Let me start by saying I LOVE my aged B17! When I was looking into getting my first road bike I knew I wanted one. They are just so timeless and classy as well as being fantastically practical and functional. I also like riding long miles, I do not race and I will take comfort over lightweight every day of the week so a Brooks it had to be.
However, the B17 is not perfect. After notching up well over 10,000 miles on mine I can say that it is definitely more suited for an upright riding position. The long side sections do result in some thigh banging, and not of the good kind. Also, as I have found on a number of occasions leather saddles and the great British weather do not always make for a happy marriage. Recently I forgot my waterproof cover and got caught in a HUGE storm. The result is not only does my B17 now look like shit, until I ride it in the dry a few times and buff it up again, but when it gets wet the leather becomes more pliable and more likely to become stretched or misshaped. If only there were a saddle with all the benefits of the B17, but with none of the drawbacks…
…Well that is exactly what the Brooks Cambium or C17 is claiming to be!
Brooks state: Brooks Cambium is a range of saddles made from vulcanized natural rubber and organic cotton enhanced by a thin layer of structural textile for added resilience and legendary Brooks longevity. The uniquely flexible, maintenance-free, waterproof top is designed to follow the rider’s movements for immediate comfort and ease of use. To the eye, the C17 may appear quite racy in its shape and lines, which indeed it is. A saddle you can really settle into, the geometry and dimensions are based closely on that of our most recognizable model, the B17, ensuring the same timeless comfort mile after mile.
Now the only issue was getting to test one out for myself. As luck would have it though the friendly guys at my LBS, bikeUlike in Southsea, have a couple of test saddles in and encouraged me to borrow one for a few days to try out.
I managed to replace my current Charge Spoon with the test C17 just before our weekly fixed gear ride and headed out on a chilly 1 degree C evening for a 38 mile ride around the Portsmouth and Hayling Island. Right from the off I was loving it! It is unsurprisingly a bit harder than my well worn B17, not a bad thing, and still plenty flexible. After adjusting it a couple of times to ensure it was set at the right angle, I didn’t want any numbing experiences as occurred on one of my early B17 rides, I felt right at home.
With no paddle to speak of and a much higher cut to the side walls your sit bones rest directly on the hard surface of the saddle. This seems a bit counterintuitive to many as you would think the more padding the better, wrong! Due to the flexibility of the materials used to construct the saddle overall ride comfort is very high, especially over longer miles. I was however wearing padded under shorts for this first ride and I wondered if in non cycling specific clothes I would find the saddle to firm.
For the rest of the week I used it on my commuter bike with normal street clothes and I must say to my slight surprise it was great. Obviously, these rides are shorter and for longer rides without paddling it might be more of an issue, but then that’s why you were cycling gear for these rides.
The other thing I really like about the C17 is the materials, natural rubber and organic cotton! It is good to see cycling companies using high quality materials to make long lasting practical products. One of my pet peeves is the cheap is better, throwaway high street culture of today’s society. Yes, this saddle cost a few quid, but it is so nice you will drive your car less (if you still have a car) and save the money back in no time! Now if only they had a titanium rail version…
No surprise here. All the comfort of a leather Brooks with none of the maintenance or restriction issues, yeah I’ll be getting one for my new tourer, but will prob stick to the much cheaper and super comfy Charge Spoon for my round town bike.
O and I almost forgot to mention that Brooks have also produced this in a womens specific version the C17s, so Alex will be happy 🙂