• Stephen Peel

Brooks B17 Imperial Review

Being a stocky and strongly built guy, and not the usual racing snake you find huddled in a peloton flying over the Swiss Alps, I find I need a more robust saddle, not a razor blade that will lengthen my legs.

I require a saddle that can cope with a bit more weight, and plenty of bumps on tracks and some off-road. Not to mention myriad potholes in faraway lands.

After trying a Gel type saddle for over a year on the North Wales coast, I found it OK, but still had pain in the perineum area. Even trying to edge the saddle down so that my weight was more on the back of the saddle, didn’t seem to do much.

At one point I was so concerned about the pain, that I went to the doctors about it, which lead to a an uncomfortable investigation that left me feeling like I needed a shower afterwards, and the doctor didn't even buy me a drink :). As a result of that investigation, my doctor felt I need to go straight to the hospital for further investigation.

Blood tests, urine tests, 2 separate ultrasounds, and plenty of unwelcome fondling over the course of 3 months, and I was given the all clear from prostate cancer. But it was scary to say the least, and a really quite upsetting few months to be honest. I have to admit to feeling it was all over at one point, but then reminded myself that I have more lives than 10 cats.

Anyway, I was encouraged to seek out a saddle that took the pressure off that very tender area, so I did a bit of study and had seen plenty of write-ups on Brooks saddles, with many cycle tourists swearing by them.

I had thought about a short saddle that had no long nose, just the back end for resting my sit bones, but then after some study, I found that you need the nose to help you steer and stabilise the bike, and its something to rest your thighs against.

I chose the Brooks B17 Imperial at £80. It looks great, but I'm having trouble adjusting to it, its like sitting on a lump of wood. So I'm going to try a few others.

In the end, after trying a few expensive saddles, I put the Brooks back on and started my world cycle. I felt that I should give it more of a chance, as people were telling me it will give in the middle over time to a dip, and act like a hammock for my but.

After 12 months on my world cycle, I am still with the Brooks. It did indeed dip in the middle in quite a short space of time. I was told that over a period of time it would dip, but being 149kg at the outset, I think it did all its dipping on day two :).

It still hurts a lot. I do wear padded cycle shorts under my ordinary shorts too, so I'm just putting it all down to my size and weight and not really the saddle.

But, I may be really wrong, and it could be that the saddle is just not right for me. I have left hotel rooms covered in blood from saddle sores and abrasions breaking in the night while I've been asleep, leave a real mess in a lot of cases.

We are all different builds and ride in different ways on different bikes, so what might be right for me, might be the worst thing ever for you, so be prepared to try out a few saddles.

I am going to try a sprung gel saddle on my return to Vietnam, as I use this saddle on a spare old bike at home and doing 20 or 30 miles without pain is the usual. It's a big saddle and maybe just what I need, so we will see.

Other things with the Brooks are that I've found that when it gets wet it stops being slippy and grabs at my clothing. Keeping it dry while riding isn't easy due to sweat and wet whether.

I like it most because it looks good on my bike, but other than that, I'm not too keen.