8 Oct 2012

A Brooks! A Brooks! My kingdom for a Select!.


Just in the nick of time my new saddle turned up from BIKE-COMPONENTS.DE, via DHL. The driver was friendly and cheerful. Which is always nice. The online tracking had gone perfectly. With each unfathomable step clearly listed and illustrated. Had the weekend not intervened it might have been even quicker in arriving.

One likes to have a pleasant experience when some new purchase turns up at the door. Buying online lacks the warmth and ritual of one's sweaty hands fondling the coveted goods in a cluttered bike shop. So the driver and his behaviour becomes a vital part of the whole transaction. He represents the jolly face behind the bike shop counter, by proxy, if you will.

The recent GLS man was also friendly and pleasant. So both companies must have improved their recruitment standards of late. I just hope all freight and delivery services realise the importance of their brief relationship with the customer in all online trade. Post Office take note!

With the recently water tortured, 'Professional' still misbehaving, I needed a new seat and I needed it badly! It was only after I had ordered the Brooks Select that I discovered the Spa Cycles Nidd. So, almost by by good misfortune, I will soon have a choice of slightly wider saddles to break in. Not an enviable task going on past experience! The Brooks B17 'Select' costs three times as much as the Spa 'Nidd.' The Nidd will certainly have its work cut out to match this particular 'Select'. You can keep your rubber and plastic fetishes. I'm into organic leather now!

I chose the 'Select' for its (hopefully) better quality and thicker and (hopefully) more carefully chosen leather. The forums are full of criticism of Brooks recent production. Broken rails, tension pins and tearing leather are the stuff of nightmares for a cyclist. They might happen many miles from home. And what then? A taxi home? Hiring NASA to get home would be cheaper! Always assuming NASA had a bike rack in the boot. As do taxis in Denmark.

With the Brooks B17 'Select', presentation is really excellent. The protective box forms a drawer within a tastefully coloured and nicely understated sleeve. A nod towards the nostalgia of the once common drawers familiar to Gentlemen's Outfitters. Alas, all gone. To be replaced by the outlandish and ephemeral. All touting mass-produced, high visibility, Chinese rags.

A tin of Proofide and a Brooks tensioning spanner come in the package. So now I have two of each of those as well! I have yet to decide whether the rolled-up Brooks handkerchief, tucked neatly onto the other side of the packaging, is really me.

Brooks/Selle could milk the nostalgia even further with a darker, better quality  cardboard drawer, methinks. Still, it is just the thing for a present. Or a well-earned prize.

The obverse, showing the various manufacturer's codes. The meaning of which are known only to a favoured few at the factory. If I gave away their secrets they'd probably have to kill me. And all that sort of thing.

Its gabardine raincoat, in best quality nylon, is lashed against impending squalls, to the specially-coated rails. I'm not sure whether this is some sort of powder coating but it has an interesting, fine, almost granular texture. Hopefully a rust proof one. While the undersides of a saddle are rarely visible, one does not want to be shocked on later, more intimate acquaintance.

I just hope that no bird drops its load on that perfect, organic leather! My wife has already christened it "on the sea shore." Ripples on the sand for those who are uptake-ly challenged, like. :-)

Imagine touching that perfect face with oily fingers? Or brake dust. One would never forgive oneself! It had better have a coat of Proofide, to protect it from the slings and arrows of this cruel, uncaring world. Preferably before it takes to the road! Rather oddly I received no saddle care instructions. Though I did get a copy of 'The Brooks Bugle.' Which I had already seen online.

From leftt o right: Vetta SL MTB, NOS Brooks 'Professional', Brooks B17 'Narrow' and finally; t'rah! The Brooks B17 'Select'. I hope you like the seaside theme?

Now I am freed from its S&M slavery, I can soak the 'Professional' again. Hopefully to raise the level of the 'park bench' across the back this time. I had no idea what was meant by <cough> "arse hatchet" until now. And there I was thinking I had been missing something.

Before further ado, I gave the 'Select' a good coating of Proofide. Applied with great care using my bare fingers. The top didn't change colour, nor appearance, at all. While the rougher undersides darkened slightly. As if wetted. Those who value 'supersized' need not fret about the modest proportions of the bijou tin of 'Proofide' thus provided. There is more than enough here for the life of a decent, leather saddle, or three. We are not dealing with farmers spraying illegal poisons here: Where if twice as much is enough... then ten times the amount must surely be better!

This thing looks completely different from any other saddle I have ever tried or owned. It is so light coloured and glossy that it is quite difficult to capture with the camera. The top feels and sounds as hard as thin plywood. I'm off to try my new, plywood saddle around the block, right now. Wish me luck!

You don't think it a trifle "sudden", Sir? There's nowt wrong with a bit of bling, lad, as long as it don't get too ostentatious. Where will it all end? 

Well it was blowing a gale so I didn't go far. My sit bones and crutch were still hurting from the last two days and 58 miles on the Professional. It has actually been rather unpleasant to sit on a soft cushion on my well upholstered, computer chair.

First contact with the Select was not promising. It immediately felt hard and unforgiving. I was quickly reminded of my tender sit bones. By the time I had covered the first mile I was actually feeling much better. After two miles it felt like massage therapy. (No, not that kind!) Climbing was particularly comfortable. The B17 felt broad and supportive. No pain at all! After three miles I had completely forgotten the pain which the 'Professional' had caused. Thank you, Dr Brooks! I am cured!

Why had I not bought a B17 in the first place?  Cyclist's vanity? That all saddles must be narrow and hideously plasticy? Or you'll look very silly? The B17, in real life, is hardly wider than the Professional. A bare few millimetres when one is placed over the other. Too early to tell, but I think this is a major breakthrough for me on the saddle front.

I can still remember the first few rides on the Professional. It was like perching on a polished rock. One picked, entirely at random, from a coarse, pebble beach. That was only the beginning! I suffered continuously for (almost) the entire length of its, over-extended, stay.

I wore my most thinly padded shorts, just now, to give the B17 'Select' a proper test. The 'Select' did not feel slippery. Nor even hard after the first mile. Nor uncompromisingly shapeless. I can hardly believe the difference. It's lovely! It also goes with the straps on my Carradice 'Camper.' But at least the Brooks is wonderfully well made and (hopefully) well worth the not-inconsiderable expenditure. It is said that Brooks reject almost as many saddles as they sell. While Carradice sell far more bags than they should have, ideally, rejected.

Desperate, penny-pinching, Brooks wannabes may like to seek out Bike-Components.de online. If you are stumped by German then you can always use Google Translate. But, you may not receive your vital Brooks saddle care leaflet or catalogues in the packaging. You may also find your tasteful Brooks presentation box sleeve is torn. This is why I have removed this German company from my useful cycling links. Saving money is not enough if they let themselves down as badly as this! No self respect means no respect for the customer. I shan't be dealing with them again. I just hope no faults develop in my beautiful saddle!

If you can reach a real bike shop stockist then do try and keep them in business. If you can afford it. But only if they make your purchase seem worthwhile. Nobody is owed a living but a bike shop owes the rider and customer some respect for his hard-won loyalty. It would be so easy to turn on the computer instead.

Is that saddle wearing that trike? Or t'other way around? Suits you, Sir! But will it ride up with wear? Only time till tell, lad. 

Those who prefer to deal with well-oiled British companies may like to take advantage of Spa Cycling's clearance sale of Brooks. The Italian owners have apparently taken umbrage against Spa. For daring to sell alternative leather saddles to their own Brooks. Selle is now denying Spa Cycles any new Brooks stock. This after a 35 year beneficial relationship with the product. In protest against this outrage I shall never buy another Selle saddle ever again. Another Brooks? It rather depends hew well the Nidd turns out. Watch this space! ;-)

Purists (and fellow pedants) will note the continuing lack of handlebar tape. I note the twin computers taking up valuable elbow room on my handlebars. Despite trying all variations of height the new stem is still not right. It's all looking a bit untidy at the moment, isn't it, son? Would you like to sit down? Ta very much.

For those who have missed the rather obvious humour: It relates to the appearance of the new saddle. In profile it looks rather like an old-fashioned, men's cap. Emphasising the character of Andy Cap,the newspaper, cartoon character. There is a linguistic parallel here with trikes. Though I'm not going to spell it out for you.

The image captions above, in italics, should ideally be read with a northern English accent for best effect. These were commonly employed in TV adverts for bread, tea and the like. Where nostalgia for the unspoilt past was often used as the product's only USP.  Not unlike Brooks and Carradice today. Isolated, as I am, from everyday Britain one misses the delights of the very many, regional British accents. Though certainly not the daft TV adverts.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

No comments:

Post a Comment