Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Save a Cow, Ride a Cambium. Short-Term Review

Fresh off the Italian assembly line, the Brooks C-17 is a huge departure from the English saddle maker's trade mark standard. The newest product (so new it's not even available on Ebay...Yet.), is in very limited supply and has not yet been experienced by most consumers.
I was lucky enough to get one early, and (for those interested in purchasing one when they become available) I wanted to share with you my personal experiences with this latest innovation.

First, here is what Brooks England has to say about the Cambium 

Cambium C17 Ltd Edition
 Brooks Cambium is a range of saddles made from vulcanized natural rubber and organic cotton 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 for immediate comfort and ease of use.

I have tried many, many ass pedastals over the years and have, many times, failed to find one that did not beat my scranus into oblivion. I can't remember the exact model of the first Brooks to grace my taint, but I remember riding a friends Peugeot with a Brooks and it changed the way I thought about where I put my  ass. Even though his saddles always lean a little to the right, as I always joke, his right ass cheek was heavier than his left. Still, I fell hopelessly in love with the comfort and support offered to me by a Brooks.
Now I own 5.  

My initial impression was that it was sexy as hell.

The cotton top is beautiful and is held to the frame with torx bits and faux rivets. This makes the saddle completely serviceable for a "lifetime" of use. 

Out-of-the-box it was indeed, flexible. So much in fact that I feared it would flex too much, making it "bouncy."
I was pleasantly surprised however, to find that while flexible as it was, it was still very supportive, which is exactly what a good saddle should be.

See, the industry is currently rife with saddles that work for only very specific types/shapes of people, and saturated with overly huge saddles full of gel for "added comfort." What these saddles really do is allow your "sit bones" to sink into the saddle, causing the rest of the saddle to basically, rise into the perineum pinching the delicate nerves that inhabit that part of your anatomy.
On the other side of that coin, high-end saddles with all the fancy carbon rails and measuring devices (so you can choose the saddle that is right for you) do nothing but muddy the waters when it comes to selecting what's best for you. 
Granted, "to each his own," as I too have found comfort in other high-end types of saddles (very expensive ones, that is), but I find it so funny that when I tell people that I choose Brooks, they look at me and ask "why?" 
Well, for the same reason you like your fancy saddles, they are "lateraly stiff" and "vertically compliant." Sure they at first may look like tourture devices, but leather is unique in the fact that no other material can mold itself to your own particular shape and no other saddle can last you almost a lifetime. Of course, there is always an exception...
This guy deserves a good ass kicking. I mean, I have a 25 year old B-5N that is in bad shape (granted I got it second hand), but not that bad. I can still ride mine without the fear of the seatpost cornholing the shit out of me when the leather finally decides it has had enough. 

This is the first saddle from the legendary English maker that is plant based. 
Also a first, this saddle is made in Italy

If there is any other nation that I can trust my ass to, it's Italy. So I am okay with that. 

So how does this saddle stack up to the timeless classics?

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. 

To illustrate, I give you an, illustration...

It is clear that they are similar. The B-17 has skirts which facilitate control and flex in the top. The right one is my mountain bike saddle after 300+miles this year.
The left is the Cambium on my badass left-side drive/fixed gear/26" mountain bike I built for the winter commute. (Pictured before I added racks, bags, fenders and a Brooks)

                                                              (R.I.P. Sheldon Brown)

The reach is ridiculous, and the drop, for me anyway, is deep. 11 cm deep. Needles to say, bent over like that, your junk is gonna hurt. It's a given. I started with this gel saddle and could not get comfortable, at all. So I tried another, wide sitting area, closed cell foam...
Pain-us in the Scranus. 

Having to sit on the nose of a saddle means you do not have a proper fit on the bike (with the exception of Time Trial bikes), and you should always try to ride a bike that fits you best.

That said; I spend so much time working on everyone elses stuff, I rarely have time to perfect my own machines, as I have many. So when I installed this saddle on my daily commuter, I must say I was impressed with this saddle's ability to blend seamlessly into the component spec on this bike. I love that it moves with me, while it also allowed me sit further up the nose with a tremendous amount of control, and comfort. For some reason, it also allowed me to sit "in the drops" with my sit bones where they should be. 
It really changes the way I ride this bike. 
I cannot overstate the amount of comfort in the nose of this saddle. I have every intention of one day putting this on my Doug Fattic TT bike. 
(Once owned by Tom Doughty, pictured with B-5N)

In the end, it is not about the nose of the saddle, but where the sit bones lie. If i do my due diligence, and set this thing up right, it will prove to be reliable and comfortable. It really is about fit. So,
This is a short term review, in the fact that I have less than 50 miles on my Cambium. On a bike that is set up improperly, yet I still find my C-17 to be as comfortable as my other trusted Brooks Products, and with potential (given the right bike fit) to serve me a lifetime.
In summation, I will gladly continue to ride this ass chariot into the Mad Maxx times if it will alow me. Only then will I write the long-term review describing its loyalty to me. 

Unless I go off the deep-end first. Like this guy ...

Deuces bitch. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

If I were your bike, I would hate you

So this next jem is brought to you by a big old helping of "I don't give a shit."
(If you have small children in the room, cover their eyes) 
So the best I can figure, this guy did not get the memo that said, "steel is real, and so is rust." 
After a second glance, my best guess is that the guy either;
A) rode it hard and put it away wet, or
B) pissed all over his bike for the last 5 years and did NOTHING other than that. 

I'm gonna go with "B." 

So after pissing down the side of the bike, not only did he not clean it, he decided that the chain needed more lube. 
...and so did the stays,
...as well as the wheels. 
I mean, maybe it was stopping too well, and decided if he used enough lube, he could avoid stopping at all and keep his chain from rusting at the same time. 
That's sound logic. 
So nedless to say, the frame is turbo fucked and is now in a scrap yard somewhere. 
So what next for that dude? 
He bought another steel frame. 
What a shame.
I can hear it already, sobbing heavily as the dude yells, "it puts the lube on its chain or else it gets pissed on again!"

In other news from the land of thoughless neglect...

"It doesn't shift any more."
You don't say...

"It keeps breaking spokes too."
Really? I can't see any reason why that would happen (I said with heavy sarcasm). 

"I know, right?!"

I don't have time for this. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

It's a love hate relationship.

Normaly, my retro-grouchery would kick in and I would be all, "back in the day, we used V-brakes, and they were great!"
I spent many years avoiding the inevitable switch to disc brakes. Evey one was saying that disc brakes were "the future." But one day I gave in, and now I hate myself. (Just kidding, but seriously).

I recently switched to disc because my newest bike (2001 Gary Fisher Super Caliber) had disc and V brake mounts. Plus, building wheels nowadays, you would be hard pressed to find non-disc hubs that would be worth a damn. 

So I built these, 
For this,

And they were great! ...at least I thought. 

We recently raced in a local series and had a blast doing so. 
The most popular race got canelled due to 3" of standing water on the trail. 
That is understandable. You should NEVER ride a trail in those conditions, you can do serious damage to the trail. 
That said...
The last race of the year was at the same trail and we would be damned if we would call that one off on account of rain.
(Only because we all volunteer to fix them after we trash them if need be)

But It rained...

The two days leading up to the race we Probably got 3" of "liquid sunshine"

I rode the trail early the morning of raceday. It was spectacular!  It was drizzly, but not too bad out. 

Then the Experts took off, it started raining heavily.  
After the first lap they were riding by us covered in mud saying "I got no brakes!" And "There won't be a trail left when you get out there!" 
It continued to rain...

As the experts were starting the 3rd lap (at which point there were already 6 DNF's), Sport and Beginner cats were heading off. One and two lap journeys that would bring the strongest man to his knees. 

It rained harder. 

1.5 miles is all it took. My brakes failed me going into a turn and I went down a hill. Managed to stay on the bike, but lost 8 places! (This cost me the series points championship. I lost by a margin of 5 points!) 
I had absolutely no brakes for the last 
5 miles and had to "Flinstone" it thereafter to slow down enough not to die.  

There were many DNF's but those of us who charged on hung out after the race drinking beers and retelling the stories of our epic adventures...
We almost all had disc brakes. 

In the end, My bike looked like this. 
My brake pads, looked even worse. 
The next day at work, the bikes started rolling in. On Monday alone, we changed all of these...
For reference, this is an old and new pad side-by-side. 
(The new one is on the right. ;)
Needless to say, this person spent the next 6 miles in what she called "30 minutes of terror." 

The events of that day were the most ridiculous yet memorable moments of my life. 

But here is where I digress...
Back in the day, V-brakes were all we had and they did work well. 
On the other hand, they were prone to high-pitch squealing if; 
A) they were not aligned properly, and,
B) if they got wet. 
Unfourtunately, they almost always got wet, and if they picked up sand and mud, would damage the shit out or your braking surface. 
Brands like Shimano fixed this with the introduction of XTR linear pull brakes that worked really well and eliminated (most of) the noise. However, to further the point i made about bottom bracket standards (in an earlier blog), technology of course found a way to fix a perfectly sound component. 
Under the guise of "stopping power" disc brakes came upon on the scene and appeared to work. 
If disc brakes had one flaw, it was that they too, squealed. Lets face it, metal on metal makes noise. Period. 
Did rubber pads make noise? Sure. 
Did they wear out in ten minutes? 
No fucking way. 
So what did they do? Made cable actuated disc brakes, hydraulic instead. In theory, they would provide more even stopping power and adjusted themselves automatically which reduced issues brought to the surface by poor set up of cable actuated disc brakes. 

They still squealed...

So what then? 
"Let's make the pads out of organic materials! That should reduce the squealing!" (Insert sound of dorks jumping in the air as they high five, for again, solving a problem that did not exist)

Sure. That reduced the squealing. But then the rain came. 
Now, other, abrasive, organic materials (dirt, mud, water...)
get forced into the pads and Voila! 
No fucking brakes in the first two miles of the most important race of my life (thus far). 
(Just ask the dudes that raced in the cyclocross World Championships earlier this year how I feel. The Belgians won becuase they were running cantilever rim brakes. We, on the other hand, did not fair so well). 

( this is the part where I spare you the details of how I personally feel about disc brakes on cyclocross and {God forbid} road bikes, until the appropriate blog is reached)

Now here is the part in the story, as the life cycle of brakes came full-cirlce right before my eyes, BAM! 
 I rounded a turn in the last half mile and someone yelled, "you should get V brakes!" 

Sure asshole. 
I'll get right on that.