Author Topic: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?  (Read 6130 times)

Andre Jute

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In another thread, George raises an interesting question:

... Interesting to see someone riding a sprung saddle with drop bars.  I have ordered the Moonsaddle to attach to my Thudbuster to give my perineum a hoilday.  If the saddle turns out to be too high then I will try a sprung Brooks.  I think my stance might be called semi-sporting, so slightly more raised than you using the tops.  Having 4 sprung saddles could be considered being greedy.  If you send half of them to me, that's 2 saddles not 4 halves, we will say no more about it!

I added the bold for emphasis above.

Sprung saddles:  one on the Thorn Nomad, one on the Sherpa, one on the rando bike (photos above), one on the fold up bike.  The non-sprung Brooks Pro:  One on the vintage Italian racer to replace the 1962 vintage one that was on it and is now retired.

When I sit more upright, a wider flatter saddle like the B17 will work for me, but not on a bike where I might use the drops on drop bars.  I bought a B17 over a decade ago, but did not like it.  I eventually put it on a bike that I have on my trainer for indoor exercise, on that bike I sit upright so I can watch TV while getting some exercise.  It is an old mixte frame bike that I picked up when a neighbor put it in the trash, works great on the trainer.

I did not previously mention that I have a Flyer which is a sprung B-17.  I bought it on a whim when it was cheap on Ebay.  I have used it on my Nomad when I am using my Nomad as a mountain bike and not using the drops on the drop bars.  Since I am sitting more upright when I am doing mountain biking, the Flyer works better for that than the Conquest which is better when I lean forward more.

You will find that a sprung saddle like the Conquest or Flyer really is not much better than a non-sprung saddle for comfort.  It is a little better for smoothing out the buzz on rough pavement, but it does not offer the cushioning that you might want if you have soft tissue issues.  But there are some Brooks saddles that have lots of springs that might work better than the Conquest or Flyer.  I think I deflect the springs only about 5 mm when I sit on the Conquest or Flyer, thus the springs are very very stiff.

I've given George's entire post as a framework but the important bit I want to discuss here is this:

Quote
You will find that a sprung saddle like the Conquest or Flyer really is not much better than a non-sprung saddle for comfort.  It is a little better for smoothing out the buzz on rough pavement, but it does not offer the cushioning that you might want if you have soft tissue issues.

The first part of that:
Quote
You will find that a sprung saddle like the Conquest or Flyer really is not much better than a non-sprung saddle for comfort. ...it does not offer the cushioning that you might want if you have soft tissue issues.
is very likely true for those 70kg or under. But over that weight, or when touring with a loaded bike and usually with more highly pressured tyres, those big hefty springs preferred by Brooks come into their own for the biggest bangs the road transmits from big irregularities, like crashing through potholes at speed.

I conclude from logic and years working on the suspension of fast cars that the mechanically-sprung part of a Brooks saddle is about protecting your coccyx and spine rather than your soft parts.

But this:
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It is a little better for smoothing out the buzz on rough pavement...
I consider doubtful in any meaningful measure. (I don't doubt that a very experienced cyclist like George observes something subtle in extreme conditions, but note all the qualifiers.) The springs on any Brooks saddle I've been able to inspect and try are simply too stiff for this function. More, if they were made soft enough to contribute to killing road buzz, they would be so soft the entire seat would sway on them (as the dumber class of street corner gossip believes the triple helical-sprung B73 I use does -- it doesn't, period). The rails of Brooks saddles are also springs even if not wound, and are even stiffer, so I just mention them for exhaustive consideration. In any event, higher frequencies of vibration transferred from the interface of tyre and road to the bicycle frame and hence to the cyclist through his/her fundament are pretty efficiently dealt with by the hammock design and material, most commonly leather, of the Brooks saddle, and in many other designs acceptably by gel fillings in the saddle.

So, in summary,

1. Helical springs are a supplementary measure of protection to the intrinsic protections of the leather hammock of traditional saddles and gel filling of simpler saddles. Such mechanical springs work best with heavy riders and loads, highly pressured tyres, and large road irregularities. Mechanical Springs for Low Frequency Disturbances!

2. Smaller road irregularities are well dealt with by the standard Brooks leather hammock and modern gel design saddles. One of the most comfortable bicycles ever, the Pedersen first sold in 1896 and still with a cult following, offers a hammock suspended between the seatpost and the head tube. Hammocks for High Frequency Buzz!

***

It's worth saying in this regard that much of the bottom soreness and lower back pain cyclists complain of should not be laid at the saddle but at the door of the cyclist's wrong choices. For instance, every single Brooks helically sprung saddle is intended for higher handlebars and a more upright riding posture than the companion "unsprung" (it isn't actually, because the rails are also springs) Brooks saddle. The wider the saddle, the more heavily helically sprung, or both, the more upright the posture of the rider it is designed to accommodate. So the saddle and its springing is not a cure for the ills of the cyclist, but a tool in achieving the correct ergonomic posture that prevents such problems ever occurring, and the saddle should not be changed without changing both the handlebar height and reach (stem length and/or inclination) accordingly.

il padrone

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2016, 08:17:42 AM »
I would agree wholeheartedly with everything you have said here about sprung saddles, Andre. In particular that they work best on upright postured bikes (if the saddle is higher than the handlebars forget about a sprung saddle - stick with B17, Swift, Swallow, Team Pro etc), and that the sprung saddle comes into its own on large bumps like potholes, rough rail crossings etc.

mickeg

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2016, 04:06:55 PM »
One thing you said I really disagree with:

...
For instance, every single Brooks helically sprung saddle is intended for higher handlebars and a more upright riding posture than the companion "unsprung" (it isn't actually, because the rails are also springs) Brooks saddle. ...

I find that the difference in saddles for sitting more upright than with more forward lean is not the springiness, but the shape of the saddle.  If I sit more upright, I like a wider flatter saddle, like the B17 (unsprung) or Flyer (sprung).  But on bikes where I use drop bars so that I can lean more for a more aerodynamic position, I prefer a narrower saddle that is a bit more rounded in the back, such as the Pro (unsprung) or Conquest (sprung).

I have all four of these models of saddles.  Right now my Flyer is not mounted on any bikes.  My B17 is on my indoor trainer for exercise while I sit up and watch TV.  And all of my Conquests and my Brooks Pro are on drop bar bikes where I lean forward more when I use the drops.

If you want to say that the perceived benefit of the springs is all a figment of my imagination, all I can say is that I think you are wrong.  Thus, in that case, neither of us will convince the other. 

But to say that my Conquest that has the same shape as my Brooks Pro is better to sit more upright than the Pro, there I completely disagree.

The B17 is a very popular saddle for bike touring, and most bike tourists sit more upright than racers.  Yet in the 1970s when all the racers used leather saddles, the Brooks model most used by racers that leaned forward more than todays bike tourists was the Brooks Pro.  Think about it.  The difference between racers and modern bike tourists is how aerodynamic or upright they sat on their saddles.  Consider their choices on what saddles they want to use.


Andre Jute

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2016, 12:44:44 AM »
If you want to say that the perceived benefit of the springs is all a figment of my imagination, all I can say is that I think you are wrong.  Thus, in that case, neither of us will convince the other.

I neither said nor implied that, George; if I thought you impressionable I wouldn't have quoted you at such length, or at all. The point of a conference like this is to benefit from the experience of people who know what they're talking about from long and thoughtful experience before you lash out for the component, so that you don't have to spend the money twice.

One thing you said I really disagree with:

...
For instance, every single Brooks helically sprung saddle is intended [emphasis now added for clarity] for higher handlebars and a more upright riding posture than the companion 'unsprung' (it isn't actually, because the rails are also springs) Brooks saddle.

That's about Brooks' intention for their saddles, which is pretty generally known, not some kind of a hard and fast rule I've just invented. But you're welcome to disagree. That's the whole point of quoting you at such length to set up the background for my exposition, that you have relevant experience and take another view.

in4

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2016, 09:27:07 PM »
My Conquest came via a bike purchase and was, as such, an unknown quantity to me. The first owner had bought it around 10 years ago and I know it had had minimal use; around 200 miles. It was as hard as nails and proofide-free. After quite a lot of miles and some proofide it is now a very comfortable saddle; although the improved level of comfort is partially attributable to my search for the optimum saddle position. One of these days someone is going to make a dial-a-fit gadget for saddle adjustment; it really is rather archaic as it is. Anyway, I digress. Given my fairly relaxed/fairly sporty riding position I'd suggest that the benefit I derive from the springs is partial at best. If I sat more upright ie  directly over the springs  I'm sure I'd appreciate them more. Of course if I were riding over rougher terrain then perhaps the springs might be a revelation, particularly after a long ride.

For me the Conquest's lack of saddle loops is an issue but I imagine you can buy 'add-ons'. I could of course buy a B17 with a thudbuster and experience a whole new sensation, well perhaps not so new, I used to own a Citroen C5 estate with that hydractive suspension!  ;)

mickeg

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2016, 09:58:27 PM »
Agree on the lack of loops on the Conquest.  But, I found that I could wind the leather straps for a Carradice bag through the springs.  In the photo, the Carradice bag (Nelson Longflap) is sitting directly on my panniers, plus I am using the strap around the seatpost.  Thus, the bag is well supported and does not sway.  But I would not be surprised if the bag would sway too much if I did not have a pair of panniers for the bag to sit on.

Danneaux

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2016, 10:17:49 PM »
Quote
I could of course buy a B17 with a thudbuster and experience a whole new sensation, well perhaps not so new, I used to own a Citroen C5 estate with that hydractive suspension!
I found Nirvana in just this combination, Ian -- a B.17 on a Thudbuster LT for the Nomad and B.17s on Thudbuster STs for the two most-used rando bikes.

I did find, however, that my 45 back angle did allow me to load the saddle with enough weight to activate the Medium rubber pucks in the ST posts. I substituted the included Soft pucks for Medium and all works wonderfully. The Nomad's LT uses stacked elastomers, and in this case, the recommended Medium combination worked well straight out of the box.

For me, in my use, I have found the ST models work very nicely to absorb the "buzz" of chip-sealed pavement, concrete expansion joints, and the occasional frost-heave or small tree root lifting the path. The LT is the business for cross-country use, logging roads, rough stuff of the sort I often ride, and for taming the unladen stiffness of an expedition touring bike on rough roads, making it sublime in all conditions and uses.

I found I had to move the Thudbuster-suspended saddles on all three bikes 5mm forward of their positions on rigid posts in order to compensate for preloading the elsatomers/rubber pucks.

For what it is worth, I have tried both Brooks Conquests and Flyers in the past and found I could not actuate the springs at all in large or small bumps for my weight or back angle/seat loading, so I sold them on and reverted to B.17s, figuring there was no reason to haul the extra weight if springs that were ineffective due to too little weight on the saddle.
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I have found the old stainless Cyclo saddlebag loop-clamps work well for saddles lacking bag-mounting loops of their own.

All the best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2016, 02:11:17 AM by Danneaux »

mickeg

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2016, 11:48:37 PM »
When I do mountain biking on my Nomad, I use the Flyer (as noted above) but I did not say that I also use; a suspension front fork, a telescopic type suspension seatpost and 57mm wide tires for that kind of riding.  If the bumps are large enough that all of that cushioning is inadequate, I stand on the pedals until I clear the bumps.

But for those of you that wish for the cushy ride of the thudbuster, each of us has our own personal preferences.

My suspension fork, 57 mm tires, Flyer, and suspension seatpost in the photos.

il padrone

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2016, 12:48:53 AM »
For me the Conquest's lack of saddle loops is an issue but I imagine you can buy 'add-ons'.

You have me distraught now. I had been considering resurrecting the old and VERY comfortable Conquest into service on the Nomad, but now discover that I will be unable to use the equally nice Carradice saddlebag uplift support that is so readily interchangeable between any Brooks saddles with seat bag loops  :-[




I shall just stay with the Swift Ti now.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2016, 12:52:22 AM by il padrone »

Danneaux

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2016, 01:27:21 AM »
Cyclo's add-on saddlebag loops fit the rails of any saddle and work nicely.

They're available under a variety of labels. The ones in my photo were marketed under the SBI logo in the early days before they became known simply as "Specialized". SJS Cycles offer them under the Carradice brand:
http://www.sjscycles.co.uk/carradice-cyclo-bag-loops-chrome-per-pair-prod16431/?geoc=us

All the best,

Dan.

Bill C

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2016, 03:24:36 AM »


For me the Conquest's lack of saddle loops is an issue

i got around having no loops with a wad punch, my carradice audax and one of my camper longflaps now have an extra set of holes i hang them off the bar at the bottom between the springs, if you go this route make the holes a bit wider than the length of the bar or the bag slides from side to side  :-[ yea i should of thunk of it  ::)
unfortunately you can't fit a bagman to a conquest but it fits on a flyer, contrary to what carradice would have you believe

mickeg

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2016, 03:25:31 PM »
Cyclo's add-on saddlebag loops fit the rails of any saddle and work nicely.
...

Do not fit on a Conquest, the saddle rails do not come up to the top of the saddle in the back, instead the springs are located there.

Plus,I have those and found that they are not very strong when you have a heavy weight on them.  They do work on my Brooks Pro and that is where I found them to slip.

mickeg

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2016, 03:30:01 PM »
For me the Conquest's lack of saddle loops is an issue but I imagine you can buy 'add-ons'.

You have me distraught now. I had been considering resurrecting the old and VERY comfortable Conquest into service on the Nomad, but now discover that I will be unable to use the equally nice Carradice saddlebag uplift support that is so readily interchangeable between any Brooks saddles with seat bag loops  :-[




I shall just stay with the Swift Ti now.

That is a neat bracket.  I might think about trying to fabricate something like that.  In the past I used a piece of cardboard as a stiffener, but that metal bracket would certainly be more robust.

I have used the springs instead of saddle loops on my conquest to run the leather straps through, but it worked best if the bottom of the Carradice was sitting on my two panniers for support from underneath.

il padrone

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2016, 07:12:42 AM »
You have me distraught now. I had been considering resurrecting the old and VERY comfortable Conquest into service on the Nomad, but now discover that I will be unable to use the equally nice Carradice saddlebag uplift support that is so readily interchangeable between any Brooks saddles with seat bag loops  :-[




I shall just stay with the Swift Ti now.

That is a neat bracket.  I might think about trying to fabricate something like that.  In the past I used a piece of cardboard as a stiffener, but that metal bracket would certainly be more robust.

I have used the springs instead of saddle loops on my conquest to run the leather straps through, but it worked best if the bottom of the Carradice was sitting on my two panniers for support from underneath.

More to it than just the bracket. The small metal tangs on the middle (bowed) rail slot into the seat-bag loops on a Brooks, the lowest rail sits against the saddle rails, and the cordura strap buckles around the seat-post to hold it all in place. Quick to mount, and very quick to release; transferable readily from one bike to another, if they have Brooks seat-bag loops. You won't be rigging this up too quickly without the right design.

il padrone

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Re: What are helically sprung bicycle saddles like the Brooks good for?
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2016, 07:21:09 AM »
If you don't have seat-bag loops you are probably going to be best off getting the Bagman QR, for ease of use. The Carradice Uplift rack may have been discontinued.... not sure.

This video goes through a few of the options for saddlebag mounts.


[edit] The saddlebag uplift rack is in stock at SJS Cycles

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The new Classic Rack is based on a vintage design which has been re-engineered to allow it to securely fit any saddle with metal bag loops
« Last Edit: March 30, 2016, 07:25:59 AM by il padrone »