Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How to Care for Leather Saddles

A couple of goes with saddle soap did so much to improve the look of my new old Brooks B-72 that I wanted to post an after picture and also solicit comments from readers about what they use to clean and maintain their leather saddles, especially the old ones.

For the Runwell's saddle, which I originally thought beyond redemption, I used a combination of several cleanings with saddle soap and then several applications of neatsfoot oil, which is what I always used on my horse tack back in my equestrian days. While still very much showing its age, the saddle cleaned up very nicely.

But that was a hard case, and this new saddle came out looking much improved with just three applications of saddle soap and then buffing with a soft cloth. I'll do a couple more applications before the Huffeigh is assembled (which will still be some time), and then occasional saddle soaping and maybe a light oiling now and then. What do you do?


  1. Can't beat the old've probably saved youself six month's of breaking-in time!

  2. I think we put too much emphasis on breaking in and taking care of leather saddles. I almost didn't buy my B17 after reading all the web posts. I'm glad I ignored all that nonsense and got one any way. The only thing a leather saddle wants is to be ridden all the time and treated about three times a year. I couldn't be happier with mine and I don't give it any more thought than the old plastic ones I used to have.

  3. Thanks Anonymous, was that a new B17 or a used one? And what sort of treatment do you typically use?

    I agree that some people are perhaps worry-warts about their leather saddles, but leather *is* definitely a different beast than plastic, especially for folks who ride in all weather conditions.

  4. Thom,

    It was a brand new B17. Hard as a brick. Rather than waste all kinds of effort and time on break-in techniques, I just rode it. I put a little proofide on it about three times a year and call it good. Because I'm a light person (140 lbs) I think it took a little longer to finally submit to my backside. But, it really wasn't something that would make a good story.

    I ride year round. All kinds of weather conditions. I just figure my posterior will cover the saddle even in the worst of weather. Hasn't failed me yet. I'll take it inside if I park the bike in bad weather, but really don't do anything special.

  5. Cool, thanks! A good caution against over-thinking things.

  6. Thom,

    I rode today in a blowing, blinding snow storm. I really need to get some studded tires, but that's another story. As is always the case, my narrow backside kept the B17 protected during the entire 26 miles.

    Does 1993 qualify for "old bike" yet?

  7. Well, as hard as it is to believe, that's a full 16 years old now, so I guess it counts!

  8. Great. I have a '93 Mongoose Rockadile mountain bike. Over the years I've worn out and replaced every component on it. I guess that's not the same as restoring an old bike, but it keeps a middle aged bike on the road.

    I transformed it into a commuter/touring/everyday bike after the initial years of beating it up on trails. The frame is Chro-Moly and its geometry is similar to touring bikes. In my mind, it's just the perfect bike. I guess I'll have it on the road 20 years from now and I can officially call it an old bike.

  9. from what i have read neatsfoot is not the idea treatment for leather bike saddles... softens them too much and they can then stretch out of shape... my old one I use a Swedish leather treatment called Renapur (??) and that has been good... but I have ordered some Brooks Proofhide for my new B17 Special from when I get to put it on my bike

    cheers from Oz