one of these days this will become a television serial in similar style to that of the darling buds of may, though probably without the over-saturated colour, and maybe just a hint of sepia. in much the same way that tullio campagnolo is heralded and celebrated for his invention of what we now recognise as the quick release skewer, the leather saddle, still manufactured in much the same way as it always was, owes its prowess and fame to that of john boultbee brooks.
brooks established his horse harness and general leather goods business in birmingham in 1866, having departed home in hinckley, leicestershire the previous year with a mere £20 in his back pocket. granted, the sum of £20 would likely be the equivalent of a merchant banker's annual bonus nowadays, but the amount lends general character to brooks' tenacity and individuality. twelve years later, the infortunate gentleman, whose business cannot have been quite as successful as was hoped, had the upset of having his horse die. i estimate the misfortitude of his business from the fact that jb was unable to afford a new one (surely a necessity for someone in the business of retailing horse harnesses), and had thus borrowed a bicycle in order to commute to work.
in a situation with which we can likely all identify, he found the saddle on this loaner to be less accommodating of his backside that he had either hoped or anticipated, and having the skills and wherewithal to do something about it, he did. in october 1882, he filed his first bicycle saddle patent.
now there are those amongst us, and i count myself one of them, who must surely be thinking just how uncomfortable that loaned bicycle saddle must have been, considering the reputation a brand new, unbroken brooks saddle has for inflicting pain and suffering on unsuspecting butt cheeks. this is not altogether justified or unjustified; the company colnago has a brooks swallow saddle atop its carbon seatpost, and while its final, ridden state makes it less a thing of beaty than was the case when extricating it from the handsme box, it has never given a single day's cause for complaint, even on lengthier rides.
conversely, and as detailed in parts one and two of the legacy of john boultbee brooks, a honey coloured brooks team pro with copper rails, affixed to the cielo, gave several weeks' worth of doubt as to whether it had been an apposite choice. fortunately, my faith and tenacity remained firm, along with my backside, and the brooks was beaten into submission, now providing oodles of satisfying comfort at every available opportunity.
however, it is the satisfying knowledge that brooks saddles are still produced using age-old and distinctly industrial looking machines in downing street, smethwick in the west midlands, predominantly by skillful hand. couple this with their fabulous aesthetic (at least from my point of view) and i really care not one jot for their absence of carbon or acknowledged weight penalty. this is not to dismiss the current crop of modern saddles, even those made by brooks' italian owners, for i have found many of those more than satisfactory too, but one owns a brooks saddle, as opposed to simply sitting on anything else.
therefore, when considering the latest washingmachinepost colnago, the oft mentioned molteni master, and whether it would be retro, modern or a combination of the two, the only specific that was never in doubt from the start was that it would own a brooks saddle. with such a wide range to choose from, the hard part was deciding which one, partially solved by the re-release of a blast from the relatively recent past; the brooks colt. this is a saddle that suffered from the almost wholesale switch from road bikes to mountain bikes in the 1980s, and one which seems to have disappeared from view around the time that brooks became part of italy. while i should never be one to point out omissions from anyone else's website, it does seem strange that the colt cannot be found on the brooks website even as i write this review.
however, at the point of acquisition, i had heard or read that this was reputed to be possibly the most comfortable of all. considering the reputation inferred above, this augured well, and indeed has turned out to be the case. for those not acquainted with brooks saddles of any shape or form, the saddles' inherent stiffness is something that makes itself immediately known. unilke one or two of the modern variety, it takes only a single ride to discover whether you are in for a hard-ride over the next few weeks/months or not. i will admit that, as of the present, i have covered less than 300km on the new machine, but can aver with confidence that the colt is the most comfortable of the range yet tried.
the saddle also counts as perhaps the most adventurous of smethwick's output so far, at least in the colour and script departments. the one that graces the campagnolo seatpost on my colnago answers to the description mustard, and features the name colt embossed in gold on each side of the saddles' nose. it can also be had in black or violet, with the promise of pink and, i believe, green in the autumn. as has been the case with my other brooks saddles, and the very nature of the word legacy, i will be providing an update on its efficacy in the foreseeable future, but on present impressions, comfort will be my joy.
the brooks colt saddle is available at a cost of £125 from brooks dealers. perhaps brooks will update their website soon, detailing the colour range available.
posted tuesday 31 august 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................