Brooks launches lighter, faster Cambium: the C13

Brooks England’s newest saddle, the Cambium C13, is aimed at road riders and represents the company’s return to performance cycling, putting Brooks firmly back “on the rivet,” a phrase that stems from a time when all racing cyclists rode leather saddles.

Brooks Cambium saddles are each made from a vulcanised natural rubber top that follows the movements of the rider for responsive control and all-day comfort. The C13 is finished with a black, organic cotton cover and aluminum rivets. Suspended over a one-piece braided carbon frame, the C13 is light and strong, weighing 150 grams less than the Cambium C15.

cambium 2

cambium 3

  • Length: 275 mm
  • Width: 132 mm
  • Height: 55 mm
  • Weight: 259 g (0.57 pounds)
  • MSRP: $220


Leather saddle roundup: All that’s old is new again

From Bicycle Times Issue #36

leather saddles graphicWhat’s old is new again it seems (aren’t hifi stereos and albums grand?), but what never gets old for serious cyclists is the leather saddle. Prior to Avocet developing the first gel saddle in the 1980s, nearly all saddles sold were leather.

While the company that John Boultbee Brooks founded in 1866 had a dominant hold on the leather saddle market for close to 140 years, newcomers like Selle Anatomica and Rivet entered with a modern approach.

Our resident mileage munchers have been riding various leather saddles for the better part of 2015, on various terrain in various weather conditions. While the basic engineering principles apply to most (adjustable tension for dialing in the proper hammock effect, saddle bag loops), our six saddles each take a slightly different approach to supporting your derriere.

And unlike most saddles, ones made of leather need the noses raised up in order to offset the hammock effect, even the harder models. ~ Ed.

Cardiff Mercia

By Adam Newman

CardiffThe Cardiff saddles may sport the classic English silhouette, but they are made in Taiwan, named after the city in Wales and topped with Australian cowhide. Quite an international affair.

The Mercia is the most elegant of the four models in the Cardiff lineup, with beautiful copper-plated rails and rivets. The traditional saddle bag loops are present in the rear as is a small black name badge. I hate to call it a copy but with the three holes in the center of the leather it bears a very, very close resemblance to a classic Brooks. This is no cheap imitation though. The leather seems to be of high quality. The edges are finely trimmed and the underside is covered with a synthetic layer to protect the leather.

These classic leather saddles require you to earn your comfort, and during my testing I didn’t come close to really breaking it in, something Cardiff says takes hundreds of miles. Even after conditioning the leather with Cardiff’s own conditioner the leather remained as firm as a brick. Rapping your knuckles on it elicits a resounding thwack, like on a piece of wood. I wish I could say otherwise but the Cardiff was about as comfortable as wood, too.

The Cardiff saddle looks fantastic and is well-made, and purists may decry my lack of dedication to the cause, but with so many other choices that are comfortable right out the box, I can’t endure months of discomfort en route to saddle satisfaction.

  • Weight: 625 grams
  • Height: 2.5 inches
  • Rail length: 5 inches
  • Cutout slot length: n/a
  • Length: 11 inches
  • Width: 7 inches
  • Saddlebag loops? Yes
  • Adjustment tool: Hex key and wrench (included)
  • Colors available: Tannic brown, sable black, moss green, white
  • Made in: Taiwan Price: $110, $130

Rivet Cycle Works Independence

By Gary Boulanger

rivetRivet founder Debra Banks likes to ride long distances—750-mile brevets are something she gobbles up like others eat M&M’s—and a couple years after her sweetheart and Selle Anatomica founder Tom Milton passed away from a heart attack while riding in 2010, she departed and launched Rivet in Sacramento, California.

The Independence model is named after the 12,095-foot Pass in Colorado, which includes a 19-mile climb. The 12 mm wide embossed rivets add a nice aesthetic—there are several nice touches on this saddle—and the 5.5-inch cutout slot took the edge off immediately. Unlike the others I tested, the Rivet uses injected molded pieces to connect the chromoly rails, cleverly incorporating saddlebag rails. It also uses a treatment to waterproof the leather, with two flaps on each skirt riveted together to keep the saddle tensioned (hence the name of the company). Like the other saddles on test there are nine rivets connecting the leather to the frame.

At three inches, the Rivet Indy was the tallest of the three I tested, so if you’re replacing your saddle consider the height difference. The Indy also needed its nose raised an inch for its sweet spot. Of the three saddles the Rivet Indy took the longest to break in (300 miles), but remember that all leather saddles get better with age and time, something no gel saddle can boast.

  • Weight: 461 grams
  • Height: 3 inches
  • Rail length: 3 inches
  • Cutout slot length: 5.5 inches
  • Length: 11 inches
  • Width: 6.5 inches
  • Saddlebag loops? Yes
  • Adjustment tool: 4 mm Allen wrench (included)
  • Made in: Taiwan
  • Colors: Black, white, red (tested) burgundy, and limited edition veg-tanned chestnut
  • Price: $195

Brooks Imperial B17

By Gary Boulanger

brooksThe catalog copy from 1890 describes the original Brooks Imperial as “sure preventive to all perineal pressure”; I’d say that’s still correct after 125 years.

Reintroduced in 2008 after a long sabbatical, the Imperial shares the same popular dimensions as the top-selling B17. What sets the Imperial apart and adds to its versatility is the 4-and-one-third inch cutout slot and 36 pre-punched holes, 12 of which I’ve held together by laces provided by Brooks. The company calls this “laced skirts for reinforcement,” and for those looking for a tad more stiffness, it works. The frame is chrome plated, and after seven years of use still looks new.

Like most quality leather saddles, the Imperial has a harsh break-in period. But once my sit bones settled into the sweet spot and the nose was raised to its ideal height for my position, I settled in nicely. The Brooks tension spanner is a bit tricky to use, but important to have on hand after the first few months of riding.

Overall, the Imperial has been nearly perfect. There aren’t many bells and whistles; just consider it a journeyman which works well in all conditions.

  • Weight: 507 grams
  • Height: 2.25 inches
  • Rail length: 2.25 inches
  • Cutout slot length: 4.75 inches
  • Length: 10.7 inches
  • Width: 6.5 inches
  • Saddlebag loops? Yes
  • Adjustment tool: Brooks spanner wrench (included)
  • Made in: Great Britain
  • Colors: Black (tested), honey, brown
  • Price: $135

Selle Anatomica X

By Gary Boulanger

selle anatomicaIn 2007, Tom Milton launched Selle Anatomica as a competitor to Brooks, which had been purchased by the Italian group Selle Royal in 2002. Milton’s design included a nearly 8-inch slot, and riders responded in the positive immediately.

Known for its length and long slotted cutout, the Selle Anatomica X also boasts some of the most generous setback of any saddle I’ve ridden in 25 years (I measured about five inches of saddle behind the end of the rail, compared to 3.5 on the Brooks and a little less than 3 inches on the Rivet).

I initially used this saddle on my repurposed Ibis Hakkalügi after I inflamed my sciatic nerve last fall, and it allowed me to ride again after four painful weeks off the bike. That gargantuan 7.75-inch cutout slot was the real hero for me, allowing enough give to pedal back into shape as I healed. Rails are made from 4130 chromoly, and the frame also includes saddlebag loops.

I like the subtle embossed ‘X’ on the rear, and the break-in period was by far the shortest of my three on test. The Watershed leather is also waterproof, so fear not hearty tourists! Just make sure to keep your 6 mm Allen key on hand to dial in the right tension for your comfort level the first month of riding.

  • Weight: 487 grams
  • Height: 2.5 inches
  • Rail length: 2.75 inches
  • Cutout slot length: 7.75 inches
  • Length: 11.5 inches
  • Width: 6.5 inches
  • Saddlebag loops? Yes
  • Adjustment tool: 6 mm Allen wrench (not included)
  • Made in: u.S.A.
  • Colors: Black (tested), graphite, mahogany, vintage, red, white
  • Price: $159

Fyxation Coachman

By Eric McKeegan

fyxationThe Coachman is a sporty-looking saddle, although at six inches wide, it isn’t as narrow as its profile suggests. Like the Cardiff, it is built from Australian cowhide in Taiwan, The saddle isn’t waterproof, but there is nylon laminated to the bottom of the leather, which should help keep rain and mud from the rear tire from soaking in.

I bit the bullet and forced myself to break in this saddle over the course of a three day tour. Let’s just say I was glad to have a quality chamois. I could tell the shape was good for me, and once I got the angle correct and the tension dialed it, it was an acceptable place to spend the day.

I wasn’t sold on it as an everyday saddle until I happened to grab the bike it was installed on to ride to the store in street clothes. Low and behold, it had broken in and I was perfectly comfortable for the short trip. I’m still up in the air if I’d pick this saddle over a more standard padded saddle for a long tour, but I do know this saddle is mighty cool looking. And some days, we all want to look cool.

  • Weight: 545 grams
  • Height: 2.75 inches
  • Rail length: 3 inches
  • Cutout slot length: n/a
  • Length: 11.5 inches
  • Width: 6 inches
  • Saddlebag loops? Yes
  • Adjustment tool: hex key and wrench (included)
  • Colors available: Brown
  • Made in: Taiwan Price: $100

Velo Orange Model 3 Touring

By Eric McKeegan

velo orangeThose looking closely might notice more than a strong resemblance between this saddle and the Cardiff Mercia in Adam’s review. That is because the Cardiff and Velo orange saddle (and the Fyxation) are built in the same factory.

The Model 3 uses a pebbled finish on the leather and chrome on all the steel hardware. There are a pair of holes on each side of the saddle that are laced together underneath, a nice touch to keep future issues with the sides flaring out at bay.

Much like Adam with the Cardiff, I noticed the Model 3 is very firm. Unlike Adam, I have some history with this saddle (on a Velo Orange bike I reviewed  a year or two ago) and found it much more to my liking out of the box. I didn’t get as many miles on this saddle as the Fyxation, and it hasn’t settled in as a “ride without a chamois” saddle yet, but it is getting there.

A solid nose up posture is helpful, as is a seatpost with a lot of offset. Too little offset and I ended up sitting on the metal brace at the back of the saddle, which is very, very uncomfortable. Overall, it seems like a decent competitor to the B17 in size and intended use.

  • Weight: 565 grams
  • Height: 2.75 inches
  • Rail length: 3 inches
  • Cutout slot length: n/a
  • Length: 11 inches
  • Width: 7 inches
  • Saddlebag loops? Yes
  • Adjustment tool: hex key and wrench (included)
  • Colors available: Brown, black, honey
  • Made in: Taiwan
  • Price: $95

leather saddle careKEEP IT IN SHAPE

Proper care for your leather saddle includes letting a wet saddle air dry versus using a hair dryer. If a tour is going to be an especially wet one, get a cover for it. Follow the instructions on how much tightening is necessary and when, and be sure to use an appropriate saddle treatment as directed (Brooks Proofide, Obenhauf’s Saddle Goop). A popular saying among leather saddle users is “ride ‘til it’s dry, then you apply.”


Worried about someone stealing your prized leather saddle? Here’s some advice from Rivendell Bicycle Works, one of the top-selling companies of leather saddles since 1994: “Use a saddle cover, even a plastic bag, to disguise it. Lock it to the frame with a chain. Use pitlocks. And maybe best of all: Write your name on it or otherwise ruin its resale value, using a woodburner tool or a Sharpie.”


Brooks expands luggage line with Expedition bags

Brooks England is of course best known for its bicycle saddles, but in recent years the brand has expanded well beyond with all manner of accessories that perfectly match the classic style of the bikes that so often bear its saddles.


Norfolk and Suffolk panniers

This pair of front and rear panniers might look like they’re made from a classic cotton canvas material, but they’re actually a lightweight and waterproof synthetic. The material is Bluesign certified, meaning it is manufactured in an environmentally responsible way. They all feature an external pocket as well as stretchy side pockets for water bottles or small items. The Norfolk front panniers hold 10 to 13 liters of cargo each and the Suffolk rear panniers hold 18 to 22 liters. They are built around the Ortlieb QL2 attachment system that features an integrated handle for carrying them off the bike. They are each available in three colors: black, green and dove. The Norfolk sells for €100 each (which is about $109) and the Suffolk is €120 each ($130).


Isle of Wight saddle bag

A classic saddlebag for tools and tubes, the Isle of Wight is made from the same synthetic material as the panniers with genuine Brooks leather accents. It has twin zipper access in each of the three available sizes: 0.8 liters, 1.2 liters and 1.8 liters. Also available in black, green or dove it is made in Italy and sells for €50 to €60 ($54 to $65).


Isle of Skye handlebar bag

Rounding out the package is the Isle of Skye handlebar bag, also made from the Bluesign waterproof material. A great option for carrying the basics with you on the bike and easily taking them with you off the bike, the Isle of Skye attaches with the Ortlieb KlickFix system. The detachable shoulder strap means you can detach it from your bike and take it wherever you need to. It holds approximately 9 liters of gear and retails for €145 ($158). It is only available in the dove color.


Review: Brooks Cambium saddle


One thing is for sure, this isn’t your father’s (or grandfather’s) Brooks saddle. The Cambium is a whole new line for the storied British marque that combines Old-World materials with modern construction and style.

Unlike virtually every other Brooks saddle ever made, the Cambium line is not made from leather. It’s even vegan if you want to get technical about it. The base is made from natural, vulcanized rubber that gives is a bit of flex and give without the patience of the normal Brooks break-in period required.


It’s then covered with a layer of organic cotton that has a distinct tweed charm and is totally waterproof. No more rushing for the rain cover for your precious Brooks. Below the cotton is a die-cast aluminum substructure and steel rails. It’s then topped with a set of decorative rivets to recall the classic Brooks style. In all it’s a remarkably handsome package—one of the best-looking saddles I’ve ever seen.


Unlike those leather Brooks saddles, the Cambium is designed to be comfortable right out of the box. There is no maintenance required or special care needed. The shape is designed to mimic the classic B17, possibly the most-loved saddle of all time.

Now, I can’t say what will be comfortable for you, but in my experience the Cambium does sacrifice a bit of plushness for style. There is no padding on that rubber base, so while it does have some give it is still a fairly firm perch. The shape however is wonderful, perfect for spirited rides that fall somewhere between racing and cruising.


As advertised it’s been set-it-and-forget-it. I haven’t had to clean it or adjust it in any way. While it looks fast, it isn’t for weight weenies, ringing up the scale at 415 grams.

The Cambium is available in the C17 model pictured ($160), as well as a C17s for “short”, meaning it’s a little better suited for the female anatomy. There is also a C17 model with a cutaway, and there is now a C15 model that mimics the shape of the more racy B15 leather saddle.



Second World Cycle Race starts March 1


There are a lot of races that bill themselves as the “toughest”, but none can hold a candle to the World Cycle Race, a wild ride around – you guessed it – the entire planet.

The 18,000-mile (or more) route is entirely up to the rider, and contestants can choose to ride east or west from the starting point in London. There are no stages or checkpoint. The route is entirely up to you. There will be a small ceremonial ride through London before racers toe the line for the official start at noon.


While countless men and women have circled the Earth by bike and set numerous records along the way, the first mass-start World Cycle Race was held in 2012 with Englishman Mike Hall taking the win in 107 days, setting a record for unsupported circumnavigation. Only three of the nine starters completed the ride.

Brooks of England is hosting a pre-race celebration at its B1886 boutique in London tomorrow night, February 28, and a few racers, including Hall, will be on-hand to answer questions and inspire your own tour. There is a good chance several of the riders will be riding Brooks saddles, and the brand released a special edition World Cycle Traveler for the 2012 edition of the race.

Immagini 2268

Want to get in on the action? The 2015 edition starts April 4, 2015. You can sign up now. Maybe I need to clear my calendar…




Riding L’Eroica with Brooks


The white gravel crunches pleasantly underneath your steel frame as you roll over the beautiful Tuscan countryside where hilltops are dotted with ancient villas, vineyards, and small villages, like tiny fortresses built from stone against the blazing Italian sun. Passing and being passed alike by the colours and shapes of times gone by, you hardly need squint to imagine days when giants like Coppi and Bartali travelled these same roads. You challenge yourself up another epic climb, and find relief in the friendly hospitality of event volunteers, waiting for you and the other participants with much-needed refreshments. You made it to L’Eroica.

So began the description of L’Eroica that accompanied the invitation to attend as a guest of Brooks England, one of the main sponsors of the ride. Since prepping a story about this event for issue #11 (“Biking for Heroes” by Enrico Caracciolo), I’d been intrigued by this rolling costume ball in the Chianti region of Italy, and now I had a chance to go. Heck, it’s my birthright, after all.

Read on to learn more about this beautiful ride…

Back to Top