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How to Break in a Brooks Pro Saddle

 

Put Saddle Sores Behind You

By Bill Boston with Drew Knox

The first thing to do is go out and buy a brand new Brooks Pro saddle! And when the salesman asks if you want Proofide, tell him where to rub it. I recommend a Brooks Pro because you want a leather saddle that is not extensively pre-treated. My personal preference runs towards the looks and leather of the Team Pro with the large rivets.

Put the saddle on the bike in the proper position. The nose should be just about flat or parallel to the ground. After it is set up, put a damp washcloth on the rear part of the saddle about an hour before you go for a ride. Make sure that it is about 2 to 3 inches in front of the rear-most part of the saddle, in the area where most of your weight will rest. The cloth should be damp but not so soaking wet that it drenches your bike. Then, just before you ride, take your thumbs and knead the area where your ischial bones will hit in order to start softening the leather. Ride an hour or two, with the washcloth OFF.  (Donít laugh, I saw a guy riding down the road leaving a dripping trail, thinking, ďDamn, this thingís comfortable already!Ē) Wear black shorts for this part as the dye will come off and stain your cloths.

Repeat this procedure of dampening and riding for five or six rides until the saddle has noticeable indentations and has taken on a curve that looks like a three- or four-year-old, well-ridden saddle. All you are trying to do is mold the leather, which is something you canít do with a plastic saddle unless you have a mighty hot set of buns.

When your saddle fits your anatomy, stop! Now that your saddle fits, you donít want it to absorb any more water because it will continue to change shape. Hereís how you seal it: First, expose the pores on the top of the saddle by rubbing the leather with a triple-ought steel wool until the top turns white. If you want a custom-colored saddle, now is the time. Select any leather dye - not shoe polish - which comes in a variety of colors. The idea is to fill up the pores with the new dye, which will last longer than the original and keep the water out. Lightly scrub with the steel wool between coats, and then allow the last coat to dry before buffing with a shoe brush and a cloth. Let the saddle dry overnight, then rub in paste saddle soap and brush off the excess. Remember to not wear light colored clothes as the excess dye will wear off for a while. It will stop wearing off faster than the dye that came on the saddle.

Let me take a moment to make an urgent appeal: do not oil your saddle. Oil will allow the saddle to continue to change its shape. Eventually the horn of the saddle, which should be very hard, will soften and spread and chafe. The leather is formed by wetting and shaping it over a form. The tanning agents, which stiffen the leather, are broken down and softened by the oil. Wetting the rear of the saddle with water allows that area to be remolded while the front part of the saddle remains stiff. You canít do that with oil because you canít stop the migration of oil through the porous leather.

Now, to finish sealing your saddle coat the underside with a non-softening snow-seal. Paste it on underneath the saddle and use a hair dryer to warm and spread it. Also beeís wax or paraffin will work.

Finally, take precautions to keep rain off your saddle by using a shower cap, baggie, plastic shopping bag or cheap plastic cover when not riding. Your fanny will do fine as a rain protector while you are riding. You will find that your riding shorts will act as a very efficient buffer, polishing your seat to a smooth, high luster. You will also have an extremely comfortable saddle that will give years of service.

My thanks to Eric Hjertberg for resurrecting this and sending it to me. Over the years, Eric made many copies of this article available to his customers at Wheelsmith. The disclaimer below is his.

NOTE:  This article first appeared in DOUBLETALK, the newsletter of the Tandem Club of America. These ideas are not those of Wheelsmith, its employees or the Brooks saddle company. We cannot guarantee any results you may have following Bill Bostonís instructions. Proceed at your own risk. However, many of us have successfully used these procedures, including John Howard who referred the article to us in the mid í70ís. To some extent these procedures further convince many of us to stick to modern, low maintenance saddles!

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Last modified: July 09, 2014