All photos supplied by Brooks
The 1880's were, arguably, the bicycle's golden era. From that time we derived the so-called 'Safety Bicycle', where, unlike the 'Penny Farthing,' riders could reach the ground with their feet. The same period also saw the introduction of the chain drive, pneumatic bike tyres, and the first Brooks leather bicycle saddle (or seat.)
With almost 150 years of leather craftsmanship, Brooks, continue to innovate, recently launching a line of vegetable tanned, organic leather bicycle saddles. Inspired not so much by a need to be 'green,' but by cyclist's requests for even higher levels of performance.
Unveiled at Eurobike and Interbike (USA) this past September the Select line was developed because Brooks customers with a penchant for high-mileage, such as randonneurs, (long distance touring cyclists), bike messengers, etc, were asking for a stiffer range of bike saddle. Brooks determined that vegetable tanned leather sourced from cows reared for more than seven years on Swedish organic farms made for saddles that are much tougher and firmer than our standard Brooks saddles and thus, require an extended break-in period. we were also told that this extra tough leather, that the saddles may very well last a lifetime.
Aside from being organic the leather is also traceable. Brooks advised us "that each saddle is marked in such a way that we can identify the exact cow from where the leather came." The saddle's colour comes purely from the vegetable tanning, which generally considered to be more benign than the usual chromium tanning. The leather hide receives no extra dyeing.
The line is called Select because supply of this grade of organic leather is limited to a few thousand hides per year. The cattle raised in this environment are described as growing at a natural pace, allowing for the production of unusually strong and resilient leather. Additionally these 'happy cows' don't nick themselves on fences and trees so are said to literally have perfect, homogenous hides. And this is what makes for a stiffer, longer lasting bicycle saddle.
The leather is tanned in Sweden and the saddles made in England, being affixed the steel rails with hand pounded rivets. While for many people $195 to $250 might seem like a lot to pay for just a bike seat, but such a saddle would undoubtedly outlast many a cheap bike and indeed many a rider. And given that Brooks have some leather saddles that sell for $400, the Select line might even be considered excellent mid-range value. A company doesn't get to stick around for nearly 150 years if they aren't making a quality product proven to go the distance.
Thanks to Brooks gurus Suzette Ayotte and Cristina Wurdig for answering our questions about the Select range.
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