There's been a bit of a resurgence in interest in more traditional cycling products, and in particular leather saddles. Some would argue that they never stopped being popular, but nonetheless, there does seem to be an ever increasing amount of choice.
Spa Cycles have brought out a range of three leather saddles at very modest prices to cater to this rising interest, of which the Wharfe is one. Looking a good bit like the Brooks Swift at first glance, the Wharfe is a sturdy and good looking leather saddle. At 151mm wide at the broadest point and 277mm long, it's a similar width to the Swift too, but 5mm longer. It's made from untreated Australian cowhide attached to a chrome-plated chromoly steel frame and weighs in a bit heavier than the Brooks at 580g by the Road.cc scales.
Although saddles are an inherently personal choice, and one man (or woman's) razorblade is another's armchair, it's probably reasonable to say that the Wharfe isn't really ideally suited to being a women's saddle. It's intensely firm, with a quoted (by Spa) breaking in period of about 800km and is very long, both factors contributing to it not being exactly female friendly. So, bearing that in mind, I've reviewed this from a more general non-female-specific viewpoint.
The lack of treatment of the leather of the saddle means you have to start treating it quickly and regularly with a leather feeding product, in order to both facilitate the breaking in process and also to protect the leather from our glorious weather. The slightly rougher surface of the less treated leather does mean there's more friction than on a treated leather saddle, but it's still a comfortable surface to sit on.
With time, the surface wears to a patina that gives much more of the low friction riding surface so beloved of leather saddle users. It really is a very firm saddle to start with, and the company's quoted 800km of riding for breaking in is probably pretty close to the mark. After 300 miles it was just about starting to mould and soften a little, and smooth off, although it gave no problems at all right from the box. The Wharfe is an ideal road bike saddle, or a neat option for those who like their touring saddles narrower.
It's going to take some perseverance, but for a solid, well made leather saddle £40 is an absolute bargain.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Spa Cycles Wharfe Leather Saddle
Size tested: Honey
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Aimed at road riders looking for a traditional hardwearing leather saddle
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Australian cow hide with chrome plated chromoly steel rails
Available in 3 colours
Solid and hardwearing but untreated so needs taking care of right away to avoid water damage.
Performed very well but takes a long time to break in to its optimum performance.
Provided you treat the leather it'll probably outlive you.
It's a leather saddle so weight isn't really the point.
Even before the magic 800km, it's a pretty comfortable (if firm) saddle. Was starting to soften and mould after 300 miles or so.
Great value for a tough smart leather saddle, although it requires more care and attention than some more expensive options.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Length of time it takes to break in, nose length (for women)
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
A great value, bombproof leather saddle that'll last for years, but takes a lot of breaking in too.
About the tester
Age: 37 Height: 1.65m Weight: 67kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.