The keystone of Brooks' saddle line. The B17 combines durability comfort and style with an affordable price. They are a bit heavier and take longer to break in than more contemporary designs but the comfort they provide once broken in is why so many still swear by them. Black or Honey leather cover with black steel rails. Loops for traditional English-style touring bag. 280mm Length x 170mm Width. 530 grams weights may vary due to leather thickness. Made in England.
Weaknesses: Heavy, rails have limited adjustment compared to modern saddles, don't get it wet.
I've had my standard B-17 for two seasons now. Break in stories scared me but was not an issue. Reasonably comfortable out of the box, even more so over time. The 3 vent holes occasionally caused post ride irritation for first few months. Last year I upgraded to a high end carbon bike. The Brooks seemed out of place on it so I've demo'd a lot of saddles since then (my son works at bike shop) and can't find anything even close to the comfort of my Brooks. So my 16.5lb bike weighs 18lb now, I can live with that because I'm a much better rider when comfortable.
I use proof hide a few times a season, on top and bottom. I don't generally ride in the rain, but was on a week long tour last summer, and got caught in torrential rain for an extended period of time. I had no option but to ride the wet saddle, which cause some sores over time. After that trip, the saddle had stretched but I was able to get it right back to shape with a few turns of the front bolt. The finish itself suffered no affects.
I'm a believer. Now I welcome any "razzing" from my riding buddies for my hi-tech bike with 100 year old saddle, because I know what they don't.
Strengths: Performs pretty well. Comfortable out of the box
Weaknesses: Price. Weight.
For the record: Yes, it rather abruptly broke in after about 30 hours of riding. No big deal if you are one of those spandex guys. If you are one of those spandex guys you probably want a lighter saddle. A little more of an issue if you are a short-haul commuter like me. Also, do not overlook that this is a pretty comfortable saddle right out of the box. A certain amount of easily washed out staining left on my clothes when I put the dressing on the saddle.
I can't complain, really. My legs give out before my hiney now, and that's the whole point. I won't be replacing this thing any time soon, if ever. The price is kind of exploitative and and still not cheap even when you get it on sale like I did. There don't seem to be any credible knock-offs around, and believe me, I looked.
Strengths: Comfort, looks, longevity, saddle bag loops
Weaknesses: Heavy (if that is an issue), needs maintenance, limited fore/aft positioning requiring a longer stem
This is the one saddle that fits me right out of the box and that says a bit for a leather saddle. I have basic 17s, narrow 17s, titanium 17s, special 17s (with the wide, flush rivets) and they all work for me. I have a 17 purchased in 1980 for my touring bike that still works perfectly. The saddle loops are great for a Carradice/Acorn type bag which comes in handy for unsupported long rides. One down side is the limited rearward positioning due to the short rails. I have often had to increase a stem by a centimetre or two to accommodate a 17. They now come in a variety of colours if you need to style. I am a honey or black kind of guy although I do own a titanium coloured one with titanium rails: very sharp. They need a six month rub down with Proofhide and get a saddle cover for the rain. Do not mess with the nose tensioning bolt: there is a reason the bolt is 3.5 cm so as to discourage the uninitiated. They tend to work best with a touch of "nose up" as you may find yourself with a sensation of slipping forward in the horizontal position.
Date Reviewed: October 23, 2012
Strengths: Had a Selle Italia leather saddle MANY years ago, and gave it away with the bike (my mistake!) So kept trying to find something to match the comfort without luck. After about 30 years, bit the bullet and went back to a Brooks. Swift is too narrow, but the B17 fits well. Very well. And the B17 Imperial is as near perfect as possible. Now have 3 years on three different Brooks (three bikes), everybody gives me heck about the "Old Style" seat with no padding and can't understand how it can be comfortable. I just smile and ask again after 10 hours in the saddle. To the guy on the Tandem on Ride the Rockies, you understand. I've done the tour 9 times now, and after 6-7 days in the saddle and 400-500+ miles in the week, am continually surprised when I get on the bike in the morning at the end of the week and have no sore spots. Incredible. Yes, they're heavy. Yes, they take care and maintenance. But what price comfort?
To those trying a new saddle, try this old racer's trick. Turn the oven on it's absolutely lowest setting (about 150*). Smear a thin coat of Proofhide on the UNDERSIDE of the saddle, and put it in the oven for about 20 minutes. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Aren't you got the large tin of Proofhide? Repeat until it doesn't soak up any more. Then go riding. Helps with break in period and with waterproofing. Still needs some care, but is a great way to start a saddle. I average 2000-5000 miles a year for the last 40 years, and won't go back to anything else. Let them laugh at the old fogie on the old saddle. I'll laugh while dancing in the park at the end of the day.
And yes, anyone who has done Ride the Rockies, I'm Shark Boy!
Weaknesses: It's heavier than those featherweight slips of plastic. It takes some breaking in and maintenance. It's more expensive. You get funny looks from disbelievers. For the most comfortable seat out there, I'll take all that. Besides, I could lose some weight on the engine before I worry about weight of the saddle. ;-)
Not a lot to say that isn't above. Read the Strengths for a cool break in tip, but there's only one word that works here. Awesome. OK, Comfort is in there too....
a Recreational Rider
Date Reviewed: August 28, 2012
Strengths: Very comfortable, no numbness or irritation on long rides. Classic looks. Very durable. Competitive price.
Weaknesses: Needs covering in rain, requires some care & upkeep to prevent damage to the leather. Can potentially wear out via stretching (seems unlikely within a reasonable time period).
Heavy, (I'm not racing anyone but myself so...)
All in all very happy with the saddle, was quite comfortable right out of the box. With no special efforts it was mostly molded to my rear after ~50 miles - in 90+ FL weather. By 200 miles it seemed to have basically settled into a stable place. Could see break-in taking longer in cooler weather.
Was quite slick initially requiring me to raise the nose of the saddle above level to prevent sliding forward. As it broke in the surface has more grip and I dropped the nose a bit. Still above level but quite comfortable w/ no numbness or irritation.
Mentioned durability above, being a tough single layer of leather you aren't going to easily to to scrape or damage the saddle in a meaningful way without also majorly damaging something else. Your bike falling over in the garage or driveway isn't going to phase it at all. Did ding my wife's car though.
On that topic, the edges are really hard, no padding at all. Not sure I'd want to use it on anything besides a road bike, YMMV.