Saddle modifications

Modifying a Brooks Flyer aged with an Imperial cutout and lacing

My first cutout was the B17 Imperial cutout. This gave me possibly the most comfortable saddle ever for a single 10 km ride. But that was it, it already started to stretch, the leather sides started to come to the middle and the slot was quickly disappearing...

I rode back, another 10 km, and when I got home I took very sharp hobby knife that I use to cut leather with, with me on a ride. I made the slot a bit wider which didn't help. The leather sides of the saddle are soft and thus bend which again makes the slot narrower. As the leather is so soft I also got the problem of the front of the cutout becoming a sharp ridge that my soft tissue touches (because on the rear the leather flexes so you sit lower than you would on a saddle from hard leather), which is really uncomfortable. So, I started riding, cutting bits from the front of the slot, etc. It all didn't work no matter how far forward the slot was and I got to the part of the metal nose part... On the rear I had the problem of the leather bending down like a cup shape. This is logical because of the deformation and on the rear the leather can't go anywhere, so it must deform either upwards (but you sit on the saddle and will touch anything sticking out when moving on the saddle, so this is not the natural thing to happen), or downwards. And the latter is what happened. You can see this from the 3rd picture. There I also tried to fix this in a few ways, i.e. to relieve the stress in the leather. From these experiments/cutouts it was obvious the small cutout Selle Anatomica uses at the rear is for stress relief of the leather. I don't know if that's covered in any patents but it's obvious that there's no other way to do this which I'm sure would make any part of the patent regarding the rear part of the cutout, void.

Conclusion: Aged saddles are not suitable to modify with cutouts. The leather is too soft and stretches a lot.

Lacing a Selle Anatomica

As you can read on the saddle test page, I had a lot of problems with my Selle Anatomica which stretched a lot and the slot in the middle just about disappeared. I then decided to experiment by drilling holes into the leather and lacing it like Brooks do with their aged and Imperial saddles.

When I told the Selle Anatomica proprietor I was going to try this, he tried to dissuade me from doing this, saying that's not how the saddle is supposed to work. I did it anyway and it gave me a lot insight into how leather saddles with a cutout work.

Firstly, it gave an enormous improvement in the shape of the saddle, which was better than when I started with the lacing, so no further deterioration and the slot at the front actually got back somewhat into its original shape.

Secondly, it was also immediately obvious that the feel of the saddle was quite unlike the original. It was harder, less comfortable. The feel indeed was not as the original 'hammock' but more like the Brooks B17 Imperial, i.e. as if harder leather had been used.

Conclusion: The Selle Anatomica proprietor was right, the saddle doesn't work well this way. The only upside is that the saddle keeps its shape. It was a good thing that I tried though, as it gave me a lot of insight into how saddle modifications change the feel of a saddle and how they influence saddle shape.

Conclusions about modifications and soft leather in saddles

Brooks aged saddles are not suited to modify them with a cutout. Aged leather is soft everywhere, but it only needs to soft in 2 spots on the saddle: Where the sit-bones are. These are of different width for different people, so if a small strip of leather could be made soft, that would eliminate break in and should give all the advantages of hard leather saddles. A fully soft leather saddle is therefore soft (and not very strong, but stretchy) where it doesn't need to be which will result in faster wear.

Selle Anatomica leather saddles are also made from soft leather and as per my experiences with it and the Flyer aged which gave the exact same problems, I do not trust this. I doubt these saddles will last a significant time with people who cycle a lot.

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