Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Butchered Brooks B17

I've now contributed about 36 articles to Braking News and Roundabout The Villages and while I have a list of local historical articles still to go I haven't done enough research recently to write another now. And, now is Tuesday night when I am under the gun from editor Komoroske who wants something NOW. As Monty Python would say, "And now for something completely different" - how to modify a Brooks B17 saddle. Maybe not the smoothest transition, but it got the job done.

When I was 14 in 1960 I desperately wanted a 10 speed bike. My Dad said he'd put up 50% if I joined a cycling club and took it seriously. So I got a Velo Sport handbuilt 10 speed racing bike, my Dad ante'd up, I joined the Streatham Cycle Racing Club, and I worked Saturdays at Velo Sport to support my new habit. Pete Russell owned the store and one of the things he did, and taught me how to do, was "butcher" a Brooks B17 saddle - probably the most popular bike seat in the days before plastic saddles.
And guess what? A couple of years ago I was at a bike event where they had a swap table and I was irresistibly drawn to an old Brooks B17. I knew exactly what I was going to do with it, so picked it up for a few bucks, took it home, then went online and bought some large Brooks copper rivets and a can of Proofide.

"Butchering," sometimes known as "blocking" the saddle, is pretty simple if you have an eye for the finished shape. You cut off the bag loops at the back, remove the metal Brooks name tag, then use a sharp knife to cut off the leather flush with the rear frame and also the nose, which will expose the front of the frame. Keeping the saddle on a seat post, you then turn it upside down and with a rubber mallet beat a curve into the flat part at the back of the frame. Once you have established the shape you want you drill out the old rivets and replace them with the new large copper ones. Some people take them out and replace them one at a time - personally I remove the leather cover completely. If you hand hammer the rivets they look really nice.
We're nearly done. With the cover back on, roll the sides of the underneath, use about 120 grit sandpaper to get rid of the shine, hit it with Proofide and you have a butchered Brooks B17. Something that Brooks copied and called the B17 Professional. 

A work of  art.

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