My Brooks leather saddle now has over 1,600 miles on it and is extremely comfortable. When it was new, it was hard, like sitting on a wooden bench.
Even so, it was comfortable and there was no soreness after riding. I was just aware that I was sitting on something pretty hard. It probably took about 200 or 300 miles before the hardness wore off. Now when I ride, I am not even thinking about my butt on the saddle.
Having decided to keep it, I cut the back and the nose off, which is what we used to do back when leather saddles were the only saddle to ride, during the 1950s and before. We usually rode a B17 Standard, and had to hacksaw off the bag loops.
There are no bag loops on the Professional model, which I have, so it was an easy matter to take a sharp knife and slice the rear overhanging leather flush with the metal cantle. The cantle is the curved metal piece that is the back part of the frame where the leather top is riveted.
Blocking was the other practice when leather saddles were the norm; cutting the back off was a prerequisite to this, and was probably how it got started. A wooden block was cut on a band saw, with a concave curve. The shape of the metal cantle was then altered by turning the saddle over, and hammering it into the concave block.
The most popular hammer for the job was a Thor Hammer, which has a copper face on one side and a rawhide face on the other. Great care was needed in doing this as it was easy to get the cantle and the frame bent unevenly, resulting in a lop-sided saddle that was difficult to correct.
I don’t recommend this practice. One of the reasons a Brooks saddle is so comfortable is because the back part is wide and fairly flat. This means it supports the two sit bones that are part of the pelvic bone, (Left.) leaving the softer tissue that is the perineum clear of the saddle.
Once the saddle is broken in, the leather conforms to the shape of the pelvis, giving even more support and comfort.
The problem with many modern road saddles is that they are narrow and curved in shape and the sit bones come outside the saddle. The result is the pressure is on the soft perineum tissue. A super fit racing cyclist is riding hard most of the time, and much of his weight is on the pedals and handlebars.
However, for someone like me who rides at a more leisurely pace these days a wider, flatter saddle suits me fine. The other benefit of a Brooks saddle is that leather breathes, so it stays cooler in the summer heat; whereas, a plastic or gel-filled saddle holds the heat.
Cutting the back off my saddle is really a style thing, so unless you are a vintage poser, like me, it is not necessary. However, my spare tubular tire does fit better now. I carry one tire and CO2 pump and a spare cartridge, wrapped tightly in a piece of plastic, and secured under the saddle by a toe-strap.
You will notice in the top picture that nowhere is the tire touching the saddle or seat post. This is good because it is easy for a tire to chafe and rub through against a metal part.
One complaint I have with the Brooks is that it is longer than it needs to be, and as I ride a small frame, I find the nose of the saddle touches the back of my legs when I am climbing out of the saddle. By cutting the nose part off, I shortened it slightly.
The other suggestion I would offer Brooks, is that they re-design the frame to give it more rearward adjustment. Back in the day, frames had much shallower seat angles, but frames that are more modern are steeper.
The tools I used are shown above. A sharp knife, I recommend one with a stiff blade, as it is easier to keep the cut straight; I also have a diamond knife sharpener to keep the edge sharp. I used a woodworking file or rasp to even out the leather where needed. Also shown in the picture is the strip of leather that I cut off, with the Brooks nametag still in place.
I did this with the saddle mounted to the bike, as this is as good a way as any to hold the saddle firm. Please be aware as I was, that if the knife were to slip, it would, A.) Cut my other hand or some other part of my body; or B.) It would put a large gouge in the paint on the frame. I managed to avoid both by being aware, and careful.
My feelings are now the saddle is broken in, I will never go back to a plastic saddle. This is just me, a Brooks is not right for everyone, so if you decide to try one make sure you are going to keep it before you butcher it as I did.
If you want to see what the saddle looked like before I modified it, go to my previous post when the saddle was brand new.