Brooks Saddle Experiment

22 04 2011

Untreated B-17 Narrow Imperial...

In the past I’ve gone with the factory approved breaking in plan for my Brooks saddles – a generous application of Proofide leather treatment followed by a lot of riding. That worked fine as I was in no rush and the saddles were pretty comfortable right out of the box. However, the last 3 Brooks saddles I’ve received were much harder than the previous ones. I started to investigate some faster break in techniques. Some of the stuff I came across online was pretty radical – including soaking in motor oil or neatsfoot oil. Both oils promised very fast break in at the cost of a big mess and the leather dye coming off on my clothing. I decided I would try a hybrid methodology to see if I could get the best of both without having to wait as long for the leather to soften.

Very stiff even with cut out...

I started by totally loosening off the tension bolt.

Rails and skirt lacing...

I left the skirt lacing alone.

A generous application of Proofide...

I then applied a generous amount of Proofide to the top of the saddle and rubbed it in by hand. I used a hairdryer to warm the leather and aid in the leather treatment soaking in.

Profide has soaked in and dried...

I let the saddle sit in the sun and allowed the Proofide to “dry”.

Neatsfoot oil applied to underside only...

Then I applied neatsfoot oil to the entire underside of the saddle being careful not to let it run out the cut out and onto the top surface.

Proofide buffed and 1st application of neatsfoot oil done...

I let the neatsfoot oil soak in and buffed the Proofide on the top of the saddle.

Note dark areas of saddle where neatsfoot oil has soaked in...

I wasn’t satisfied with the effect of the first neatsfoot oil treatment so I applied two more with a focus on the rear part of the saddle. Again I was careful to keep the neatsfoot oil on the bottom of the saddle only.

Brooks lacing porn...

I allowed the neatsfoot oil to soak in overnight.

Final product after 3rd application of neatsfoot oil to underside...

After the 3rd application the leather was noticeably softer, but still not as soft as a fully broken in Brooks saddle. I decided that was enough acceleration for now and will ride the saddle for a while and see what happens. So far the dye on the saddle seems to be staying put. I’m hoping the Proofide on the top surface sealed things in to keep the oil from coming all the way through the saddle. We’ll see!

I was happy enough with the initial results to treat one of my rock hard standard B17s as well. I’m putting that saddle on our Bike Friday tandem.

I can’t promise anything so please don’t follow this plan if you can’t afford to ruin your Brooks. If you do follow this plan remember you can always apply more neatsfoot oil later if you want to get the saddle softer faster so be conservative at first. Once the neatsfoot oil is on the leather you can’t take it back if you go too far.