Cycling Along The Way...

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Silver City, NM, United States
Riders of the wheel. Racers, Roadies, Mountain bikers, Touring cyclists, Commuters, and others. Diamond frames, recumbents, trikes, and more. Sharing a web of connections often misunderstood or unappreciated by those who don't ride. Herewith, my attempt to share some of the more rational thoughts that flit around inside my head while bicycling, knocking back a brew or three, or just thinking about life. Reviews of bicycles, gear, touring, and more, plus some unsolicited posts about people, politics, and philosophy. Other things, too. Me: retired, gave up my TV in 1988, avid cyclist, several cross country tours completed with more to come. Your thoughts?

Saturday, January 19, 2013


There are many things to consider when riding a bicycle.  Size of the frame?  Touring vs. road bike?  What's it going to be used for?  Short rides?  Long rides?  All important questions, but, and no pun intended here, your butt is the biggest concern.  Well, as with most things, there are a few other considerations when it comes to making certain the bike is properly fitted to your body.  Is the saddle level?  Position of the saddle.  Height of the seat post.  Height of the handlebars.  Lots of considerations, but the place where your butt sits is critical.  Most saddles these days consist of a plastic form that's covered with perhaps some padding and a leather or fake leather covering.  They look great.  Some are quite comfortable, too.  But don't look to these to adapt to the contours of your butt.  That plastic form will never change shape.  Guarantee.  And that's the problem with them.  If that seat doesn't work from day one, out of the box, it will be your fate to adjust to it because it will not adjust to your butt.

I don't want to imply that the saddle is the primary factor in attaining a level of comfort while cycling that allows a rider to stay on the bike for hours.  It is, however, a key one in terms of overall comfort, as you can imagine.  As I mentioned above, there are other factors, too:  incorrect seat height, incorrect handlebar adjustment, seat surface is not level, seat is too far forward/back on the frame.  All of these will have an impact on comfort while riding.  Once those factors have been dialed in correctly, what you're left with is the saddle.  And your butt sitting on that saddle.

Now, my favorite saddles are Brooks.  Hands down.  While weather, physical conditioning, length of ride, etc., can have a direct bearing on how much joy a cyclist gets out of a ride, none compare to the joy of a comfortable place to set your butt.  In cycling saddles, Brooks is akin to Porsche.  And like Porsche, there is no substitute.  Not if you're seeking true comfort and a saddle that will adjust to the contours of your butt.

The two saddles that I use regularly are Brooks.  One is the Brooks Flyer Special Touring saddle, shown below.
Flyer Special
Brooks Flyer Special Touring Saddle

This saddle is designed specifically for bicycle touring.  Riding for hours.  For days.  For weeks.  For months.  It dares you to try to be uncomfortable on it.  Well, for those not broken in, it does take about 500 miles of cycling to break a Brooks saddle in.  Now, that sounds like a grueling task, but the saddles are so comfortable right out of the box, the degree of discomfort is minimal.  In my experience, at least.  The Flyer Special needed to be broken in, which I did gladly.  This saddle is on my Cannondale ST-800 touring bicycle.

My other bicycle, the Vitus road bike, has the Brooks Team Professional that was pre-softened and it was good to go straight out of the box.  My nephew, John, gave me this saddle for Christmas several years ago.  Sure, it adds grams of weight to the road bike, but it also adds miles of smiles when I use it.  In fact, in 2010, when I bicycled 3100 across the U.S. to Upstate NY, where I grew up, this is the saddle that I used on my Cannondale ST-800 touring bicycle.  Here's a photo:

Team Pro Chrome
Brooks Team Professional Chrome Road Saddle
Once I made the switch to Brooks, I never looked back.  No regrets, truly.  Brooks saddles are so comfortable that the thought of having to ride on one of those saddles with the plastic form seems like an unnecessary form of punishment.  I realize there are probably many more cyclists riding saddles other than Brooks.  Good for them.  It's sort of like watching people drink average beer when they could have a great microbrew.  To each his/her own.

Brooks was established in 1866 by John Boultbee Brooks in Birmingham, England.  Now, as an Irishman, whose Irish side of the family came to America after the Great Famine, the English are not high on our family's list of good people.  This Englishman made some great saddles.  The English also craft some really incredible beer, too.  Ok, hats off to the English for these.  Brooks started out making harnesses and general leather goods.  When his horse died, he borrowed a neighbor's bicycle.  The bicycle saddle was so uncomfortable, he vowed to make a saddle that was comfortable.  He got it right.  These are still made in England.  By hand.  By craftspeople.  I'm in love and in lust.  Frankly, I want more saddles just because they're beautiful to look at and delightful to ride.

While breaking in a saddle, Proofide needs to be applied to the saddle to help season the leather, so that it'll soften up and conform to your butt.  Proofide also waterproofs the saddle.  It's one of those things, as with all leather products, that needs to be applied periodically to the Brooks.  A bolt, under the saddle, allows for adjustment of the tension of the leather, as needed, while breaking the saddle in.  Great design.  Great form.  Great function.  Great beauty.
Proofide conditioner/waterproofing dressing
Ok, my drooling has gotten too serious.  Time to get out of here. If you're looking for a saddle, look no farther.  This is the one that every one else imitates, but never duplicates.  Sort of like wool vs. fleece.  Get the real deal.  You won't regret it.  Swear.  If you're worried about the weight of the saddles, you need to buy one of those with a plastic form.  You're into a different type of bicycling than I am.

Now, a tune to exit with.  Vassar Clements performing "Avalanche".  Fabulous fiddler.  Hope you like it.