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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Making of the "Fancy Bicyclist" The Brooks/Carradice Paradigm Part 1 (of possibly many)

One of the big reasons I can be such a curmudgeon and resist the temptation of nice things is that I know if I like it, I won't like anything but that. I will obsess over these particular nice things and rearrange possessions/lifestyles to accommodate. I can be cheap. And nice things are usually not cheap.

A case in point: Brooks saddles. For years, I was totally content with riding "whatever" saddles. You know the type: fully synthetic, moderately comfortable, not really "stylish", and are seen on practically every modern bicycle. During those blissfully ignorant years I only thought about my "bike seat" (gosh, I didn't even call them saddles back then!) when the thing broke or was tearing, which a year or so after my constant riding they inevitably will.

Then a few years ago I obtained a Carradice saddle bag. (If you don't know what they look like, click here.) I liked the look of these classic British canvas bags, and thought it would work good on my Univega basket bike, since the bike wasn't going to have a rear rack. The main problem with the Carradice is that is indeed a fancy bag. So fancy that it's designed to mount on a Brooks or similar traditional leather saddle, using the two loops that are on the rear of the saddle. And I just had the "ordinary" bike seat on the Univega. I didn't feel like springing (ha, ha) for a Brooks because they weren't cheap (fancy and cheap go together like oil and water), and besides, aren't they supposed to be uncomfortable? I mean, look at them! There's no squishy padding anywhere to be found!

The other options were to by a special rack type of mount for it from Carradice (meh), or make my own jury-rigged mounting configuration, of which instructions were obtained online (ed note: can't find that page right now.) And I did. And I was happy.

I brought the Univega-with-basket-and-Carradice to Victoria, where as always I hung out with the Recyclistas bike shop crew. Since the Recyclistas kids are certifiable bike geeks, we started talking about my bike, the bag, and the Rube Goldberg-esque way the Carradice was mounted. I rather casually mentioned that it would mount easier and look better with a Brooks saddle, but this was not in my possession.

"Eh?" said Ryan, one of Recyclistas owners. (ed note: when talking about Canadians, you must always make sure they say "eh".) "Well, I have an extra Brooks that I don't need. And we need a new ad for the shop. I'll trade you my Brooks for a new ad."

And in less time that it normally takes me for these type of things (read: a long time), I had drawn Ryan a new Reyclistas ad.

And I had a new (to me) Brooks saddle! The Carradice mounted beautifully, and the saddle/bag combination looked gorgeous, looked natural, looked meant to be. And the best part: the Brooks saddle is comfortable!

Now I don't ride anything but Brooks. I've purchased quite a few recently through Craigslist. And as long as the leather and rail stay in good shape, I can resell them if I don't need them. I can't even imagine an ordinary "bike seat" now.

Honestly, I don't want to be this way! Being a fancy bicyclist wasn't the plan!

And don't get me started on how I covet the Carradice. I picked up another one recently. And there will probably be more down the road.

Stay tuned for Part 2: my wool obsession.


  1. That green Carradice bag is gorgeous. I got an email today from someone selling a Brooks saddle. They're going to send me a pic tomorrow. Not sure yet if I'm going to buy. I was actually interested in a particular bike, which didn't pan out - and they asked me if I would be interested in buying a "Brooks Saddle." They said they just happened to have an extra one...hmmm.

  2. If it was me, I'd probably go for it! But that's just me. I've had decent luck with the used Brooks that I've gotten off CL, except an ancient B-66 that started to tear on the edges after I proofided. But I only paid $20 for that one, and it's on the Cycle Truck, so it doesn't see heavy usage.

  3. Oooooh. Canvas saddle bags. Coveting like mad over here and thinking that hubby's bike will need one...


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