Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Choosing an Upright Saddle: Brooks B72 vs Brooks B66

The Brooks saddles most typically fitted on upright bicycles are the B72 and the B66 (the B67 is the same model as the B66, only made for modern seatposts). Having ridden on both, I like each of them very much and cannot say that one is "better" than the other. For me it depends on the bicycle - or more specifically, on my experience of the bicycle. 

I had a brown Brooks B66 S ("S" indicates the shorter, women's version) on my previously-owned Pashley Princess, which I rode for over a year. And I recently bought the same saddle for my vintage Gazelle

I have Brooks B72 saddles on two of my current bicycles: a brown one on my Royal H. mixte, and a black one on my Bella Ciao 3-speed. (I have also owned several vintage B72s, but will leave those out of this discussion). 

[image compiled from brooksengland.com]

To get a good sense of the differences in dimensions, I've compiled the specs from Brooks into a single chart.  You can see that the B72 is very slightly wider than the B66 models (though a 4mm difference is negligible). The B72 is a unisex saddle and does not come in separate male and female versions; its length is in between the male and female B66. The B72 is lighter and has less height to it, because its springs are tighter and smaller than the springs on the B66. Unlike the B66 models, the B72 is available in black and brown only. 

In terms of experiencing the saddles, the main differences are the springs, the shape, and the texture. The B66 has large springs that provide quite a bit of suspension. The texture of the saddle's surface is pebbled. And the edges - including the sides and the nose - are rounded.  To me, these features make the B66 particularly comfortable on a bolt-upright, heavy city bicycle. The substantial springs provide excellent cushiness when most of my weight rests on the saddle. The pebbled texture keeps me from sliding around. And the rounded edges make it easier to slide off the bicycle when dismounting - which is convenient when making frequent stops in the city. On the other hand, when I try the B66 on sportier bicycles (with lower handlebars and steeper geometry), I find some of these comfort features distracting: The springs are too much and the pebbled texture is annoying when I am always shifting on the saddle.

In comparison to the B66, the B72 seems like a more versatile saddle to me. The B72's springs are tighter and smaller - still providing suspension, but not to the extent that it interferes with a more forward lean. The surface of the B72 is smooth and the edges are squarely tapered - which I find more comfortable for long distance cycling, during which I slide around on the saddle more, but get off the bike less frequently. 

While both saddles are great for upright bicycles, for me the B72 works better on the more sporty variety, whereas the B66 works better on the super-relaxed ones. As they say, your mileage may vary.  If you have tried both models and have a preference for one over the other, please share your experiences.

38 comments:

  1. Hi Velouria, this was the dilemma I faced when buying a saddle for my mixte last year. I eventually when with the B66S and have no regrets. The springs provide a far nicer ride than a standard saddle. I do find I move around on it a fair bit though and even now am still tinkering to find the 'perfect' setup for the saddle in terms of angle and where it sits on the seatpost.

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  2. Yes very helpful!
    I just contacted Bryan at Royal H and he is going to make a custom bike for me. I will still want to be seated upright but am looking for something a bit more "sporty" than my Workcycles. I am certain he will be up to the task. I have learned quite a lot from you by reading this blog. It is amazing that you know so much about bicycles and yet you only began riding in the Spring of '08. You are a quick learner! You have really awakened an old love of bicycles in me. I am very excited about the Royal H. Any thoughts about stainless steel frames?

    best,

    JimP

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  3. Thanks for posting this. I've been going back and forth on getting a Brooks and then on which one to get.

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  4. Thanks for the info. I am in the market for a Brooks saddle, but have not decide which to purchase. Your experience with each saddle is invaluable towards my final decision.

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  5. Funny...the Brooks saddles here are a newish B-67s on a 1960 Hercules sports, and a vintage B-72 from 1980 mounted on a DL-1 Tourist of that same year.

    I give the edge for cushion to the B-67s too, but the B-72 is so wonderfully broken in that it's nearly a wash between the two. Different seat rail mounts prevent us from doing a swap and comparing; the Hercules has a modern alloy post as the original chrome one was far too short for proper extension.

    Herself finds that even with the pebbled finish on the B-67s, it's still rather slippery, due to still being somewhat new. About how long did you find it took for the saddle to wear in?
    It has been properly treated with proof-hide and kneaded in.

    Corey K

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  6. As far as angle goes, I like to tilt the noses on my upright saddles up quite a bit, or else I slide forward. The angle looks a little scary when the bicycle is in profile, but it feels great while cycling.

    JimP - Oh wow, how exciting to hear that! Stainless steel frames are gorgeous, perhaps a little too much so for me. But if you are brave enough I think they are a great idea. I will be jealous of your bicycle, looking forward to seeing the finished result!

    Corey K - "seat sandwich". That is how I have my B72 mounted on modern seat posts.

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  7. Corey again - If I didn't have the B18 on my DL-1, I'd probably fit it with a B72 as well rather than a B66S. I don't really have a good explanation as to why; it's just a subjective feeling of appropriateness. Despite its slack seat tube, the DL-1 is actually a much "sportier" bicycle than either the Gazelle or the Pashley, so perhaps that is the reason.

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  8. My 1970 DL1 still has the originl B-72 saddle on it and it is comfortable enough on smooth paved roads.
    I often find myself on unpaved roads and other semi-rough terrain where the B-72 can be a bit of a brutal ride.
    The B-135 has my caught my attention. I know it looks excessively sprung, but I like the vintage aesthetic and a cushy ride is what I am looking for.
    My only issue in replacing the B-72 is that a new shiny saddle won't have the patina to match the DL1.

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  9. I have a B72 mounted on my Pashley Roadster - without a "seat sandwich" - and now that I know what they actually are and what they do - I will be replacing my seatpost with a micro-adjust ASAP.

    The splines that locate the angle of the B72 are in what feel like 6 degree increments - a HUGE difference, for my anatomy, from one position to the other.

    Other than this small inconvenience, I LOVE this saddle on this bike.

    For the record, I'm also using a Nitto Technomic 40mm length stem and 54cm Albatross bars. These bits transform the Roadster, I don't know why they're not standard equipment...

    Thanks for the info!

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  10. So here's a weird problem, possibly related to the B67s on both my city bikes: any mid-length coat will hook over the seat while I'm riding and cause me to get stuck when it's time to stop - when I jump off the seat, I literally get hung up on it and can't put my feet on the ground! It's scary and has caused a couple of near crashes. Anyone else have this problem and know if it's specific to the saddle?

    So far I've solved it with a coat that I can unzip a little from the bottom, essentially turning it into a short coat while I ride (also the world's most perfect bike coat in other ways - the Patagonia Tres Parka, I have no connection with Patagonia, just really in love with the way it solves so many problems of riding to work).

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  11. I have a B66s on my Hercules, and LOVE it. It's the most comfortable thing ever. But I had an older B72 on my mixte, and it was the most painful thing for me! I tried eveyr possible angle and still could not make it work for me. Maybe it was due to it being a second hand (or third or fourth, who knows) saddle? I replaced it with a B68s, and am much happier. It as the same top as the B66s, but without the springs.

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  12. Forrest Lee Causseaux - If you want a heavier sprung saddle, there is also the B33. The Co-Habitant has it on his Pashley and loves it. He is around 200lbs and it both supports him and cushions.

    Nina - Not that I am "glad" you are having this problem, but I am relieved that I am not the only one. The same thing happens to me with pea-coats that have a slit up the back and with very short skirts or very long tunics. I think it's dangerous and I was especially freaked out by the saddle catching things when I first started cycling. But no matter who I spoke to about this, no other women seemed to be having this problem and I felt that I must be a special sort of klutz to be experiencing it. The only way I've been able to solve this, was to not wear clothes that cause this problem. I get off my loop-frame bikes by jumping off to the side, and if my coat were to get caught on the saddle it would be a disaster.

    Amy - the older saddles can be either very comfortable or very uncomfortable... depending on how similar your (pardon) "butt imprint" is to the previous owner : )

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  13. Nina - I've had that problem too! It's happened to me with both coats and skirts. The other semi-related problem that I've had is that whenever I wear pants that have back pockets, the pocket always gets caught on the nose of the saddle whenever I hop up on it.

    Velouria - I had figured that is was something along the lines of dissimilar "butt imprints" :) I would be curious to try out a new B72 to see how different it is to my former one.

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  14. When you were building up the Royal H., you asked for advice about which saddle to put on it. What made you decide to go with the B72 over, say, a Flyer or B17? (I ask this as I consider components for my own mixte build.)

    This is actually my first comment to your site, although I've been reading faithfully since I discovered it a few months ago. Thanks so much for your wonderful, thought-provoking posts. I've learned so much about bikes from your blog!

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  15. I've got an old B66 on the DL-1. Its in nice shape and I like it very much for the purpose, i.e. relatively short rides of typically less than 10 or 12 miles around town. Great saddle.

    Would love to put a B17 Special on one of my road bikes and ride the full length of Paris Roubaix.

    Forrest, the B135 goes beyond the vintage aesthetic into possible steam punk territory. Which is not a bad thing IMO. And if it takes a big man to cry, I would say it takes an even bigger man to bottom out the springs on a B135.

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  16. Cara - I tried the mixte with the B17 and it felt too narrow. The same was true with the Flyer on my vintage mixte last year, but I wasn't experienced enough to realise it at the time and didn't know why my saddle kept hurting me after months of riding that bike. Also, while at first I thought the springs on the Flyer were fine, I changed my mind when I began cycling faster and more aggressively - the springs would toss me up in the air over bumps and pot holes!

    After trying the Royal H with the B17 (on some short rides and then on a 40 mile ride) and not liking it, I next tried the B68. It felt much more comfortable than the B17, but "weird"; just didn't seem to feel right with the bike. So finally I tried a B72 and within the first 5 minutes I knew it was "it". I simply forgot all about the saddle as soon as I started cycling, and that's what made it clear that it was the perfect fit. Thankfully I was able to return the B68, and the B17 was borrowed from one of my roadbikes, so no money lost. But I am still regretting buying that Flyer for my vintage mixte last year!

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  17. forrest lee: there's also a heavier sprung saddle that's not as wide as the B33, which is *huge*. it's the B73, and it has the same size leather top as the B72, except that it has triple coil springs, two in back and one in front. my wife has it on her dutch bike:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/4788123266/

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  18. JimP - Henry Cutler (WorkCycles) had a short discussion with "Feddo" about a stainless steel version of his Fr8 some time ago. Read here:
    http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2010/07/12/how-the-amsterdam-papa-rolls/#comments

    It seems titanium would be preferable, and even more expensive.

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  19. Amy - funny, I do have the pocket problem too. Haven't really solved that one yet except to do a slightly embarrassing scoop dance to get back on the seat. :)

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  20. I have a 30 year old Brooks B72 saddle on my Raleigh Sports (the original saddle from 1968) and I love it. It's extremely comfortable! I got a chance to sit on a newer Brooks saddle for the first time this past weekend while using Dottie's Betty Foy. I was so excited to see that my 30 year old Brooks feels just as great as a newer model. That's quality and durability!

    My 78 Raleigh Grand Prix also has the original Brooks saddle on it and from what I can tell it's what they call a 'racing saddle' and may be an L15. It's vinyl and padded. I also find it extremely comfortable.

    S.

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  21. On my commuter I ride Velo Orange "Milan" handlebars and the Gyes/Velo Orange "Parkside" saddle, which is similar to the Brooks B67--which is a B66 with a double-rail rather than a four-rail undercarriage. (This means that the B67 can be used as-is on modern seatposts with built-in clamps, while the B-66 or B-72 requires the use of an adapter or to be used on an old-fashioned plain-tube seatpost.) I've ridden the B67 and B72, as well as the Ideale 6, which was similar to the Brooks B72.

    What I'd really like for commuting is a saddle with the B-72s "loop" rails, as I don't feel I need the springiness of the B66/67 or Parkside. I'd also like for it to have two rather than four rails, and for the top to have the same width as the B66/67 or Parkside. I'd also like for it to have the length of a men's saddle, but to have the down-turned front of the Brooks B-18 "Lady" saddle so I could wear skirts easily, altough the rails and width are more important. (I can ride a saddle while wearing a skirt.) And I'd like for it to have the kind of saddle bag loops found on the B17.

    For now, I'm riding the Parkside, as I got it cheaply and the bike (from which I had a saddle stolen) spends lots of time parked on the streets. As it's not used for long rides, I find the seat's cushiness tolerable.

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  22. Amy, Nina and Velouria: I have had the same problem when riding in skirts or longish coats. By the way, it's not just a "girl thing": Back when I was the "before" photo, I sometimes rode to work in a jacket that caught onto the nose of the saddle. And I've had the back pockets of pants do the same thing.

    I like your solution, Nina. I might take a coat to a tailor and have a zipper sewn into the rear. (I still can't sew worth a damn!) You might also want to try the Brooks B18 "Lady" saddle, which has a nose piece that curls down. I had one but sold it because it's wider than I like.

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    Replies
    1. I know this is years too late, but don't put a zipper in the back of your coat where it will scuff both you and your beloved saddle. Have a vent pleat put in, lined with some attractive fabric, and you will not have the problem of either catching yourself on the saddle or gouging everything with a zipper.

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  23. As an afterthought, I took another look at the 1980 B-72 on my roadster a few minutes ago, and it is pebble-textured on top, with rounded edges. Hmmmm.

    That would explain your reticence to discuss the vintage ones, Velouria!

    I too occasionally catch my back pocket on a saddle, but never on one of the Brooks models.

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  24. FrtsB:
    Titanium is not an option. Odd that in the discussion SS is supposed to Increase the weight of the bike. Not what I have read at all:

    http://www.pr-inside.com/stainless-steel-feel-the-steel-r2230987.htm

    best,

    Jim

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  25. and here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bike/2257726621/

    best,

    Jim

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  26. I also have that long tunic and short skirt problem with the saddle on my Retrovelo, which is B67s. It is a drag and also rather more attention getting than is desirable, since I generally have to hike up my skirt to unhook it. I haven't had any near crashes with it, but it does makes me feel like an idiot and blush. It doesn't happen with swingier clothes but does with pencil minis and a-lines.

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  27. Velouria - I did see a B33 on eBay that was solid black, seat, frame, and springs. Unfortunately I missed that auction but in doing so I decided to look at the Brooks website and found the B135. It brings fond memories of my old 1897 Crescent which had a very similar double action seat. (may its Victorian soul rest in peace – incinerated in a house fire – nothing burns quite like hundred year old wooden rims!).
    I haven’t an issue with a saddle carrying weight. I am just a touch over six feet but weigh only 170-5 depending on the amount of pizza just eaten.
    I have my mouth set for a B135 at this point…and now a pizza.
    I had not thought about my long coat and coil springs. Hopefully my saddle bag will solve that possible issue.

    Bif - Indeed the B135 does touch on the Steampunk aesthetic. I had not thought of it that way, but I give it a plus for that as well!

    somervillain - Yes, I saw the B73 and wondered about the stability. With three coil springs does it increase the amount of sway? Absolutely gorgeous bicycle too!

    Here is my pride and joy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11656570@N07/4999636498/

    Sorry Velouria, I kept a picture of Co-Habitant’s DL1 next to mine for a few days to decide on cream tires and just could not tear myself away from my old black ones.

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  28. forest lee: your raleigh is a beauty!

    as for the B73, i've never really felt any lateral play. i suppose if you were racing, or a lot heavier (i'm 6' and 165 lb), i might feel some lateral movement, but for the few times i've ridden my wife's bike, i've enjoyed the saddle. it's definitely cushier than a B67 (which I have on my DL1), despite having almost the same footprint (or should i say "buttprint").

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  29. Like many other commenters, I'm so grateful for these comparisons. I sort of like the B17 on my single speed Abici, because its narrowness and lack of suspension gives an incentive to lift myself out of the saddle and pedal more energetically at least part of the time (using the saddle to balance with more than sit on). That's good practice and a nice change, as it's impossible for me on the Pashley and feels unnecessary on the wildly comfortable Betty. But the B17 is very hard and narrow compared with the cushy B66/67. So far I haven't ridden for more than an hour on the Abici, and wouldn't want to unless I change to a springy, wider saddle. Does the B72 squeak less than the B66/67? I wondered if Abici etc go for the unsprung saddle for the sleek elegance and simplicity not only in looks but in sound.


    By the way, I was pondering the whole unicrown fork thing on the Abici granturismo, and decided that I actively like it! I don't mean that I'd want to see it on other lugged bikes, but I think the smooth lines suit the simplicity and curviness of the bike. So I wonder if it was an aesthetic decision for them as much as or more than a budget one. I do agree with what many were saying about the cranks, though. And I have mixed feelings about the coaster brake, which I'm being very slow to get the hang of, so (for now) am just using the Abici on bike paths, not in traffic.

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  30. Hello, I have not posted on this site before. I have a B67 on my made to measure touring cycle. I put a spirit level on the saddle to get it level. My saddle is a pre-aged one. I also applied Neatsfoot oil underneath where my 'sit-bones' rest. After my last 45 mile ride I now have two nice dimples in my saddle

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  31. It might just be me but Brooks saddles look incredibly hard and potentially painful; haven't (I don't think) tried one.

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  32. I love Brooks B67s but the price keeps escalating even though the exchange rate hasn't. I've found that the Gyes Parkside is a pretty good substitute and very close in quality to Brooks. It seems to take a bit longer to break in. I bought one in very light Natural Tan for about $65 and it looks beautiful. Gyes also makes the saddles for Velo Orange.

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  33. I just picked up a used and pebbled B72 for $30, including a tin of proof.
    haven't mounted it yet.
    Thanks for the review/opinion.
    =]Robin

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  34. I'm cycling to and from work as often as possible, an hour each way on a Gazelle Basic. This has the Selle Royal which does lead to a bit of saddle-soreness. Would it be worth upgrading to a Brooks? Or just wait for some callouses to develop? The £70 or so needed is a bit on the expensive side for me...

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  35. This is a good post, realise its pretty old, but as good a place as any to provide some quasi-evangelical feedback on Brooks saddles. 12 years usage distilled below. If you've never experienced discomfort while cycling you
    probably don't need one - otherwise please read on.

    The Dutch Gazelle
    12 years ago, when living in Amsterdam (those were the days...), I picked up a 'tweedehands' Gazelle touring bicycle. The bike was immaculate but the seller had fitted a clapped out Brooks B66 saddle. My first thought was to throw it away but after riding it for the next few weeks I was overcome with enlightenment...

    The Brooks saddle
    I've always cycled as a form of transport (and weekend rambles to nice places with stops at the pub to refuel). However I'd never been comfortable with rides of more than about 1 hour in the saddle (I'd get pain down my right leg). To help I'd tried various saddles (wide/narrow/sprung/ergo?) and various bikes (the low point was a bike with rear suspension). But nothing helped. With this old, clapped-out, slightly-saggy and generally past-it's-sell-by-date saddle I found I could ride longer distances for the first time in my life without pain! This was such a revelation I found out everything I could about Brooks saddles then splashed out on a fully-sprung double-rail B67. I've had the B67 for 12 years now - as strong as new - this has enabled me to start cycling 'normally' culminating in a two week, 50 mile a day tour through Northern France (Normandy/Brittany) with a cycling buddy.

    The (my) Medical opinion
    The Brooks has moulded to the shape of my arse (or 'sit bones'). From this I have a clear visual picture of where my previous cycling problems had come from. There is a visibly deeper indentation on the right side of the saddle and also the saddle has 'twisted' down on the right side by about 0.5 cm. From this I can see that my 'sit-bones' are not symmetrical
    and the saddle has moulded to my shape. This has answered many questions regarding on-going niggling back pain I've had over the years (i.e. sitting down for long periods on office chairs with unsymmetrical sit-bones). Now on the bike I feel totally connected and can ride all day (if I had the time to do this anymore...). By the way, I'm relatively normal in ther respects, tall, slim with both legs the same length etc.

    The B66 vs. B67
    My preferred riding position is handlebars equal/slightly lower (never higher) than saddle with weight evenly balanced 50/50 between saddle and handlebars (a kind of 'balanced arch' where I can still see what's around me and 'smell the flowers' as I cruise along i.e. Not head-down grinding and not sit-up-read-the-newspaper, or at least this is how I visualise it...). I found the B66 a little too wide and more suited to higher handlebar position. The B67 is slightly
    narrower and works perfectly or me. If I was to buy another I'd get the B67 single-rail which is compatible with micro adjust seatposts. (but would it be as bombproof?) Maintenance wise you don't need to look after these much other than the occasional application of 'proofride'.

    I now have one bike (Gazelle) and one saddle (Brooks) and after all the years of effort to get here I see no reason to change either!

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  36. I had a B72 on a Raleigh Sport and it was torture, bruising the end of my spine...until I raised the seat and gave myself the leg length that improved my entire ride. Comfort is not always seated where you assume it is. Pardon the puns.

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  37. Thank you for your comparison! I am building a bike for a friend of mine and we have been going back and forth about this. Now we can make a much more informed decision.

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