“While most cyclists swear at their saddles, Brooks’ cyclists swear by them.”
— Motto on a Brooks catalog
I’m a big fan of Brooks English-made leather bicycle saddles, manufactured in pretty much the same way in the British West Midlands since the company was founded in 1866.
I have Brooks B17 saddles — the classic model — on both of my touring bikes. I used one on a transcontinental bike journey from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla., last fall. My nether regions never required such ointments as Boudreax’s Butt Paste or DZnuts. (See Jan. 31 post, “Soothing the sores,” and Feb. 5 post, “To protect the junk and the hoo ha.”)
So I was delighted, though a bit surprised, to see a photo essay on the making of Brooks saddles in the Gadget Lab blog on the techie Web site, wired.com.
One hardly thinks high-tech in discussing the manufacture of Brooks saddles, which were the brainchild of John Boultbee Brooks.
In 1865, Brooks left his hometown of Hinckley in Leicestershire with just 20 pounds in his pocket, says the Brooks England Web site.
“He headed for Birmingham, where in 1866 he established a business in horse harnesses and general leather goods in Great Charles Street under the name JB Brooks & Co. In 1878, the unfortunate death of Mr. Brooks’ horse led to a stroke of inspiration. Unable to afford another horse, he borrowed a bicycle in order to commute to work. But he found the seat so
uncomfortable that he vowed to do something about it.”
Brooks filed his first saddle patent on Oct. 28, 1882, the Brooks site says. “Waddling cyclists everywhere threw their hats in the air and the new product was a roaring success.”
Some, including my three sons, are hard to persuade that a Brooks saddle, which appears as hard as wood, can provide a comfortable ride. But the pliable leather molds to a rider’s posterior like a comfortable old boot to a foot.
The Gadget Lab blog, in a Feb. 26 post, said that one of its readers, Graham Glen, “was lucky enough to get a tour of the Brooks factory” in Smethwick in the West Midlands and “snapped some photos of the goings-on there.”
Take a look.