the legacy of john boultbee brooks

brooks team pro

in december 2007, i removed the then state of the art, leather covered, plastic saddle from the top of the colnago carbon seatpost, and replaced it with a brooks swallow. this latter edifice is apparently based on a classic brooks design first produced in 1937, and was my first brooks saddle since employing a b17 on a muddy fox mountain bike from almost two decades ago. on this particular masterpiece of leather, i rather overdid it with the nose bolt spanner, and managed to split the leather just behind the front rivet (very much to my total embarrassment at the time). standard saddle fair had been sat on until the swallow came along.

aside from being the complete antithesis of weight-weeniness, the reputation of brooks saddles rather precedes them, and many a posterior has quivered in its chamois at the thought of being exposed (metaphorically speaking) to that brick-hard leather. such was to be the thrust of my saddle review when the swallow was twin bolted to the c40. disappointment was rife: not entirely the fault of the saddle, at least not initially. the saddle is still atop that post, is still ridden regularly, but has its own story to tell.

this is not really the narrative of a black brooks swallow with titanium rails: there is a more contemporary story to tell, but when have you ever known me to come straight to the point?

the disappointment was two fold: firstly, i was eager to acquire instant martyrdom. if the breaking-in period was truly as agonising as i remembered, and as attested to by third parties of my acquaint, then i had a whole drawerful of adjectives just waiting for full employment. secondly, and this may have had some bearing on the first, colnago insist on supplying carbon seatposts with a twin bolt clamping mechanism. granted, the oval concepts post on the cielo also uses a twin-bolt principle, but oval's bolts are on each side of the clamp, while colnago's are fore and aft. the swallow, continuing on from those 1937 blueprints, features flaps of leather, each side, turned under and joined by a metal 'depose label' bearing the original patent. unfortunately, that metal plate sat directly above the forward bolt on the post, and the low tension on the saddle's mid-section meant that there was a lot of rattling going on 'neath my nethers.

brooks team pro

always willing to compromise, i slid the saddle forward a smidgeon to displace the area of contact, but yet again, the relatively unsupported mid-section thwarted that idea: now the bolt threatened to break through the leather and give me a surprise i could do without. so the saddle remains, but the 'hammock' of support is now shielded using a bit of old inner tube. that said, the saddle has been one of the most comfortable right from day one. no martyrdom for me, and no lengthy diatribes of pain and suffering that would mark me out as a hard scotsman; i even wore track mitts on saturday, and it's still only january.

naming no names, and making allowances for the unfangled seatpost, someone not a million miles away from mr brooks, accepted my point that the swallow's design did rather tend to flatten and sag in the middle due to the relative lack of support between back and front. the tension bolt is currently at its maximum, but it shames to see that bit of inner tube every time the colnago exits the bike shed.

however, thes are modern times, and it is no longer 2007. we are, i am apprised, into the second decade of the 21st century and a new steed has joined the stable for at least the foreseeable future. new steeds deserve new saddles, and the cosmetic hassles provided by brooks number one, have not put me off adding number two: a team pro copper. this time, however, the name of the game is sportive, wholeheartedly embraced by the cielo, and the brooks website declares the following: 'the team professional is a timeless brooks saddle for sportive riders'. my hand is up.

brooks team pro

this one is so very, very cool: honey coloured leather, with the brooks name embossed on each side, just above one of those skilled leather chamfers that seem so easy to accomplish in the brooks dvd. the frame, including the rails, are copper plated steel, and all the rivets are hand-hammered copper; it almost seems a shame to sit on it. if there are any weight-weenies reading, i'd look away now: it's just over half a kilo. of course, as a stalwart, hardcase, martyr, scotsman, and honed athlete, i laugh in the face of extra grams. at the moment, i am also trying hard, through gritted teeth, to laugh at the backside of pain. i have religiously applied proofide both top and bottom (of the saddle: no wisecracks) and left the supplied nosebolt spanner hanging on the toolboard hook, for now unused. but there's no getting away from the fact that certain flavours of new brooks saddles ride like a coal bunker.

while chris distefano and i probably agree that kilometres are a lot easier than miles, it's more than likely that a few more of either are required to find out who's going to win: the saddle or my bum. there can be little denying, however, that the style over substance argument can easily outweigh any detractions from fitting a brooks in the first place. in similar manner to flann o'brien's theory, expounded in the third policeman that after many, many miles, nay years, of riding, the molecules of the bike mingle with those of the rider, making them not only inseparable, but of equal standing, there is going to be a point in the not too distant future, when bum and saddle will perform their own vulcan mind-meld. i look forward to that time.

for those with an interest in owning their very own brooks, but fearful of those first tentative steps, i will be continuing the travail along within the cielo chapters linked above.

you don't mind if i stand, do you?


posted monday 18 january 2010