Wednesday, 23 February 2011

BROOKS, since 1866

Over almost a century and a half, Brooks England has grown from a small workshop to a byword in quality craftsmanship. Back in 1865, John Boultbee Brooks left his hometown of Hinckley in Leicestershire with just £20 in his pocket.
He headed for Birmingham, where in 1866 he established a business in horse harnesses and general leather goods in Great Charles Street under the name JB Brooks & Co.In 1878, the unfortunate death of Mr Brooks’ horse led to a stroke of inspiration. Unable to afford another horse, he borrowed a bicycle in order to commute to work. But he found the seat so uncomfortable that he vowed to do something about it. On 28 October 1882, Mr Brooks filed his first saddle patent.
Waddling cyclists everywhere threw their hats in the air and the new product was a roaring success. The company became known and respected for its beautiful leather handcrafted saddles, and soon started to make cycle and motorcycle bags and other accessories.
Traditional techniques in manufacturing leather saddles were passed down from generation to generation of craftsmen as the company grew under the guidance of the Brooks family until 1958.
In 1962 Brooks became part of Raleigh and moved to the current works in Smethwick in the West Midlands, just a few miles away from the original premises.
In the last decade, we have struck out on our own again as Brooks England, following a new course that honours the company’s heritage. Inspired by the timeless products designed by our predecessors, we have revived the original slogan ‘Saddles, Bags, Etc’ and introduced a range of cycle bags and other accessories.
Brooks England is steeped in history, a prestige brand that boasts almost 150 years of tradition and expertise. But quality and style never age. So come on in and take a seat.

Brooks England is a bicycle saddle manufacturer in Smethwick, Birmingham, England. It has been making leather bicycle saddles since 1866, when it was founded in Hockley, Birmingham.
In 2000, Brooks' parent company, Sturmey Archer collapsed, but Selle Royal of Italy bought Brooks in 2002.
Popular Brooks saddles include the B17 (fairly wide), Team Professional (narrower), Swift and Swallow (narrowest). All are available with steel or titanium rails. More niche products include sprung saddles and four-rail designs (which require an adaptor for modern seatposts).
The fundamental design of a Brooks saddle is a leather top stretched between a metal "cantle plate" at the rear and a nose piece, to which it is attached with steel or copper rivets. Using a threaded bolt, the nose piece can be moved forward independently of the rails, tensioning the leather. It is important not to over-tension the leather or it may tear, especially at the rivets. Normally the nose bolt should not be adjusted unless the saddle becomes noticeably sagged, in which case it should only be adjusted in fractions of a turn until the top is comfortable again.
After a certain period of use, which can be from 100 miles to 1,000 miles depending on the leather used to make the top, the saddle visibly moulds itself to the rider and "dimples" appear where the "sit bones" normally rest. This is caused by fibres in the leather breaking down under the weight of the rider. The saddle is normally more comfortable by this stage, although some riders find that no break-in period is necessary for comfort and other riders never find a Brooks saddle comfortable, even after many thousands of miles.
Leather saddles are not waterproof (although this does mean they are able to absorb and dissipate sweat by "breathing"). Brooks produce a wax dressing, Proofide, which should be applied occasionally. Various amusing urban legends exist about the composition of Proofide (such as it being made from the fat of hanged men) but the main component is tallow. The current blend also includes some citronella oil, identifiable by its sharp odour.
Touring cyclists and audax cyclists, especially those based in the UK, frequently choose Brooks saddles. Leather saddles are two or three times heavier than modern plastic or carbon-fibre designs but, for some riders, the traditional appearance and long-distance comfort make this a worthwhile trade-off.

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