Monday, August 31, 2015

What The What? Brooks Goes Carbon?!

Crazy things are happening over at Brooks Saddles.

At Eurobike last week, the 100+ year-old maker of classic, handmade leather saddles unveiled a new saddle with carbon fiber rails. Carbon fiber rails?!

Someone must have spiked their tea.

Learn a little more about the Brooks C-13 at BikeRumor.
A couple of years ago, the British saddle maker introduced their new Cambium line of non-leather saddles - or "vegan" as some have dubbed them -- which have a natural rubber top fused with a canvas-like material for comfort and durability. For the most part, the response has been pretty good. I had requested to be one of the people to test out the new saddles at that time, but they rejected my request. (What Gives?! Did it not matter to them that I have at least a dozen Brooks leather saddles?)

Recently, Brooks has teased that they were preparing to release a new saddle in the Cambium range -- a new, lighter C-13. It was expected that it would be a narrow racing saddle, and the lightest Brooks yet, possibly with hollow rails. Not too many people were expecting to see a carbon-fiber Brooks at Eurobike, though.

It's a surprising development, but maybe it shouldn't be. Think about it, there was a time when Brooks leather saddles were all over the professional racing peloton. Amateurs, too. The Brooks B-17, and later the Professional and Team Professional were the saddles of choice for many racers, at least up into the 1970s when plastic saddles started making serious inroads. By the 1980s, the only bicycle race where one could still routinely see Brooks saddles was the Race Across America, or RAAM. Three-time winner Lon Haldeman was famous for his Brooks saddles, and I remember reading much about his method for breaking them in.

With a claimed weight of 259 grams, the new saddle would actually be reasonably competitive among the weight watching racers again. Would Brooks be sponsoring a team in the future? Who knows.

On the Brooks website (where actual details about the new saddle are still scarce), the slogan is #backontherivet, which seems appropriate if they are, in fact, going after the serious racing crowd again. The expression "on the rivet" is an old one for racers going "all out" -- sliding forward on their saddles until they were perched on the rivet at the nose. People still use the expression (or at least Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin still do) for that all-out effort, even though no racers in a couple of generations have used a saddle with rivets.

I have no fears that my favorite all-leather saddles are in danger of going away any time soon - but a carbon fiber Brooks was something I never thought I'd live to see.


  1. I signed up to test the C17, but didn't make the cut. I have since purchased one, though, and I have to say that I really like it quite a bit. All the rest of my saddles are leather. Big fan of 'em.

    When BSNYC posted the link to sign up to test the C13 I went after that, too. Knowing now that it's got carbon firber rails, I'm certain that I'm not going to make the cut on this batch. I'm a big guy. I should've suspected something was afoot when they asked about rider weight. Brooks is going too far!


  2. If I'm not mistaken, Brooks is owned by Selle Royal, which also owns fizik. So the company as a whole must have a grand scheme to have each brand seem distinct while cross-pollinating to maximize market share of saddles overall. Just a guess.

    1. Your guess is a good one. And yes, Selle Royal did purchase Brooks -- and this does seem to indicate a new direction for the company. Not that it affects me and my bikes in any way, but a saddle like this is probably the the first Brooks saddle that wouldn't seem out of place on modern carbon fiber bike (at least not one that wasn't going for irony).

    2. I, too, signed up for the C15 test. Didn't make the cut. Hmm...

      I say that it's not irony if you were "going for" it.

  3. I think we ALL signed up for that test :-) Possibly a way to increase the contacts list? Just a thought.

    I happend to be in Brooks Covent Garden (London) "shoppe" last week - ironically to drop off a 50+ yr-old Swift for a new cover. Which reminds me of the old joke "This was my grandfather's hammer - I replaced the handle and my father replaced the head."

    No sign of the new carbon Cambium, but the one C-17 I own is nice enough and as promised, comfy from Day One.

    The existence of and products in the "shoppe" are telling. While there is a cycle theme, most of what is on offer is bags and clothing. Much like Barbour - another venerable British institution - has found, there is more profit outside the niche than in it.

    They did have a lovely Stanforth Kibo touring bike on display - frame by Lee Cooper of Coventry. Very well priced at GBP 1500. Best deal in the "shoppe" :-)