Take a seat... - CycleBlaze

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Take a seat...

Leo Woodland

WHEN...

...did you switch from leather to artificial saddles?

Why? And what to? And have you ever moved back?

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7 months ago
Wayne EstesTo Leo Woodland

I'm 60 years old and pedaled upright bikes extensively until I was 37.

I never owned a leather saddle.

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7 months ago
Keith AdamsTo Leo Woodland

Most of the saddles I've ridden have had leather covers over a plastic base.  I've never owned or ridden a saddle where the entire seat portion (excluding the rails) was leather.

My preferred saddle is the Selle Italia "Turbo" model dating from the mid-1980s.  They've got a perforated leather top, over that aforementioned plastic form.  Some years back I discovered that my local shop had a small cache of them, so I bought a couple to keep on hand.

The most uncomfortable saddle I ever rode was the Vetta model that came with my upright tandem.  One ride was enough to convince me that it deserved a place atop the rubbish heap.  There have been a couple replacements.

Both my mountain bike and current road bike came with completely synthetic saddles, which I've found comfortable enough to retain.

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7 months ago
Rich FrasierTo Leo Woodland

Hi Léo -

I hope this doesn't turn into a controversial subject! 

We're still riding on leather saddles.  We use Selle Anatomica saddles, made by a small company in beautiful San Diego, California.  I picked one up in a bike shop sale bin many years ago and fell in love with it.  Robin likes them too.  

With 2 tandems and several singles, we're heavily invested in the company at this point.   We even have pink ones on our purple tandem!

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7 months ago
Keith KleinTo Leo Woodland

Hi,

I made the opposite switch. I rode on Selle San Marco plastic jobs for years, but got a Brooks for my first “real” touring bike. Ever since it’s been leather on my most-ridden bikes. I do have an Orbea carbon racing cycle with plastic and my old Bianchi hand built in Milan with the same, but my back is not really happy being bent down for those any more. 

Cheers,


Keith

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7 months ago
Mike AylingTo Leo Woodland

Hi Leo

About 25 years ago someone gave me a San Marco Rolls saddle to replace a worn out synthetic saddle that I was using. These have a thin leather skin over a plastic base.  My ar$e loved it and I now have one on each of my bikes.

Mike

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7 months ago
George HallTo Leo Woodland

Interesting topic, but I would have written it as the opposite view - almost every long-distance cyclist I know rides on a leather saddle after trying numerous plastic versions.  I commenced riding Brooks leather saddles so long ago I'm not certain; maybe 1975 or so.   I have tried other leather saddles and currently am using a Rivet saddle on my main touring bike - made by a small company in Sacremento, they size the saddle based on the width between your sit-bones.  

I have used some Brooks saddles for more than 20,000 miles of enjoyable riding.  The "trick" to enjoying a leather saddle is being aware that it has to be broken in to the shape of your butt, and that it takes hundreds of miles to do so.  For a 200+ pounder like me, 500 miles is adequate to break in a new saddle - for a 130 pounder, it may be 700 - 800 miles or so.  You should NEVER start a tour on a new leather saddle that is not yet broken in.  

Because I have 2 touring bikes, it's easy for me to arrange a break-in schedule for a new saddle such that I never ride it for more than 25 miles at a time until I have accumulated about 500 miles on it.  So the new saddle is used for my weekday short  rides until I am comfortable taking it out for a weekend long ride. 

That said, and since I currently have a Brooks saddle on one of my touring bikes and a Rivet saddle on the other, and since I get around 20,000 miles on a saddle before I consider replacing it, it may be a long time before I need to break in a new saddle again. 

Now I think a brief mention about "comfort" as regards a bicycle saddle is in order.  A bicycle saddle is never going to be as comfortable as reclining in your lazy chair at home (well, maybe a recumbent can be - I'll let the bent riders address that point).  But I find that once I have broken in a leather saddle that it ceases to be the limiting faction for my long rides - in other words, my wrists get tired, my feet hurt, sometimes my neck gets stiff and sore, other things bother me enough that I need to take at least a quick stop and off-bike stretch - and this happens before my butt hurts enough to cause me to need to stop. 

I just gave away 2 bicycles and a ton of components to a local community college class that rebuilds bicycles for homeless adults to have transportation - included in there was 2 brand-new plastic saddles, at least one of which was fairly high end.  But after trying various plastic saddles over the years, I learned that they were OK for short mileage commutes but woefully inadequate to sit on for many hours of cross-country riding.    Obviously, your mileage may vary, but I have met many folks who switched from plastic saddles to leather saddles and none who have done the opposite.

Whatever saddle you ride, I hope it is comfortable and makes your butt laugh - after all a happy butt is the "end game" we are seeking.  Peace all...

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7 months ago
Jeff LeeTo Leo Woodland

I've never owned a leather saddle, and never even sat on one. In fact, I've never bought a saddle. I've always used whatever saddle came with the bike (new or used) when I bought it.

As far as leather saddles: I never understood why anyone would want something on a bicycle (especially a bicycle used for touring) that apparently has to be protected from the rain. 

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7 months ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Leo Woodland

I think my chain-driven tricycle that I had as a child had a leather saddle, as did my first two-wheeler.  But since then, every saddle has been only leather on the surface, if that.  I remember some vinyl-covered ones, but I never rode very far in that part of my life, except with my cousin across the small city we lived in to a park where we'd build a fire and roast marshmallows.  And for that I'd use my brother's bike if I could; he had a mustang-style one compared to my boring standard girl's bike.

I did try a Brooks a couple of years ago when I got my new bike, but decided to try a weatherproof (carved) Cambium model.  As Jeff said, why choose something that needs to be protected from the rain?  It felt pretty good on the first ride, but on the second I noticed my inner thighs getting bruised.  The hammock style means the sides of the saddle buckle outwards a bit as the saddle flexes, which it does as you pedal.  But being short, my knees come up fairly high as the pedals go round and the buckled, protruding sides of the saddle rub my inner thighs, causing abrasion on my shorts and bruising on my flesh.  Back to (possibly?) leather-covered synthetic saddles for me.

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7 months ago
Leo WoodlandTo Jeff Lee

Yes, it does need to be protected from rain but that doesn't mean it falls to bits at the first drop. It's best not to leave it out in the rain all night but occasional rain will do it little harm.

The advantage is that leather changes shape rather than forcing you to change your shape to fit the saddle. But I agree: if you're happy with the saddles you've got, why change?

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7 months ago