Brooks Imperial, very first thoughts

So I took the plunge and bought a Brooks Imperial, here it is:

It’s the same basic saddle as the Brooks B17 with the addition (subtraction?) of a perineal cutout and lacing holes to allow some lateral tensioning. I wasn’t too happy that they only come in black but I’ll live with it. The design dates back to 1890 and was manufactured into the 1950s so Brooks were way ahead of the modern trend to split or cutout saddles.

So I’ve given it some proofhide to suck on and we’ll see how we go. First commute today was OK, the saddle was quite hard as you would expect but there seemed to be a slight easing when I’d been riding for a short while.

The saddle was nicely packaged and they include a tensioning spanner. I had to buy one separately for my previous B17 which has been relegated to my hybrid bike for occasional use when the Brompton is not available. No proofhide but I had some already.

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10 Responses to “Brooks Imperial, very first thoughts”

  1. Xinyi Folders Says:

    Hello,
    I was searching some information about Brooks saddle and then I found an interesting category “Japan”, I am a Japanese bromptonaut!
    I had a Flyers S for my brommie, I am a male but S fits small wheel bikes IMO.
    Thinking of buying a new Brooks, B17 special or Imperial, is there any advice or pros and cons?
    Thak you.

  2. chrisrust Says:

    I’ve not had enough mileage from the Imperial to give a confident opinion but so far it feels good. I hope to do some longer rides with it once it’s broken in.

  3. Erik Sandblom Says:

    Hi Chris. Would be nice to hear your further impressions of the B17 Imperial saddle. Rather bold name: Brooks England Imperial! No shyness there. :)

    I have a Brooks Swift on my Brompton which is fine but not great. I have it as far forward as it will go, even with the saddle adaptor pin. I need this because otherwise my soft part gets pinched. I suspect a B17 might be better for me since it’s wider. I measured my sit bones by sitting on cardboard, and it’s apparent that the Swift arches upward considerably between my sit bones. A flatter or wider saddle might help me.

    So I’ve ordered a Rido. I need a plastic saddle anyway, for my other bike which lives outside. Depending on how that goes, I might try a B17 or B17 Imperial.

    Thanks for the blog by the way. It sure is nice to have a Brompton-oriented forum which is public, archived and searchable :-)

  4. chrisrust Says:

    I haven’t said anything further yet about the Imperial because I have not done very much mileage on it so it is only just breaking in. I’ll transfer it from my commuter Brompton to the Pino in the spring when we might be doing some bigger rides and hope to report then, the big issue for me is that I hope to relieve the numb willie problem because of the perineal cutout but it needs a long ride to know about that. Basically the saddle is what you’d expect from a Brooks B17 (which it is apart from the cutout) – comfortable so far and no reason to expect it won’t be as good as my previous B17.

    Incidentally the name is pure nostalgia, it used to be called the Imperial when it was made previously, in the heyday of the British Empire when Brooks Saddles ruled the world. Now of course on my Brompton which seems to be ruling the world of folding bikes. Ironic that Brooks most successful saddle has the understated name of B17.

  5. Erik Sandblom Says:

    Ideally, descriptive names are good for products that do what they promise, like TGV for instance. And so the B17 is 17 cm wide and the B15 is 15,3 cm wide.

    However the B68 is 21 cm wide. Maybe the B15 and B17 came first, and then they expanded the range so that many saddles had the same or similar width. So then they started using other names?

  6. chrisrust Says:

    Nice idea Erik, except that the B17 was introduced in the 1890s, and I don’t think the Imperialist Brits were thinking in centimetres at that time. Also apparently the width of the B17 changed a lot during its early years, varying by two inches as the saddle changed its character from being a general saddle to a racing model. I know you are an admirer of quirky British habits in regard to dimensions compared to the well-regulated approach in Sweden so I hope you’ll be pleased to know that this is a random historical leftover, rather like the four foot eight and a half inches railway gauge based on the inside leg dimension of the average Roman legionary, early railways being adapted from crude devices used by Roman surgeons to amputate the left leg of one soldier in ten if they were late for tea.

    Interesting historical article about the B17 here: http://www.classiclightweights.co.uk/designs/brooks-hs.html

  7. Erik Sandblom Says:

    Railways are a wonderful jumble of technology. For example, the trains between Barcelona and Paris change gauge automatically at the border, without stopping. In Karlsruhe they have trams that can run on ordinary railway tracks outside the city. And as you know, the Eurostar runs on 3,14 different kinds of electricity and at least three different signalling systems as it streaks from London to the capital city of Brussels.

    Unfortunately this does not impress Swedes, as they want everything to be the same everywhere. Redeemingly, they feel a strong sense of responsibility to take care of those who are different from them. This can be seen in the trains across the ├śresund straight, which Swedes have generously allowed to be multi-current so as to accomodate the Danish system.

  8. john franklin Says:

    I use brooks B17 flyer on my Brompton,(B17 with springs) This works brilliantly, very comfortable if you are not worried by a little extra weght.I have BSR 3 speed gears and have chosen the lower gearing option which is also great for worn old knees !

  9. John Leibowitz Says:

    Wondering if the cutout proved to be beneficial or not on the longer rides.

  10. chrisrust Says:

    Difficult to tell for certain, maybe I get a bit less of a problem but I’ve also been paying attention to saddle position and angle a lot. The main thing seems to be having the nose up sufficiently to ensure your sit bones are taking the load – nose down you slide forward and your crotch gets the pressure.

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