Now, I could either increase the tension, with the distinct risk of the saddle becoming an unrideable "delta." Leading to steeply forward sloping sit bone support areas requiring a strongly nose-up angle. Or, I could do something much more drastic: i.e. Making holes and lacing the skirts together. For the latter suggestion I must thank Alan, my fellow tricyclist in exile on Fyn.
The beautiful B17 'Special' with its skirts beginning to flare. I found I could easily insert all my fingers between the rails and inner side of the skirts when seated on the saddle. You cannot judge a saddle's working geometry properly just by pressing with your fingers. It needs the full weight of the rider on the sit bone areas to see how the leather is distorting in practice. Even if you, the rider, weigh a skinny 10 stone then you need to reach 140+lbs pressure with your fingers or thumb. Don't take my word for it. Your own hand strength is easily checked by squeezing the bathroom scales!
Note the use of only four lace holes. This allows the lace to be knotted neatly hidden inside the leather saddle cover. Odd numbers of holes (per side) would require the lace be brought under the edge of the skirt or tied outside. Which looks awful in the examples illustrated online. Four holes make an ideal choice if they can cope with the loads without the lace tearing or badly deforming the leather.
Plastic insulating tape was stuck onto the leather below the Brooks badge. Then eyed up from above and below with a straight edge to see if the left and right side badges matched across the saddle. They did, so I chose a strip of wood to mark a horizontal line on the tape at the chosen height from the lower edge of the skirt. I made the line parallel with the top of the saddle. The pliers were then squeezed with the third smallest hollow punch on the pencil line. With the punch just touching the edge of the tape before being pressed. The plier's hole punches are tapered, particularly at the nose, so they distort the weakly adhesive tape as they are pressed home.
I didn't want to mark out the beautiful leather with anything which might prove indelible in the long term. The tape provided the perfect solution and readily took pencil marks. The tape's precision width also provided suitable dimensions for the hole spacing. You may rest assured that I studied my marking out on the tape and its own position very carefully before finally taking the plunge!
I squeezed the skirts together with a borrowed Carradice leather strap over the saddle nose while tying the lace. This avoided needing three hands to get enough tension to pull the skirts in properly. I used a simple reef knot.
When tied together the skirts now act rather like the webs of an inverted 'U' beam. Without the restraining lace the skirts merely flare. Providing almost no resistance to the leather becoming a flat hammock under the rider's weight. Though the cantle plate does provide some resistance to deformation at the rear. I once knew a keen tourist whose B17 saddle was a flat, semicircular, triangular strap from long abuse. I have never seen anything remotely similar. He claimed it was very comfortable.
At £20 (equivalent) the Knipex pliers are better quality than the cheapest available but could do with rather more leverage for the thick Brooks leather. I rotated the entire pliers around the hollow hole punch to sever the leather cores of the holes as I continued to squeeze the handles. This also helped to polish the chamfers evenly.
I deliberately made the holes large enough to take a generously sized lace without fiddling. My thinking being that a larger lace will be much less likely to cut through the leather (like a cheese wire) when under constant tension. Not to mention the countless distortions of the leather by supporting the pedalling rider's weight as they rock from side to side. If the leather shows the least sign of cutting by the lace I shall make four more holes (probably rearward) to spread the tension load over a much greater area. A thicker, round lace will also help. The lace will not contact the rider because the skirts are narrowed to the saddle's original state as purchased.
The B17 'Champion Special' laced and now safely back on my Trykit trike. The "saddle-back" sag is now much reduced after tying. I hope you will agree that the lace and neatly chamfered holes take nothing away from the sheer beauty of Brooks' exquisite design and craftsmanship. The lace holes were deliberately placed directly in line with the lower border detail of the Brooks badge for neatness. If extra rearward holes prove necessary they will be arranged to follow the radius of the chamfered skirts. Pressing inwards on the skirts shows that this is the most effective area for maintaining the saddle's original form. Not only does the sag reduce dramatically but the sit bone support areas rise in sympathy. I have yet to try the modified saddle but will report after tomorrow's ride. I expect it to be much firmer and may have to adjust the nose tilt slightly.
I had to drop the saddle nose by one click but after that it was superb. Firm but supportive and as comfortable as ever. The renewed firmness gave a real sense of speed and efficiency. Very happy indeed!
Happy New Year! :-)