B17, break-in method, brooks, leather saddle, leather saddle discomfort, Lon Haldeman, mink oil, rivet pearl, sitz bones, sitz bonz, soften leather saddle
Disclaimer – you will possibly ruin your saddle if you try this, and there is no way that any manufacturer will recommend this. However, if you are planning on selling/trading/or tossing a new leather saddle that isn’t working for you, this may be worth trying…
Further information from the manufacturer (Rivet): Using this procedure will certainly invalidate the 365-day warranty. It falls square into the “altering” the saddle category, so only do this as a very last resort! See this page for proper care of this saddle.
Have a saddle that didn’t quite break in fast enough, or ever? Disclaimer 2: this process will probably half the life of a saddle. But…if half the life of the saddle brings you discomfort, who cares. Especially on a leather saddle which probably has a lifespan of several decades. If I get 10 years from a comfortable saddle, that is far better than 20 years with only the 2nd half being bearable, right?
Here’s what you do (the following process is a summary of Lon Haldeman’s famous Brooks Break-in method):
- Soak the saddle in warm (100 degree ish) water for 5-10 minutes
- Dry it off quickly
- While the saddle is still warm, slather it with mink oil (or proofide, or Obenaufs)
- Put it on your bike and go for a ride – about 5-10 minutes – preferably with old shorts
- Put more mink oil on it
- Walk away…
The next day, if the saddle is still stiff, repeat the above procedure. If it is more pliable, go for a longer ride and see how it feels.
The back story on this particular saddle isn’t that interesting. I have about 500 miles of commuting on it, and while the shape is superb, the spot where my sitz bonz sat was hard as a rock, and didn’t seem to be getting any better. I could ride it with padded shorts for short distances, but no padz, no wayz!
I was ready to throw in the towel on this saddle, but decided that I had spent the money, and wasn’t quite ready to give up. Now this saddle is not a pure leather variety like a classic Brooks B17 or Pro, but has a waterproof coating layer on top, so I wasn’t so sure I wouldn’t be wrecking it. Ahhh, risk – gotta love the adrenaline. I’ve never done the Lon Haldeman treatment on a Brooks, but I did butcher one not long ago, and that turned out OK…
After the treatment, I observed a bit of a change to the top layer. It seemed to show the underlying layers a bit more, and even exposed the frame around the side rivets. There was no major issue around edge separation, so the saddle is still intact and solid. The shape also remained consistent. The leather around the right sitz area was definitely harder than the rest of the saddle, and I massaged it (with a rubber mallet, even) more than the rest of the saddle to get it to relax. It seems to have done the trick. Lotz of mink oil helps…
I noticed on the following day’s ride that I could actually feel the steel frame through the saddle on the right side. I scanned the saddle from above and it appeared to be ever so slightly askew – like the frame was slightly oriented to the right side. I did what any sensible man would do and turned the saddle slightly to the right to move the trouble spot back out of the sitz area. Voila!!! Perfection!
The next day – 20+ miles with no padded shorts and the saddle disappeared underneath me. Now thatz what I’m talkin’ bout!