Design Moment: Brooks B17 saddle, 1882

Each saddle takes three days from start to finish and production is still located in Birmingham

Brooks B17 saddle: on fan sites riders talk about cycling up to 1,000kms to soften the leather and truly get the perfect personalised shape.

Brooks B17 saddle: on fan sites riders talk about cycling up to 1,000kms to soften the leather and truly get the perfect personalised shape.

 

Some bicycle parts have evolved beyond recognition since the first bone shakers, but one has remained the same – the Brooks B17 saddle.

First patented in 1882 it was designed by John Boultee Brooks a young man who had moved to Birmingham from the countryside to set up shop making bridles and harnesses. He was an early bike rider who sought to improve his bicycle’s wooden seat and his Brooks B17 appeared in the Brooks catalogue for the first time in 1898 – “hogskin or hide” – and has changed little in design since.

Still made in Birmingham, each saddle takes three days from start to finish with craftworkers beginning by moulding the 5.5mm thick hide into the the leather top. This is is attached to a nose piece by rivets and to a metal cantle plate at the rear.

It’s a saddle that needs be broken in, to mould itself into the shape of the rider’s backside – on fan sites riders talk about cycling up to 1,000kms to soften the leather and truly get the perfect personalised shape. In his superb book It’s All About the Bike, Robert Penn assembled a bike from the best parts in production for a 40,000km around-the-world cycle. He chose a B17, noting that in an age of planned obsolescence “you have then a product that improves with use. This is an anomaly.”