Thursday, October 22, 2009

The "Lady" Finds a Home! (Thoughts on the Brooks B18)

If you have been reading this weblog for a while, you might remember that I had purchased a Brooks B18 "Lady" saddle some time ago, thinking that I would put it on my Pashley. However, the Pashley ended up staying with her native B66S, while the special edition "Lady" remained in its pretty box.

I had tried to fit the B18 on other bicycles as well, but it was not a success. Only now has it finally found a home, upon the Raleigh DL-1 Lady's Tourist. They are a perfect match.

Here is how it looks with the vintage Tourist saddlebag.

View from the back.

The problem I had with the B18 on other bicycles, was that the shape of the saddle conflicted with their frame geometries. I will try to explain the problem: The B18 is a very wide saddle. So wide, that my derriere (which is by no means small) does not cover it sufficiently for unrestricted pedaling on most types of bicycles. As I bring a leg down to pedal, the back of my upper thigh/ lower butt area presses painfully against the stiff side of the saddle, causing extreme discomfort. It's not a matter of the saddle being broken in or not broken in; its very structure causes this problem. Basically, a bicycle frame needs to have a very slack seat tube angle - so that the pedals are positioned considerably forward of the saddle - in order for it to be humanly possible to pedal while sitting on the B18.

On the above photo you can see that the Raleigh DL-1 Lady's Tourist has a very slack seat tube angle. See how the saddle is practically lying back over the rear wheel as opposed to standing straight up above the pedals? That's basically what needs to happen for the B18 to be suitable. With the legs moving down and forward, as opposed to straight down, the butt/thigh area is not in contact with the wide part of the saddle and pedaling does not cause pain. Both my Pashley Princess and my Raleigh Lady's Sports have considerably steeper seat tubes, which is why the B18 did not work with them. However, the Raleigh DL-1 and the "Lady" are a match made in heaven. With the appropriate frame geometry, the width and softness of the B18 are extremely comfortable.

The B18's maiden voyage upon the DL-1 Lady's Tourist. It has stood the test of a 2-hour tour of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, so I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The B18 is truly a gorgeous saddle and can be a dream on the right bicycle.

23 comments:

  1. I am wondering if my B68 is set up right. I have a sharp pain on my left thigh/butt as I pedal. The R side is fine. I ride a 73 Sports. I tilt the saddle slightly up. Thanks

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  2. That certainly is a slack seat tube angle. The two are a perfect match! Super classy.

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  3. Threespeeder - I find my Lady Sports quite sporty, and the B67S I have on it (which is the same width as your B68) feels almost too wide at times as well. What is your sitting position on this bicycle? Are you upright or leaned over? If you are leaned over and have your saddle height similar to the handlebar height, you might want to try a narrower saddle. Otherwise, you can try raising the handlebars to make your position more upright.

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  4. re: Threespeeder--interesting:

    I'm going to assume that your saddle is pointing straight and that you've looked under the leather to make sure that there are no odd protrusions, broken metal or cracks in the leather and that everything about the saddle and clamp is in working order. I'll have to also assume that nothing is pinching your thigh and that you have no existing wound there.

    Having said that, the most likely explanation is that you pulled a muscle or injured a tendon while pedaling or perhaps while stopping/standing up/pushing off. I could be wrong, but my guess is that the saddle is not directly at fault here.

    Perhaps you can post more details and the Blogspot Brooks Brigade will jump to your rescue? :)

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  5. Now that is a lovely bicycle! You're making me regret getting the black Schwalbes for my DL-1. The more I see those cream colored tires, the more I like them.

    I put the most miles on my commuter bike, a 1994 Nishiki Sport XRS, which currently has gumwall hybrid tires on it. Once I get those tires worn out, I'm gonna see if I can find a set of 700c cream colored Schwalbes for that.

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  6. I second Doohickie -- the cream tires are striking on that bike. Will they get dingy though, after a few hundred miles? I have wondered that since I first saw them.

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  7. Trisha - The cream tires get dirty to a point, and then don't seem to go beyond that. I've ridden my Raleigh Lady's Sports for several hundred miles over the course of the summer, including on off-road trails and by the beach. The tires look no different than after the first time I rode around the block.

    Doohickie - What tire width are you looking for? The cream Delta Cruisers do come in 700c, but only in wide sizes. There are also the really nice 700c x 28mm Vittoria Randonneur Cross Tires in cream, check those out!

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  8. Wow... NOW the bike looks complete! That saddle is simply gorgeous as a work of art on its own, but it and the DL-1 are very obviously made for each other.

    Your comments on saddle width and sitting position are really interesting. When I was dithering which Brooks to get for my Mixte, as the handlebars are only slightly higher than the saddle, I was seriously dithering between the B67S and B66S. Getting the Pashley in the meantime with its B66S convinced me the B66S would also suit the Mixte (and it does - very comfortable!).

    A comment re saddle pain on the back of the thighs etc for Threespeeder - you can move your saddle back and forth along its mounting rails; depending on the lengths of your legs and arms you may have to fiddle around a bit to find the perfect spot. What happens when you mount the saddle horizontal rather than tilt it up?

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  9. That really is a lovely bicycle! I have my beady eye on one of those old Raleighs so I'll keep that beautiful saddle in mind. I have big love for your blog, by the way! :)

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  10. That is the same saddle that I got for my Bride's Colt. We noticed the sides flaring out a bit when she rides. So far the distances have been very short so it has been a non issue. I was thinking about lacing the saddle to keep the sides more in place.

    Aaron

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  11. Thanks everyone for your help on saddle adjustment. I think one of the problems is that the break in point has not been reached yet. I had a similar almost identical bike 20 years ago with a lovely broken in Brooks 68, at least it had the two springs in the back so I am assuming it was a B68! My aged saddle is supposed to be broken in "out of the box" and I have about 150 miles on it so far. So anyway I was spoiled from the get go! I have tried adjusting the saddle on the rails. It is currently as far back as it can go so I sit on the seat part and not on the horn. When the saddle is perfectly flat it seems I slide forward on downhill runs thus the slight tip up at the front. By the way I am a male and thus my anatomy may be more comf with a different Brooks. I like the look of the huge three spring jobbie but I guess they don't make that any more. Thanks a lot everyone. I will check out the saddle for damage,sharp edges etc. Had the handlebars raised already but another inch would help though I do try to maintain an upright posture. Thanks!

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  12. Aaron - Not sure whether her problem is the same as mine, but I don't think lacing would help with the issue I was having. The parts that were bothering me are the edges where the narrower part of the saddle transitions to the wider part; the corners where you see the outermost rivets.

    accordingtojane - Thanks! The B18 comes up for very low prices on ebay sometimes if you're looking : )

    Carinthia - I am surprised that you were able to get your mixte so upright. My Motobecane wasn't designed for that and the B66/67 would absolutely not feel right on it. (BTW: the B66 and B67 are the same saddle - only one is designed to attach to old-style seatposts and the other to a modern seatposts.)

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  13. Threespeeder: it's hugely expensive, but they still do make a crazy saddle with lots of springs, check out the Brooks B33.

    The B33 comes stock on the Pashley Roadster, so you can find pictures of mine on this blog.

    I noticed that some Brooks saddles break in right away and some remain stiff as oak after several hundred miles. If you are daring, look up Sheldon Brown's advice on how to quickly break in a Brooks.

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  14. MDI and threespeeder:

    there's also the Brooks B73 triple-sprung saddle, slightly less heavy duty than the B33, and more like a B66/67 with the addition of a third coil spring in the front. (i happen to be selling one on ebay right now).

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  15. Your DL-1 Lady's Tourist is coming along so nicely!! I haven't had to do a thing to my DL-1 Lady's Tourist other than adjust the seat post. I am definitely going to keep those cream colored Schwalbes tires in mind though! oh, that and a chain guard too.

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  16. Thanks RidingPretty! Yup, your DL-1 was definitely in nicer condition than mine. How are your rod brakes - do you ever ride it in the rain?

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  17. Hi Filigree, I've compared a pic of your Mixte with one of mine, and the geometry on the head tube is different - mine is more vertical, which might account for the difference in how upright one sits. With that in mind, your Mixte should be able to provide a more upright position than mine as the headtube slopes toward the rider. I'm thinking of getting a longer stem put in as I find I'm still leaning forward a little more than I want to which can lead to back fatigue in my case.

    (I didn't realise the B66 and B67 were the same - lucky I didn't order the B67 :-)).

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  18. Carinthia - the angle of the photos must be misleading, because my Motobecane actually has a very steep seat tube angle; true roadbike geometry, not even touring. My feet are almost directly under the saddle when I pedal - which is great for accelerating and navigating traffic, but not very comfy for hours of riding. Anything wider than a B17 or Flyer (same saddle, but the Flyer has springs) would not do well on this bike.

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  19. Hi Filigree... i meant the head tube, at the front. You should be able to sit a little straighter than I as it angles back more than mine and puts your handlebars closer to you. My Mixte also has a steep seat tube angle... pretty close to your's. I took it out for an hour or so today with the new saddle and found the B66 pretty comfortable however. The B66 is about 1.25cm or 1/2" wider than the saddle it replaced.

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  20. Filigree...regarding riding in the rain on my DL-1 Lady Tourist. No, it's not at all advisable because of her rod brakes. Luckily my
    bicycle is in very fine condition and I want to keep her that way. No brake conversion jobs are planned!

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  21. PRETTY! I love my b18 - ride on a mondgoose cross bike (crossway 350).

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  22. I have a B18 also, fitted to my scwhinn cream. I had no unpleasent sensations when my saddle was fitted except for the new awareness of my seatbones and that the seat pushed me somewhat more forward - I put a lot more pressure on my hands than with the standard saddle my bike came with. Now the seat has a bit of wear in I no longer consider myself pushed forward

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  23. Could you comment on the "springy-ness" of that particular design? I'm concerned that this saddle won't absorb as much of the rough city streets as, say, a B67S.

    Thanks,
    James

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