Wednesday, March 29, 2017

WW4M: Brooks Cambium C-17

Brooks Cambium C-17 in Natural.
Saddles are a highly personal item and being one of the all important "touch points" for a human on a bicycle, there is a lot of debate on "what is best". So- take the following opinions on this saddle with a grain of salt. This may be your worst nightmare in terms of a bicycle saddle, or it may just not suit you. I get it. Save the comments. I am just sharing "What Works For Me", (WW4M, get it? ), and it may or may not be something you can use. Okay? With that said.......

Brooks saddles were traditionally made in leather for well over a century, have been lauded and hated on, and are still one of the most iconic bicycle components ever made. Maybe even the most iconic. Traditionalist, tourists, and hipsters have all been fans of the Brooks saddle over the decades. But with all of that, there was one thing that was a big issue. Moisture.

Brooks saddles are not really very moisture friendly. They can stretch, crack, and get all sorts of issues if you get them wet on multiple occasions and do not fastidiously take care of them. I have had Brooks leather saddles on other bikes, enjoyed the heck out of them, but I would never have put one on any of my gravel bikes or Fargos due to the problems Brooks saddles have with episodes of wetness. The comfort was there for me, but the durability without doing much maintenance was not there.

The C-17 in slate- Fear not the water!
My friend MG decided he had heard enough good things about Cambiums that he would pop for one. They are an expensive saddle, so it was a risk and it very well may not have worked for him. However; at the time folks were snapping up used ones in an alarmingly short amount of time if they became available, so he knew he could flip it if need be.

Well, as he told me later, he was angered by the Cambium. You see, he liked it so much he wanted four more! That was a costly try out! Eventually, he did get four more C-17 saddles to outfit his fleet. So, I trust his opinion to a great degree, and I decided last Summer to give a Slate colored C-17 a flier on my Standard Rando. I had the saddle on the bike by mid-summer and have been using it off and on since then.

Cambiums are made out of a textile and bonded to a natural rubber base which is stretched out over an aluminum frame. The materials are different than a traditional Brooks leather saddle, but the basic idea of the design remains. The rubber base acts like the leather, like a sort of hammock, and the aluminum frame is much like its steel counterpart in the leather saddle. Besides the materials, the Cambium differs in that it can withstand being very wet without having to be carefully maintained afterwards. A big plus for bikes that might see muddy roads, rain, or even wet snow on occasion. Body moisture in the form of sweat can deform a saddle made of leather as well, but the Cambium also is not affected by sweat in the same manner.

Okay, that's all just great, but was it comfortable? At first, I wasn't so sold on the Cambium. The base was stiff and not very forgiving to my body movements and bumps from the road. However; after about three good two to three hour rides, the saddle came in and was a completely different experience. The base was forgiving after this, and now it is one of the most comfortable saddles I have ever ridden. Obviously, the shape also agrees with me.

One final thing. The comparison to a leather Brooks and the Cambium. In my opinion, there is a "sweet spot" on a leather Brooks and you don't have a whole lot of fore and aft "wiggle room" before you get to the rivets or a spot that is uncomfortable in some way. With the Cambium, I feel that this is far less of an issue. I'm not sure if that is due to how the Cambium's undercarriage is different or not, but I suspect that this is the reason I find that I can move around a bit more with comfort on a Cambium saddle.

Would a Cambium work for you? Heck, I don't know. I just know that they work for me and I bought a second one based upon my experiences.


james said...

Do you think the textured surface will adversely affect the wear of you shorts or lycra?
Have you tried the cutout model?

Guitar Ted said...

@james- It hasn't been an issue for me nor for my friend who uses one and has ridden a couple thousand miles on it. In fact, he does have the cut out version and claims it is better than his former Selle Anatomica by a country mile. He has ridden it enough that he has worn, or a better word would be "polished", spots off on the saddle in different, higher wear areas. That said, it is still going strong though.

Phil said...

I've got 2 Brooks Cambium saddles now as well, C15 Carved. I had high wear on one following a GDMBR tour last summer. It failed on one side after about 5,000 miles. Brooks replaced it. Hmmm.

No doubt it's a comfortable saddle for me. I am still waiting to see if the rubberized material delivers the long life I expect to see for an expensive saddle like this.

Daniel Lemke said...

@james- I've noticed some wear on my shorts from commuting to/from work. Its not bad and I'm not worried about it but the threads are a little frayed on my shorts. I haven't noticed any wear on my bibs.

Michael Lemberger said...

I'm always cautious about saying stuff like this, but for me the Cambium seems to be The One. I really, really like it.

Regarding wear on shorts, the fabric texture on the Cambium really hangs on to sand. So if you're riding without fenders, this will tend to accelerate wear on the seat area of your shorts. Ask me how I know.