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- A new saddle is a crucial and cost-effective upgrade, providing both comfort and sleekness to your bike.
- Though there’s no one-size-fits-all saddle, the Brooks Cambium C17 All Weather ($72.52) comes close in terms of shape, design, aesthetic, and price.
- I found the Brooks Cambium C17 All Weather to enhance my overall on-the-bike experience and it worked great for both Lycra or plain clothes rides
Installing a new saddle is one of the most cost-effective upgrades you can make to your bike. When you consider which body parts interface with which bike components, it’s easy to understand why a saddle is so crucial. You also make constant contact with a bike’s pedals and handlebars but a saddle is often responsible for overall comfort, thus improving your rides.
A new saddle can also go a long way towards making your bicycle look better. Aesthetically speaking, if tires are the shoes and grips are the gloves, then your bike’s saddle is the hat. So, replacing the basic plastic one that came standard on the bike with something nicer instantly increases its class factor.
Mechanically speaking, swapping your saddle for a new one is simple, too. The hardest part is choosing which saddle you want in the first place. The sheer variety of posterior pedestals out there can be bewildering, and your options include everything from ultra-lightweight racing models to ergonomic pressure-relieving seats. There are even noseless designs that look more like toilet seats than saddles.
Of course, all bodies are different and comfort is subjective; therefore, a saddle is by no means a one-size-fits-all item. Bicycle fit and saddle positioning are far more important than the saddle itself, and if you don’t have those dialed in, no saddle will feel right. Even with this in mind, there’s a saddle I’ve enjoyed so much that I’m confident enough to recommend it to anyone wanting an improved on-the-bike sitting experience: The Cambium C17 All Weather from Brooks.
A better shape
It would be irresponsible to dismiss anatomical pressure-relieving bike saddles since there certainly are riders who require a special saddle shape. At the same time, such saddles can also be a shortcut for people who can’t be bothered to sort out their bike fit. After all, years of various marketing strategies led consumers to mistakenly believe this style of seat is the only way to find comfort.
But true saddle discomfort comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to ride a bike. Cycling isn’t like parking yourself in a recliner to binge your favorite Netflix show. You’ll instead be shifting your weight around periodically, and the classic shape of the Cambium facilitates this.
It’s wide towards the rear for when you’re sitting upright and need support, and narrow at the front so you’re able to slide forward for extra speed. Its profile is also contoured enough to conform to your underside but not so much that you feel locked in place. The best saddles suggest where you should sit yet encourage you to move around as you ride; the Cambium does this extremely well.
One aspect that may not work for everyone is its width. The numeral 17 in Cambium C17 refers to its width, and there’s also a C15 (narrow) and a C19 (wide). Either of which could be a better fit depending on your proportions or ride style. It’s smart to consult with your local bike shop if you need guidance on choosing the correct size.
Since the C17 sits in the middle of the size range, it strikes a good balance between providing an ample platform and allowing you plenty of mobility. It’s also available with a cutout if that’s a feature that works for you — Brooks calls this the Carved version
Most bike saddles, whether cheap or expensive, are made of plastic. Plastic saddles are especially convenient for racing since they’re so light – they’re also durable and waterproof. However, they’re not particularly dynamic in feel and tend to be either firm or foamy, depending on whether they’re designed for performance or comfort.
Then there are leather saddles. Though they require a period of time to be broken in, a leather saddle just looks and feels more premium than plastic. They’re often more expensive than plastic but are much more durable and if cared for correctly, can dramatically improve your ride experience.
The Cambium C17 All Weather essentially combines the positives of both material types. Made from rubber and topped with a textured nylon, it feels almost like unwashed denim. You don’t need to break it in, plus it’s waterproof and comes the closest to replicating the suppleness and resiliency of leather. To Brooks’ credit, it’s made leather bike saddles since the 19th Century, so it knows exactly which properties to reproduce.
Thanks to the rubber, the Cambium offers suspension that helps smooth out the ride – something you’ll find especially welcome on rough terrains like a gravel road or a New York City street. However, it’s also firm enough to avoid bouncing you around or sinking into the saddle, which is what often leads to numbness.
A classy aesthetic
There are plenty of good-looking plastic saddles on the market but few that would classify as classy, with the exception of certain vintage models. Leather saddles exude style, though the old-timey aesthetic can be at odds with a modern bicycle. The Cambium C17 splits the difference perfectly; it looks equally at home on a modern or classic bike, and the rivets and textured cover make it look classic without seeming antique. The black nylon of the All Weather also keeps its stylish look even when subjected to the elements.
With a retail price of $120 (we found it for less via Amazon) the Brooks Cambium C17 All Weather isn’t cheap but does compare to most decent aftermarket saddles. With its stylish aesthetic, comfortable profile and smooth ride, it’s well worth the investment, equally-suited to Lycra or plain clothes rides.
The bottom line
The Brooks Cambium C17 All Weather nearly pulls off being a one-size-fits-all saddle with its stylish look, smooth ride, and comfortable profile. The saddle works well for both Lycra or plain clothes rides and features a nylon-wrapped design that offers many of the same benefits of leather while being able to stand up to all weather conditions. If you’re searching for a good-looking saddle that contours to your underside and helps avoid numbness, the Cambium C17 All Weather from Brooks England is well worth the $120 investment.
- Should you buy it? Yes. If you’re looking for a stylish saddle that offers a smooth ride and comfortable profile, then the Brooks Cambium C17 All Weather is what you seek. Racers may want to look elsewhere for something lighter, and we also recommend avoiding locking it up on the street whenever possible, as it’s a bit fancy to leave out in the open.
- What are your alternatives? The bike saddle market is flooded with options. Though Brooks England is one of the most popular, there are also companies like Specialized or Fizik that offer a wide variety of bike saddles. Choosing one comes down to your personal ride style and position.
Pros: Its materials closely resemble the durability and quality of leather, it offers suspension that smooths out the ride, especially on rough terrain, classy and stylish look
Cons: Expensive, not perfect for racers