"are you sitting comfortably? then i'll begin."
some of you of a certain age will remember the above phrase, while others will have been too young to recall. and a whole bunch of others won't have the faintest idea of what i'm on about.
before bbc radio organised itself into a set of numbers (currently digitally up to number six i believe), the above quoted phrase was a regular feature of listen with mother, a weekly fifteen minute slot on the bbc light programme. such was the apellation applied to what eventually became radio two after 1967.
the phrase, utimately to be included in the oxford book of quotations, was an adlib by one of the programme's presenters, julia lang. listen with mother occupied the 1:45pm slot each weekday afternoon, just before woman's hour, presenting stories, songs and nursery rhymes for the under fives. the programme ended in 1982, but not before both it and woman's hour transferred to the bbc home service, which those of us in the uk now know more commonly as radio four.
who knew the early days of radio were so complex?
the phrase has surfaced in many others situations, not only in movies, but also in rock songs (the moody blues penned a song of the same name on their 1969 album 'on the threshold of a dream'), so i feel less than insolent by re-introducing it at this early stage of the new year. for when it comes to riding a bicycle, it seems not an extraordinary question to ask. you can add all the expensive trinketry you like to that carbon fibre frame in the bike shed, and you can train until the veins stand out on your forehead, but if you're not comfortable when seated, all the ceramic bearings in the world are not going to enhance a diet of regular bike rides.
the brooks cambium c17 was the english leather company's first foray outside their usual comfort zone. fabricated from an organic canvas top married to a gum rubber base, suddenly there was no need to wield that little spanner under the nose of the saddle to maintain the tension as bum and saddle fought manfully to be the ultimate victor. the other notable benefit was the obviated need to cover a brooks saddle with its ill-fitting waterproof cover when leaving the bike outside as froth supping commenced.
the c17 offers a wider base than its new best pal, the c15, perhaps inadvertantly categorising itself as more appropriate for the touring or commuting cyclist. but perhaps in order to relive a portion of its racing heritage, brooks have released the similarly constructed c15 with what i'm happy to refer to as a more sporting profile, one that looks not out of place on (for instance) a colnago c60. of course, there will be those who disagree, but the day when a brooks would have been considered too heavy for use in the professional peloton has pretty much gone for good. with stories of mechanics adding lead to the top tubes of carbon bicycles in order that they might satisfy the uci's minimum limit, a few extra grams (405g to be precise) on a useful component would hardly seem too onerous.
however, construction and weight are a tad irrelevant if posterior comfort is not satisfied. it's a factor that has become ever more important over recent years as bicycle manufacturers spend ever more of their research and development pennies on trying to make the frame as stiff as humanly possible. ally the latter inescapable fact to a road network that strives daily to emulate paris-roubaix, and comfort in the saddle becomes a proportionally more desirable feature.
i have made mention over recent days of the less than pristine repairs applied to the roads around islay's western extremities. it is a sad but notable fact that when traversing these particular pathways, i have subconsciously been trying to avoid those repairs in order that my perambulations might be less uncomfortable than they promised to be. conditions such as these not only answer the daily question as to why my arms are sore, but do their damndest to rattle my posterior. in the case of the latter affectation, i'm rather glad the cambium arrived more or less at the same time as the colnago.
i'm not sure where the upper limits of praise towards a saddle must end, but the c15 deserves my utmost recommendations. despite more of a constant battering than i recall from last year's festive 500, i'd be hard pushed to recall a day when either pain, discomfort or numbness reared their ugly heads. sure, a brooks, just like any saddle, will rarely equal lounging in a parker-knoll, but on a true racing bicycle like the c60, the cambium acquitted itself admirably. and its colnago days are far from over; when the c60 heads home, the rust coloured canvas (definitely my favourite colour) will move over to the c40, continuing to allow me to sit comfortably.
for those who always figured a brooks saddle would be the last thing they'd fit to state of the art carbon, i'd seriously suggest you reconsider, beginning with a cambium c15.
the brooks cambium c15 saddle is available in rust (as reviewed), black or natural at an rrp of £115.99. brooks saddles are distributed in the uk by extra uk
sunday 4 january 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................