I’m assuming that if you’re reading this page you own a Brooks saddle, or you’re thinking of buying one.
Maybe you’ve already invested the money and you’re not sure what to do now your Brooks saddle got wet.
Read on to see.
Why is a wet saddle a problem?
The Brooks saddle is manufactured by an independent cycling company called, you guessed it, Brooks. It’s founding actually dates all the way back to 1886 and they produce leather saddles. I've actually written a few reviews on them here and here.
Leather expands when it gets wet. When it dries it shrinks back again. The problem occurs if during this expanding and shrinking process it loses its shape.
The major advantage of leather saddles, such as Brooks, is they are incredibly comfortable when broken in. If it loses its shape then it loses the comfort, and the several hundred pounds or dollars you invested goes down the drain.
Proofide should always be used to weather the saddle and be applied about every 6 months. This will help protect against the occasional watering but not a downpour.
What to do now your Brooks saddle got wet?
The first thing to remember is don’t panic!
Many cyclists who have never used a Brooks saddle before will panic and do all kinds of crazy things. Let me, therefore, begin with what NOT to do.
- Don’t tension it - Many cyclists immediately try to correct the shape of the saddle by tensioning it. Don’t do this. It’s still in the expanding or shrinking stage and tensioning will just stretch the leather too far.
Leave the tensioning for when you are absolutely sure the saddle is dry.
- Don’t pressure dry it - The saddles wet and you want to dry it. Don’t use a hair dryer or anything else to help it along, have a little patience.
Leather has its own process for stretching and drying. If you try and accelerate it then the risk of permanent damage is only going to increase.
- Don’t use proofide while it’s wet - Never proofide a leather saddle when it’s wet. It interferes with the natural process and oils. Wait until it’s completely dry.
Now that's everything you should NOT do. So, what can you do?
- You can air dry it - We’re humans and we like to fix things. That’s why it’s so counterintuitive to just leave the saddle to air dry, but air drying is exactly the right thing to do. The leather will naturally dry out if it’s given enough time to breathe.
When air drying don’t put it in something like a damp cellar, it may grow mold. Leave it in the sun, leather likes heat. Storing it in a garage is okay too.
If it’s raining outside don’t leave the bike in it. If the seat is already soaking wet don’t cover it up. Bring it into the house and place the bike in a hallway or somewhere air is circulating well.
For more info on how to maintain your Brooks saddle check out the maintenance and care video from Brooks.
My Brooks saddle has a warranty, can I just take it to a shop for repairing?
Although the Brooks saddle does come with a two year warranty which can be increased to ten years, they don’t cover negligence. Their website clearly states the warranty does not cover “low saddle maintenance and care.” Letting a saddle get wet is considered low care.
If the saddle does lose its shape after it has completely dried out then by all means take it to a bike shop. Just be prepared for disappointments. Many repair places don’t have the expertise with leather saddles that is necessary for serious repairs beyond tensioning.
Within the U.K you can contact Brooks directly for their advice and contacts. Outside of the U.K, the only company Brooks recommends is Simon Firth at Firth & Wilson Transport Cycles, 1105 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia.
How can I keep my Brooks saddle from getting wet in the first place?
There are three things you can do to prevent a Brooks getting wet to begin with. The first is to install mudguards (Fenders) on your bike. They will stop water infiltrating the underside of your saddle. The minimal cost is worth it.
The second thing is to keep a plastic bag with you at all times. Try and find one that will easily fit the contours of the saddle.
These are easy to scrunch up and store under the seat, then you can just pull them out and cover it up when it starts raining.
The third point of protection is to invest in a saddle cover. Plenty of companies produce saddle covers for your Brooks leather saddle.
They look more stylish than bags but there are some arguments to be made that they are not as safe to use when riding through rain, only when covering a parked bicycle.
Saddle covers don’t always cover the full underside of the seat while a plastic bag can be drawn up more tightly to do this. My recommendation is to take your bike to a store and place one on to see what you think. If you’re satisfied, buy it.
Look after your saddle, it’s an investment and should be treated with the proper care. Protect your investment with a cover, but if your Brooks saddle got wet somehow, leave it to air dry and don’t ride it again until it has!
Image Credit Flickr Creative Commons - VXLA, Justin August