What makes a Brooks saddle a Brooks saddle?
The question is worth posing in the light of the decision by the now Italian-owned bastion of British design to produce a carbon-railed iteration of its Cambium saddle, itself a thoroughly modern entity.
With its long nose, flat surface, slender profile – and, crucially, a vulcanised rubber base and cotton cover – the Cambium is already a radical departure from the leather saddles on which the brand made its name.
The C13 pushes the envelope further, by introducing a carbon rail to proceedings. So which elements of a traditional Brooks saddle have to remain for it still to be regarded as such?
“That’s a good question,” Ugo Villa, product manager at Brooks concedes. “Much heated debate was had internally regarding the rivets and the nameplate.”
The final decision was to keep both; one with which we cannot help but agree. Surely these are non-negotiable elements of any Brooks saddle?
The aforementioned carbon rail is of greater functional importance. It swoops elegantly beneath the vulcanised rubber base and attaches to it with five rivets: four at the back and one in the centre of the nose. The time-honoured phrase “on the rivet’ still applies to the C13, and has supplied Brooks with a neat marketing gambit: #ontherivet.
“The challenge was to build a rail with an organic shape strong enough to interact with the rubber top,” Villa explains. “Usually carbon rails are paired with a synthetic plastic structure (like Fizik saddles) that is less flexible than rubber. Rubber is a natural material that flexes a lot and this can totally change how the mechanical forces are applied to the rail.”
We return, again, to rivets. Brooks faced a further, self-imposed challenge by their own insistence on connecting base and rail in the traditional method. Most manufacturers use glue.
So how does all this translate to the performance of the saddle?
“Specifically, regarding riding performance, the C13 performs like our other Cambium saddles, which is also to say in a similar way to our leather saddles,” Villa maintains.
A different method of obtaining the same result? The object of the C13 is to offer the shock absorbing qualities of the ‘hammock’ design typical of Brooks’ leather saddles. Rivets and all.
High quality bikes deserve high quality cover