Brooks England Ltd.
Benchmade leather saddles
Brooks England has been in the business of building leather bike saddles since 1866. The fundamental design of a stretched piece of leather over a metal frame has not changed much over that time, with the exception of adopting new materials such as titanium rails.
The process shares a lot in common with bespoke benchmade leather shoes, worked by hand with some old iron machines and careful attention to every little detail. The highest end saddles have large copper rivets, hand peened by hand to maintain comfort and to ensure durability as the leather stretches over time.
The heavy leather is chamfered on the edges to remove sharp corners that could chafe. Compared to a gel covered saddle, the leather has no support underneath it; it’s almost like a leather hammock that will conform to your body and eventually soften and maintain a certain amount of give. It is also a sink for evaporating sweat through the underside, something a gel covered saddle will never be able to do. They do suffer for being quite a bit heavier than the leading competitive racing saddle, but their aesthetic and long distance comfort drive many touring cyclists to them.
A certain amount of care has to be taken with the saddle, with light oiling with a neatsfoot oil or other leather conditioner to prevent the leather drying and cracking. Too much though and the molecular structure of the leather will suffer. Again, not too different than taking care of a properly made pair of leather shoes or boots.