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review

Brooks Cambium C17 saddle

9
£105.00

VERDICT:

9
10
Wonderfully comfortable fusion of classic ideas and modern materials
Weight: 
418g

At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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What do you get if you combine the classic Brooks 'hammock' saddle design with thoroughly modern materials? You get the supremely comfortable Cambium C17.

The Brooks England Way is to make a saddle by stretching a piece of good-quality cowhide across a metal frame so the rider sits on a slightly flexible platform that can move and conform. Over time, the leather wears in and shapes itself to the rider's bum, rather like a good pair of shoes.

It's an approach that some swear by, guarding a prized, well-worn Brooks saddle as jealously as Gollum coveting the ring, and passing it on from bike to bike.

But some find the wait for a Brooks to fit well is too long. In search of instant gratification of the ischial bones, they work their way through a succession of standard seats with plastic hulls, foam or gel padding and leather or microfiber covers, eventually ending up with saddles that more or less work.

The Cambium is a third path to enlightenment. It has the same basic structure as a classic Brooks saddle, but instead of a sheet of leather across the ends of the rails, Brooks has come up with a combination of vulcanised natural rubber, cotton canvas and structural textile for the top.

This top is inherently flexible, like a worn leather Brooks or a new one with the tension backed off slightly, and it moves slightly as you pedal. It supports you where you need it, and the movement helps prevent chafing.

There's still a getting-used-to-it period as your bum adapts to the shape, but it's been very brief for me: a couple of 35km rides and I was completely comfortable after 100km in the saddle, buttocks cosseted by the Cambium's comfy hammock design.

As well as the flexible, slightly stretchy rubber top, the Cambium provides its comfort by suspending you between the saddle ends. Regular saddles do this to an extent as well, but their rail ends are usually much closer together than the Cambium's, so you don't get as much of a suspension effect.

But here, you have a real hammock effect and that makes the Cambium supremely comfortable, for me at least. After Sunday's 100km ride, the rest of me was trashed after the inevitable final scamper back into town, but my bum was completely comfortable.

It's quite a wide saddle, significantly broader than my previous favourite, stablemate fizik's Aliante. I'm surprised to say that didn't matter. I'd like to try the narrower version, the C15, that Brooks has in the works, but I suspect that the ability of the Cambium to move with you means width — or rather narrowness — is less important.

The Cambium not quite the first non-leather hammock saddle from the family of companies of which Brooks is part. Parent Selle Royal also owns fizik and there's a conceptual relationship between classic Brooks saddles and fizik's Kurve saddles. You can tweak the comfort of a Kurve by changing the hull tension, for example, and the rail attachment points are a long way apart.

But where fizik went high-tech with the Kurve, with lots of carbon fiber and other clever composites, the Cambium is much more down to earth and has an artisanal beauty. The cast aluminium ends are pleasingly curved and the top has a hand-crafted look, even though it must be moulded. It's a lovely thing, and not at all out of place on a high-end bike.

This isn't a saddle for weight-weenies though. At 418g it's probably the heaviest saddle with a three-figure price tag aside from classic Brooks or similar leather seats. Even the Brooks Swallow Classic titanium at 360g is lighter, though that saddle's titanium hardware does mean it's also eye-wateringly expensive.

At £105 the Cambium is right in the ballpark of high-end saddles as far as price goes, and you can see where the money's gone.

Real world longevity remains a question mark, but only because I don't yet have thousands and thousands of kilometres on my Cambium. I've no reason to think it won't be extremely durable. If it does get damaged, you can replace the rails, the nose and back pieces or the top by simply undoing the Torx screws that hold it all together.

The bottom line (sorry) is that this is the most immediately and enduringly comfortable saddle I've ever used. If you value comfort over weight, then the Brooks Cambium C17 should be on your list of saddles you must try, and soon.

Verdict

Wonderfully comfortable fusion of classic ideas and modern materials.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Brooks Cambium C17 saddle

Size tested: Brown

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?

Brooks says:

Brooks Cambium is a range of saddles made from vulcanized natural rubber and organic cotton canvas enhanced by a thin layer of structural textile for added resilience and legendary Brooks longevity.
 

The uniquely flexible, maintenance-free, waterproof top is designed to follow the rider's movements to deliver immediate comfort and ease of use.
 

To the eye, the C17 may appear quite racy in its shape and lines, which indeed it is. A saddle you can really settle into, the geometry and dimensions are based closely on that of our most recognizable model, the B17, ensuring the same timeless comfort mile after mile.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
6/10

Unarguably heavy compared to other £100 saddles, but that's not the point.

Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
10/10

The most comfortable saddle I've used. I had high expectations, given the hype; the Cambium lived up to them.

Rate the product for value:
 
8/10

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Superbly

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The comfort, the construction, the repairability.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

It would be nice if it were lighter. Brooks is rumoured to be working on a lighter version.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.

Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?

Only the weight stops me from awarding this saddle full marks.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Brooks says: The new construction of Cambium Saddles works like a hammock and delivers immediate comfort while absorbing vibration and shock, performance traditionally found only with natural leather saddles. This saddle is assembled from replaceable parts and requires no special tools for servicing. The vulcanized rubber top is practically indestructible; should your Cambium frame suffer an unfortunate accident, repairs can be quickly and easily accomplished by you or your trusted Brooks Dealer of Excellence.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 48  Height: 5ft 11in  Weight: 85kg

I usually ride: Scapin Style  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding,

 

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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17 comments

Avatar
froze | 6 months ago
0 likes

After reading so many glowing reviews of the Brooks Cambium I decided to buy one for my touring bike last spring, I rode on it all season, and this is my review: It's the WORST saddle I have ever ridden!  It will not break in, so it is what it will be, and for me, that means it will stay horrible.  My sit bones just pain me like crazy on this saddle, which is not good on a touring bike where you have to be on the bike every day.  I weigh 180 pounds so I should be heavy enough to cause it to flex right.

I also have an old Brooks B17 that I've had for many years on an old bike, and that one I never liked either, another one of those hurt my sit-bones saddles.

So for this next season on the touring bike, I'm going to try the Selle Anatomica saddle, haven't decided which one to get, either the X2 or the H2, I have to call them to find out what they recommend for my weight and sit bone problem.

I have other saddles on other bikes and they're fine for my sit bones.

Chaffing doesn't seem to be a problem for me.

Avatar
Miller | 4 years ago
0 likes

I have a Cambium C13 carbon on the bike I use for mixed surface events and I think it's excellent. I've done long rides on rough terrain and my nethers have been fine. That hammock effect works well for me as someone who weighs around 80kg in my cycling clothes. The carbon rails keep the saddle weight to a reasonable level and the construction is very durable.

Avatar
Calc | 4 years ago
0 likes

My 3 year review, if of any use to anyone...

It is quite comfortable for rides less than 3-4 hours.

I didn't find it comfortable for longer than that, because it never actually deforms to your body shape over time, remaining flat.  This means that eventually you get pressure points occuring as your weight is concentrated more than if it curved to suit you.

I think it also more suited to heavier riders (>80kg), as when I was 80kg it would flex and curve noticably (the hammock effect working), however after losing a quite a lot of weight I'm no longer heavy enough to make it flex enough to make the top form a curve.

It's really durable - I had a huge crash that wrecked my bike and desite it sliding on the ground, the saddle was pretty much unmarked and was transferred to my new bike looking as good as new.

It's mostly water proof - AFTER I sprayed it was water proofing spray - the fabric top still looks OK, a bit faded but otherwise not worn down at all.  Rubber underside obviously isn't affected by water.

It makes a good commuting saddle and would be good for cyclocross events as it would be pretty much indestructible.

 Now using a Selle SMP for longer rides, but this has to be looked after carefully and was extremely expensive.  Therefore, I will continue to use the Cambium in winter and for commuting.

 

Avatar
Doug.F. | 5 years ago
0 likes

 

 

 Hello.

 

 

 I have tried various saddles on my road bikes and they all leave me with chafed inner thighs,right at the top  (groin area )

Will the above Brooks  help or even aleviate this problemsaddle.

 If not the  saddle any sugestions to help with this chafing problem ?

 

Thank you for any replies.

 

Douglas

Avatar
Shades | 6 years ago
1 like

Put the Carved version of this on a aluminium hybrid/commuter; not comfortable and had sore 'sit bones' due to feeling every bump in the road.  Popped it on a steel road bike (regular saddle broke) and it was very comfortable.  Would have chosen a C15 for a road bike but I think I suit something a bit wider.

Avatar
Yennings | 10 years ago
1 like

Reviewing saddle comfort strikes me as a ridiculously subjective thing to do. About as useful as arguing about which is the best colour. I do like the idea of a Brooks that doesn't look out of place on modern carbon bikes, though. I have a B17 on my Brompton and love it but think they look a bit silly on more state-of-the-art machines.

Avatar
amazon22 | 10 years ago
0 likes

I tried one recently on a regular route - it wasn't comfortable for me - I found it transmitted a lot of road vibration which my normal saddle - a Selle Anatomica - simply absorbs somehow. Perhaps the aluminium frame contributes to that. It's available in natural and slate coloured canvas finish.

Avatar
Sub5orange | 10 years ago
1 like

I bought a brooks roll up pannier bag in June last year. Excellent for the shops and commuting if no laptop is involved. Expensive bag, but one of the pins that keeps the bag in a roll up position came loose and got lost. I have now sent two emails one on their website and one directly to their customer services asking for a replacement pin that can at worst cost them 60p. After 5 days I am yet to receive a response or an acknowledgement of my request.I considered that saddle but given the premium prices they are asking I would have expected a better or more helpful customer service. I will see how I get on but for now that saddle is no longer a consideration for me.

Avatar
Sub5orange replied to Sub5orange | 10 years ago
1 like

To be fair to their customer service they eventually replied after 3rd email and sorted me out.

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jollygoodvelo | 10 years ago
0 likes

Having fondled one, I can't help thinking that it would be a bit abrasive and you might start wearing through Lycra rather quickly. And yes... pretty heavy. And for those of us with soft parts, surely your hard parts work their way into the saddle leaving your soft parts to sit on the saddle?

Avatar
Shades | 10 years ago
0 likes

Had a look at one of these in the LBS; very nice, although with an Imperial on my Hybrid/commuter and a Swift on the road bike, I'm already a fan. LBS's opinion was it was OK to get it wet, although the leather ones don't seem to suffer after an unintentional 'wetting'. I was on the road bike in France and the Swift got a very approving nod from an elderly local.

Avatar
RobD | 10 years ago
0 likes

Are these available in more than one colour? I liked the original natural canvas colour, but I like this colour even more, is it the charcoal grey it seems to be in the picture in real life?
And does anyone know of when the C15 is due out?

Avatar
therevokid | 10 years ago
0 likes

the canvas/linen topping remains damp, but nothing that
would cause any real issues and as nowasps says the
core is rubber  1

Avatar
Dr_Lex | 10 years ago
0 likes

Any comment about water resistance? Or would it be best to await an update after the usual 'dry' British Summer?

Avatar
nowasps replied to Dr_Lex | 10 years ago
0 likes
Dr_Lex wrote:

Any comment about water resistance? Or would it be best to await an update after the usual 'dry' British Summer?

It's made of rubber.

Avatar
therevokid | 10 years ago
0 likes

I have an earlier "Natural" one and it does hold you more than
a normal saddle - my other is a Regal-e - but it's not a velcro
type of hold. movement is quite possible but you need to
lift the bum a little first  1

my bug bear is the top will stay wet if you're caught out in a
shower, at least you don't need to panic like you would with
a leather one though  1

all said and done I love mine, just wish it didn't weigh a ton !!

Avatar
localsurfer | 10 years ago
0 likes

Is it 'grippy'? I've never really got on with non-leather saddles because I like to slide about a lot when I change position, and plastic saddles just don't let you do that like a leather one. How does this one compare?

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