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.