, each year or as needed.

The Bottom Line

I have never ridden a more comfortable saddle, period. After riding the saddle for one weekend, I ordered a second B.17 (for my ATB). And plan to purchase a third for our tandem. There are those who complain that the Brooks saddle is too hard or uncomfortable. Sure the saddle is hard, but don't test it with your hands and eyes. Test it with your backside. Also, make sure the saddle is properly adjusted. I suggest the Brooks saddle be set level or very slightly nose down. I set mine level and slightly farther back than my previous saddle. It could not be more comfortable. I will add that the saddle places more weight on my arms and hands, which I have to get used to. But the slight discomfort felt in my arms and hands is far less than the "saddle sore" discomfort I have experienced in the past. Bill Laine made it clear that this weight shift I experienced with the Brooks saddle is a result of my particular setup/posture and not the design of the Brooks saddle. On a scale of 5 chainrings, the Brooks B.17 Standard saddle gets 5+.

I recently received my Brooks B.17 Champion model in Honey brown. It replaces the Brooks Team Pro that I purchased and returned. It has the larger copper rivets and chamfered edges. The B.17 Champion is a beautiful saddle, molded exactly like as the B.17 Standard but dressier with the larger copper rivets and Honey color.

Adjusting a Brooks Saddle

I know nothing about adjusting a Brooks Saddle. The following information regarding adjusting a Brooks Saddle comes from Steve Palincsar:

"You need a special wrench - either a Brooks, or the old Campy bent wrench that was made to fit the old 2-bolt Record seatpost (one end has a box wrench for the bolt heads, the other an open end that fits the tensioner nut on the Brooks; the wrench is bent so as to fit under the skirt of the saddle and arch up over the top of the seatpost).

One thing: you need to hold the tensioner stationary with a pliers or some such while you turn the nut; otherwise it just turns and doesn't increase the tension. I'm told some have an allen fitting at the nose of the saddle to hold the adjuster shaft; others seem to have a notch where the shaft is somehow fixed to the plate in front. I have 6 of these: 3 B17s, 2 Team Pros and 1 Pro S, and none have either the allen fitting or the notch. But you don't have to tension it ever year, either. I've had 1 Pro on a Spectrum Ti road bike and have tensioned it once in the 11 years I've owned it.

To keep the bottom dry in the rain, it helps to use fenders. I'm also told it helps to put Proofide on the bottom when you're first installing the saddle. "I love the smell of Proofide in the morning..." - Steve Palincsar

Shopping for and Buying a Brooks Saddle

Most local bike shops do not sell Brooks saddles. Price probably has something to do with that. The Team Pro and higher-end Brooks saddles are handmade of top quality materials in England. Consequently, you pay for that. Brooks saddle prices start at about $60 and top out at about $150. I purchased my B.17 Standard through Wallingford Bicycle Parts for $62 plus $6.00 shipping. I purchased from Wallingford because of their (Bill Laine's) customer service, quick 3-day turnaround, and their six-month refund policy. I also received great service and information regarding Brooks saddles from Sheldon Brown of Harris Cyclery. I would eagerly purchase from either source. I also found Branford Bikes to be a great resource, especially for comparing top-of-the-line saddles. However, they do not refund saddle purchases, once you have mounted the saddle.

Erin Wallingford Bicycle Parts
P.O. Box 13274
New Orleans, LA 70185
(888)731-3537 Orders and Information
Notes: Great customer service! Wallingford offers a 6-month return policy for Brooks saddles. Super quick turnaround. I have received both of my orders within three days. Wallingford ships a good info sheet with each saddle, regarding the care of Brooks saddles. For what it's worth, Wallingford is by far the most recommended shop on the various bike rings/forums for purchasing Brooks Saddles. Wallingford is also a great stop for hard-to-get Bike parts. And no, I don't get a commission from Bill Laine, proprietor of Wallingford.

Harris Cyclery - Sheldon Brown
Notes: Great bicycle and leather (Brooks) saddle advocates. Reasonable prices. Great customer service. Sheldon Brown's web site has several great articles regarding leather saddles.
Branford Bikes
202 Main Street
Branford, CT 06405
1-800-272-6367 Orders
1-203-488-0482 Info
1-203-483-0703 FAX
Notes: The Branford Bike "Saddles" web pages are probably the best pages on the web if you want to shop for top-of-the-line saddles--Branford carries them all. Good stats, pics, and their prices are comparable to everyone else. I have not dealt with them so I do not have a customer service opinion. They have a 100% satisfaction guarantee except on saddles. Their saddle policy is as follows: "Saddles that have been mounted on a seatpost or ridden may NOT be returned."
P.O. Box 370
613 South Main Street
Huron, OH 44839
419-433-9057 Phone
419-433-0182 Fax
800-772-2453 Toll Free
E-mail: sales@permaco.com
Notes: Best prices on most Brooks models. For example, they sell the Professional model which is identical to the Team Pro with the exception of slightly smaller rivets for $66.00, a savings of $14.00 - $20.00 over other Brooks' dealers. Plus, their shipping is only $5.00.

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