Everybody raves about the quality, craftsmanship and comfort of the products handcrafted by Brooks England Ltd. Whatever Brooks product you buy, you can rest assured that it will be of superior quality. But given the wide range of bicycle saddles they produce, how do you judge which one is the best fit for your riding style?
One of the ways that Brooks makes this easier for the consumer is by breaking down the 55 different saddles they produce into three different categories: Road & MTB, Touring & Trekking, and City & Heavy Duty.
There are thirteen racing saddles in the Road and MTB category–from the 360g B15 Swallow Titanium, to the 550g Team Pro Copper–all of which are relatively narrow and stiff. They are suitable for aggressive riders who rides a road bike with the saddle positioned higher than their drop handlebars, or an aggressive mountain bike rider who spends much of the time off the saddle. The Swallow, available with either chrome or titanium metalwork, uses minimal leather–it’s kind of the G-string of bicycle saddles–but it is the most elastic of the saddles in this category and surprisingly comfortable.
The Touring and Trekking category is composed of fourteen saddles–from the 410g B17 Titanium, to the 870g Flyer Special. All of them are variations on the B17–Brooks’ flagship model, which has been in continuous production since 1896. The B17 is ideal for ideal for long distance sports touring, trekking and atb use. The saddles in this category are wider–170mm for men’s saddles and 177mm for women’s saddles–than those in the Road and MTB category, and are suitable for riders who may stand up occasionally to gain speed or for greater control, but remain seated most of the time.
The City and Heavy Duty category has sixteen saddles–from the 520g B68 Imperial, to the 1,805g B190. These saddles are designed for leisurely cycling. They are suitable for riders who prefer cruising in an upright position, with the handlebars set higher than the saddle. All but four of them feature some kind of suspension system to smooth out any bumps, and are wider (from 210 to 250mm) at the back for added support. The B72 is a good choice for someone who wants a wider saddle but not too much added weight. It features a unique suspension system that was patented by J.B. Brooks in the late 19th century and weighs only 690g, which is lighter than the classically sprung Flyer series in the Touring and Trekking category. The lightest of the Flyer series, the Flyer S, tips the scales at 800g.
The three main categories comprise a total of 43 saddles. Brooks also produces 12 limited edition saddles in unique colors (white, blue, red, mustard, magenta) or designs to commemorate a number of Brooks’ sponsored events. That brings the grand total to 55 different saddles. Besides being categorized by use, Brooks breaks down its products by saddle line, of which there are five: Imperial, Classic, Special, Unique and Aged.
The Imperial line includes five saddles specially designed to relieve pressure on the perineal. Pressure on the perineal can slow or cut off bloodflow through the tiny arteries of the delicate area, causing numbness in the groin area, and even erectile disfunction. Brooks’ 1890 catalog featured saddles with “registered cutting, a sure preventive to all perineal pressure.” “Registered cutting” is basically a slot cut out of the center of the saddle. Imperial line saddles also feature holes for laces along the bottom edge of the saddle. I’ve never experienced any problems with numbness when riding a Brooks saddle, but for anyone especially concerned with this problem, an Imperial line saddle would be a good choice. The saddles in this line are available in black only.
The Classic line is a little difficult to define. Here’s the way it’s described on the Brooks England Ltd. website:
The Classic range includes many of our best selling models for the modern cyclist, since all saddles have single rails and are thus compatible with micro-adjust seat posts. The B17 is the most popular saddle in the Brooks Classic range. It is certainly the oldest Brooks model and longest living saddle in cycling history. This icon has been sold as far back as 1896 and for over a century never went out of production. Most of these models are available also in the Aged and Imperial lines.
The twenty-one saddles in the Special Line are distinguished by their very attractive, large copper rivets. The majority of them are either in the Road and MTB category, or are limited editions, but the Touring and Trekking category is represented by the B17 Special and Flyer Special.
The Unique line is just what it sounds like: a group of saddles each member of which is unique in its own way. According to the Brooks website:
Each saddle in this range needs a different workmanship or frame construction which is specific to that particular model, making it Unique. Most of the models have a double or triple rail construction, like the B66, our most popular model in the Brooks Unique range, dating back as early as 1927. The Swallow has single rails, but a very peculiar construction of the leather top.
One of the six saddles that make up the Aged line would be a good choice for someone who does not have either the time or the inclination to break in a saddle themselves. If you ride your bicycle every day, the breaking in process occurs quickly, naturally, and relatively painlessly. If you ride your bicycle sporadically and for short distances, it could take quite some time to break in a new saddle. The slogan of this line is “Comfort From Day 1.” According to Brooks:
The Aged Saddles have skilfully blended oils and waxes, massaged into the hide. This vegetable tanned leather guarantees a softer saddle from the very first ride.
Another, not necessarily minor, consideration is the color of your saddle. Brooks’ three basic colors are black, antique brown, and honey. Actually though, not all models are available in all three colors. As mentioned above, the saddles in the Imperial line are only available in black, and the saddles in the Aged range only come in brown. Some saddles are only available in two of the three basic colors, and a few are also available in British racing green.
When you are using a traditional leather saddle, there can be issues with the dye bleeding and staining your pants–particularly if the saddle is new and has just been treated with Proofide saddle dressing or has gotten wet. For this reason, I prefer honey saddles, because staining is less of an issue compared to the darker colors; I ride my bike to work, so I don’t want to worry about my slacks getting stained.