The title gives it away. The best bike-related item I bought this year was the Brooks Cambium Saddle. I didn’t actually buy it, it was a birthday present from the wife. Some people have real trouble with saddles. I’ve generally had no difficulties in finding the right perch.
Some time ago i experimented with a San Marco Regal, it’s one of the nicest looking retro-saddles. It made some unwarranted and painful changes to my lower goochular region and has been banished to the shed ever since. The Cambium is not dissimilar in looks, with a riveted construction. The base is made of vulcanised and hard rubber with the top coating of cotton canvas. It’s slightly rough compared the smooth sheen of a Fizik or San Marco, to the extent that some johnny-come-lately peak-millenial bike boom converts have taken to lambasting the saddle for wearing out or through a pair of expensive jeans. It doesn’t wear through lycra, but if you’re over anxious about distressing a pair of pre-distressed jeans then this might not be the saddle for you. Unless of course you’re pairing it with the Rapha city riding jodphurs and softshell kepi, for epic, concierge-led rides with the Dalston Chapter.
As a general rule, the only time saddles really matter are when I’m doing lots of fixed miles, usually over winter. This is because there is more lateral movement, or movement in general, when riding fixed, thus leading to an increase in chafage and other unpleasantness. All of which reliably answers the question ‘how is the new saddle?‘, with ‘it tore me a new one‘.
I have used a Brooks C17 and a Spa Cycles Aire. Both were OK. The Brooks is very heavy and little bit too antiquated. The Aire is much cheaper than the Brooks and is racier, but also has a high gap between the rails and saddle which make it look a bit wrong. The racier Brooks saddles are fiercely expensive. The Aire is also impossible to break in. It’s made of reinforced kangaroo-hide and is leatherier than Tom Jones’ face. Not that I’d try to break in the latter.
Last year Brooks bought out a new line of saddles with a cotton covering, called the ‘Cambium’. They do a wide C17 and a narrow C15. They have managed to capture the middle ground between racy and retro. I took one on test from Strada Cycles and had no difficulties at all. They come in at about £110, but with club discount I essentially got it cheaper than it would be from any well-known online retailers.
The best way of knowing if a saddle is right is if you complete forget it’s there. This is unequivocally the case with the Cambium. It does the job with a minimum of fuss; it’s just wide enough with a sturdy and hard plastic base under the covering to support the sit bones. I’ve had no issues at all. In fact, i promptly went out a bought the narrower C15 for the Mercian.
After 6 months of commuting and longer rides the Cambium is proving its worth, it’s very comfortable. It’s the only saddle i’d recommend unequivocally to anyone. I’m not a huge Brooks fan, as a rule of thumb I’ve had difficulties even breaking in the C17, my low weight means i haven’t so much as dented the leather after thousands of miles. The Cambium has more ‘give’ because of the construction. It also looks lovely and complements both the Bob Jackson and the Mercian and both the C15 and 17 have a set of bag loops hidden within the construction; perfect for the Carradice. It’s not far off being the perfect saddle.