20121023-185924.jpgTHE LEGENDARY B-17
We have met quite a few bicycle tourists this summer and a surprising number of them ride on a Brooks saddle (bicycle seat.) I’ve seen the Brooks advertised in magazines and I’ve read articles about them in bicycle magazines. They seem to get enthusiastic endorsements from all quarters. So when my butt became tender to the touch about 500 miles into our ride I started looking for a bicycle store where I could get one. I figured there must be something to them if they get such rave reviews.

I finally found a store that carried them in San Francisco and bought the classic B-17 model. If you’ve never encountered one of these, the thing you have to understand is that their supposed comfort is counter-intuitive. These things are made of stiff leather that could stop a .50-caliber slug at point blank. They have no padding. At first glance you’d think they would be no more comfortable than sitting on a fence rail. Nevertheless, I bought one.

The theory behind bike-saddle comfort is that a bike saddle isn’t supposed to be a La-Z-Boy armchair that distributes one’s weight over a large, padded area. A bike saddle is basically (excuse the expression) shoved up one’s ass. That’s right – a bike saddle is a sort of wedge that fits between one’s cheeks and in one’s crack where it encounters the pelvic bones and those are what you sit on. The shape of the Brooks conforms to the human anatomy and its polished surface minimizes chaffing.

Something else you hear about Brooks saddles is that you have to break them in by riding on them for a week or so. I guess the theory is that body heat and moisture as well as weight are able to reshape that incredibly tough leather to custom fit the owner’s anatomy.

OK, enough about theory. I have been riding on mine for nearly two months and over 3500 miles so any conforming it is going to do has been done and long ago. The first thing I would like to say is that I think they’ve got the conforming stuff backward; the B-17 didn’t change at all, it was my butt that tried to conform and it failed. The saddle was OK as bike saddles go but certainly not the miracle others have claimed. For the first few hours of each day my butt felt OK but by afternoon I usually felt like I had two bones poking out of my buttocks. To make the afternoon ride even tolerable, I had to stand on my pedals and give my buttocks a break every fifteen minutes. I felt like I had two large bruised areas where the seat made contact with me.

(It’s good to ride with someone who knows you intimately because Mary and I do regular inspections of the portion of each other’s body that comes in contact with the bike saddle. As a result, we’ve learned details about each other that 31 years of marriage failed to disclose.)

So there I was, gritting my teeth every afternoon, when I noticed a memory foam seat cover in the bicycle section of Walmart. “What have I got to lose?” I thought. I put it over the Brooks. I’ve been riding on it for four days now and it is a great improvement. I wouldn’t say it is the perfect solution but there may not be one when you are supporting your body weight on about two square inches for eight hours a day.