Brooks England, the traditional leather bicycle saddle maker, is one of the most iconic and legendary bicycle brands. Its products are the epitome of style and luxurious comfort.
Brooks still makes leather saddles in Smethwick in the West Midlands using the same tools and processes first developed when the company founded in 1889, and they are still very much made by hand.
It’s now owned by part of a group of companies including Selle Royal and Fizik and this ownership has coincided with a significant expansion of the Brooks product range. It makes much more than just leather saddles and the fortunes of the company have prospered over the years thanks to the surge of interest in cycling and a wider audience, many appreciative of cycling's history and heritage.
More than just leather saddles, the Brooks 2017 range offers modern vulcanised saddles, helmets, bags, bar tape, tools, helmets and much more. Here then is an overview of the Brooks product range.
The Cambium is the newest saddle in the Brooks range. Launched in 2014 it ushered in a new approach to saddle construction for the British company, one utilising modern details fused with the same basic structure as one of its leather saddles. It’s also made in Italy, not England.
Instead of leather stretched over the metal rails, a vulcanised natural rubber and cotton canvas textile upper was created that still offers the comfy hammock buttock cosseting but without the long breaking-in period of the leather saddles, so it’s immediately comfortable. It’s lighter too, the lightest Brooks saddle ever made, especially if you choose the carbon fibre rail version that is available.
The Cambium is available in a range of choices. There’s the C19 C17, C15 and C13 which vary by width - the C13 is the narrowest, the C19 is the widest.
The C17, C15 and C13 are available in a ‘carved’ edition which features a cutaway channel down the centre of the saddle for relieving pressure in the perineal region.
The C13 also comes in three widths: 132, 145 and 158mm in each of the standard and carved versions. Plenty of choice then.
Prices range from £110 up to £160 for carbon fibre rails.
The B17 is the iconic Brooks leather saddle, the flagship model in its range. It was the saddle that started it all, first introduced in 1890 and it really hasn’t changed much in that time.
Brooks still sources naturally and slowly raised cows to produce the 5mm thickness required for durability. Only the best will do for its saddles and the high quality of finish that makes a Brooks saddle such a desirable product.
It’s one of the favoured choice of touring, Audax and long distance cyclists. A piece of leather stretched across a metal frame provides a hammock for your bum and flexes as you pedal, while the leather softens with age and conforms to suit the shape of the owner. A Brooks leather saddle is very much a saddle for life.
This ‘breaking in’ period is a legendary right of passage for all Brook saddle owners. The leather softens and wears to confirm to your bum, and the saddles understandably become highly prized possessions. Provided they are looked after and proofed against rain, they can and do last many many years.
The B17 Standard kicks off the range at £90 but you can save some weight with the B17 Special Titanium for £185.
The B15 Swallow is a reincarnation of a saddle first patented in the 1930s and successfully reintroduced a few years ago. It has a narrower and longer profile aimed at sporty riding, while scalloped sides improve thigh clearance.
The saddle is made in the same way as the B17, but the original had the underside hand stitched together, later replaced by rivets for the production version. It’s a lot lighter than a B17 but it’s still heavier than any other race saddle.
The B15 Swallow is available with chrome rails for £135 and titanium rails will set you back £230.
Some cyclists find the B17 too wide so for those that prefer a narrower saddle, Brooks developed the Swift. It was billed as the “youngest gentleman’s racing saddle in the Brooks range.”
The Swift is 150mm wide and is available with steel (510g) or titanium rails (390g) and costs from £110.
If the hammocky comfort of the stretched leather saddle isn’t enough for you, Brooks offers a number of saddles with springs. The Flyer is a classic sprung saddle ideal for touring and long distance cycling and is available in a women’s version, the Flyer S.
The Flyer is based on the B66 Champion that was first introduced in 1927. It uses the same leather top as the B17 with the added suspension of two rear springs.
The Colt is a saddle that traces its history back to 1979 when it was introduced as a modern design ideally suited for an 80s steel road bike, with solid sides and a snub nose without the traditional bag loops on the back.
It’s only available in one version with steel rails and costs £110.
If you want a Brooks leather saddle that is instantly comfortable without the famous breaking-in period, then the company offers an Aged option on a few of its saddles.
The B17 Aged (£90) keeps the same shape as the regular B17 but uses a leather that is softer so it is comfortable from day one. There’s also a Flyer Aged (£92) and B67 Aged (£92).
Last year Brooks became more than just a saddle manufacturer, entering the helmet market with two new helmets, the Harrier and Island.
It’s not actually the first time Brooks has entered the helmet market, though. Back in the 1950s it marketed helmets under the Lycett, name, but they were moped helmets - this was a time well before cycling helmets really existed, they only became popular during the late 1980s with an advance in the expanded polystyrene foam that has allowed light and relatively strong helmets to be produced.
The Island helmet (£110) has been designed for urban and city cyclists and is made with a polycarbonate outer shell with one front and rear vent and an understated appearance. The rotary retention device allows easy adjustment.
The Harrier (£149) is aimed at performance cyclists and has been designed to be aerodynamic and well ventilated with four cooling channels providing airflow over the head.
Brooks has been making bags since the 1880s but it has been slowly the range over the years, and it now includes shoulder bags, back packs, tool bags, saddle bags, frame bags, holdalls, briefcases and front and rear panniers. We won't go through them all, the range is huge, so here are a few highlights.
The Suffolk Rear Pannier (£99) is made to be waterproof with a roll-top closure design and a large easily accessible external pocket and side pockets for those essentials you need easy access to.
The Crosby Shoulder Bag (£220) is made in Italy and is a stylish shoulder bag with an easily adjustable carrying strap but it can be secured around the waist when cycling, and the top flap has a magnetic closure.
There is a wide range of accessories, from wallets, passport holders, pumps, bar tape, grips and even lights to add to your Brooks collection.
The Brooks MT21 Multitool (£45) is an extremely lovely bit of engineering and very refined. It’s a rugged design with an all-steel construction and 21 tools that cover most bases. A leather colour, available in different colours, protects the tools when it’s not in use.
If you have a Cambium saddle you might like to finish your bike off with matching Cambium Bar Tape (£35). It’s made from organic cotton canvas in colours that match the saddle.
To see the full Brooks product range head to www.brooksengland.com/en_uk
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.