I bought the Brooks B17 Standard Saddle on Amazon in preparation for my first bike tour. I was hesitant to spend so much money on a saddle but I needed something decent to replace the cheap plastic seat that was on the bike. 1000 miles later and I am very happy with my purchase. This is my Brooks B17 saddle review.
A Bit of Info about the Brooks B17 Saddle
The B17 saddle is handmade by Brooks England in their factory in Birmingham. This iconic saddle was first introduced into the Brooks product range in 1890. The design is largely unchanged from the original product that was introduced over 100 years ago. The B17 is designed for long-distance bicycle touring. This is a classic piece of cycling gear and is Brooks best selling model.
The saddle uses a simple design. It is a thick leather top stretched over a metal frame. The leather is attached to the frame with rivets. The nose piece adjusts with a threaded bolt. This allows you to retention the leather as it stretches and wears over time.
Brooks B17 Comfort
Honestly, this saddle has quite a few drawbacks. The comfort alone may outweigh all of them. The B17 is designed to keep your butt supported and comfortable for long days in the saddle. After all, it’s made for touring.
The B17 comes in men’s and women’s versions. The women’s version is called the B17S. Two sizes are available including a standard and narrow. The standard measure 175 mm wide and the narrow version measures 151 mm wide. To determine your ideal saddle size, you’ll need to measure your sit bone width. Check out this helpful guide to learn how to make this measurement.
Interestingly, when you first sit on a new Brooks B17, it may not feel all that comfortable. The leather is hard and slippery. I didn’t know what to think at first but decided to give it a chance. After it was properly broken in, the B17 became the most comfortable saddle that I’ve ever ridden.
The saddle achieves this comfort with the leather over a frame design. It works kind of like a hammock. The frame supports the leather and the leather supports you. The magic happens when the fibers in the leather break down and mold to your body for a custom-like fit. Basically, the saddle naturally conforms to the anatomy of your sit bones. It is firm yet supportive.
This design allows the saddle to support you in all the right places. After it’s broken in, it feels like it was made for you. You would think that a soft saddle would be more comfortable but, during long days, the firm Brooks offers much-needed support. With this saddle, I can ride for 8-10 hours pretty easily.
The Brooks B17 Saddle Break-in Period
For most riders, this saddle isn’t that comfortable right out of the box. It takes a decent amount of time to properly break-in. The break-in period can take between 100-500 miles. Some riders do find these saddles to be comfortable as is. It really depends on your anatomy.
You can speed up the break-in process by applying some Brooks England Proofide to the underside of the saddle. This helps to soften up the leather. Just rub a dab in with a rag. You can also apply a small amount to the top (shiny side), let it sit overnight, then rub it off before riding.
As the Brooks B17 breaks in, you will begin seeing dimples forming where your sit bones contact the leather. The center of the saddle will also form to your crotch. The leather also becomes slightly softer. At this point, the saddle fits like a glove and becomes incredibly comfortable.
My biggest mistake was leaving on a tour without properly breaking in the leather. After 2 days on the road, I had some pretty bad saddle sores developing. After about 150 miles my saddle was broken in and could be ridden all day comfortably.
My advice is to slowly break this thing in before doing any long-distance touring. Also, I didn’t wear any padded shorts. I think that would have made the break in a bit less painful.
B17 Saddle Build Quality and Longevity
Brooks handmakes all of their saddles in their factory in the UK. They put out an incredibly high-quality product. A special type of leather is used to improve the longevity of the saddle. Durable steel rails and rivets are used to hold the saddle together. Quality control is high.
I expect mine to last for many thousands of miles. After 1000 miles it still looks new except for one scuff on the side from when my bike fell over. That one was my fault.
Leather saddles are iconic. After all, they have been a part of cycling for over 100 years. The shiny leather gives your bike a classic look. The rivets are cool and add style. Brooks, in particular, builds an absolutely beautiful product. These saddles look great on vintage bikes and touring bikes.
The B17 is available in a range of 7 different colors including black, honey, antique brown, royal blue, red, aged tan, and apple green. The standard frame is black. The special model features a copper-plated steel frame. A titanium version is also available.
One thing to consider is that a leather saddle can look a bit out of place on some bikes. Particularly very modern carbon fiber or aluminum road bikes or bikes with very bright paint jobs. The old-timey looking leather saddle just looks like it doesn’t belong.
One thing to consider when using a premium saddle like this is theft. Most thieves probably aren’t familiar with leather saddles but the B17 just looks expensive. It probably has a higher chance of being stolen. If you live in a high crime area, this is something to think about.
Things I Don’t Like About the Brooks B17 Saddle
As mentioned above, this saddle has a number of drawbacks which may be dealbreakers for some types of riders. My main complaints with the Brooks B17 include:
The Saddle Requires Periodic Maintenance
The saddle requires some additional maintenance that a regular plastic synthetic saddles don’t need.
- First, you’ll need to apply Brooks England Proofide to the saddle every once in a while. This helps soften the leather and keeps it from cracking or getting weathered.
- You’ll also need to tighten the leather every once in a while as it stretches. This is necessary to keep the leather tight on the frame. You tighten the leather by turning a bolt on the underside of the nose of the saddle with a small wrench. The wrench is included with the saddle.
Another thing to consider is that you’ll have to carry the proofide and wrench with you while you tour if you’re traveling for more than a month or so. This adds a bit of weight to your bicycle touring toolkit.
The saddle is not waterproof
Rain and moisture will damage the leather and reduce the lifespan of your saddle. This is a problem if you live in a wet climate. If you expect rain, you’ll have to carry something to cover your saddle and keep it dry. The Brooks Saddle Cover is designed for this purpose. Alternatively, you can just use a plastic bag.
Having to carry a saddle cover adds a bit more weight and bulk to your setup that you wouldn’t have to worry about if you used a plastic saddle.
The Brooks B17 weighs 574 grams (about 20 ounces). This is very heavy for a bicycle saddle. In fact, you can buy ultralight carbon fiber saddles that weigh less than a quarter of the B17. If weight is a factor for you, you may want to look elsewhere.
This is kind of a premium product. The B17 costs 4-5x what a standard budget plastic saddle costs. The high cost is probably due to the high-end leather that is used. I’m sure manufacturing costs also play a factor in the price. These saddles are made in the UK rather than China.
Personally, I prefer to spend more money to buy something once that is of good quality and that will last rather than having to buy something cheaper multiple times. I expect to get at least a decade of use from this saddle.
Final Thoughts on the Brooks B17 Saddle
This is the perfect saddle for touring. That’s probably why almost every bicycle tourist uses one. Once broken in, the B17 offers all-day comfort. I would go as far as to say that this is the most comfortable saddle that I’ve ever owned.
Having said this, the B17 isn’t ideal for all types of cycling. For commuting or just general weekend riding, you may want to consider a regular synthetic saddle that is waterproof and does not require the additional maintenance of the Brooks. If you want to keep your bike as light as possible, you’ll probably want to pass up on this model.
You can buy the Brooks B17 saddle from Amazon here:
Which saddle do you use? Share your experience in the comments below!