Newcomer To Touring Kicks Off In Style With 11,000-mile Round-Trip Of the U.S.
Dave Gill’s tour around North America has come to our attention by grace of his fine pictures and equally fine stories from the road. He has been on the move since late last year, and fastidiously checks in with daily blog or photo updates. He also has a fine piece of leather under him, and got in touch with us recently to tell us of a narrow escape he had just before setting off…
At the beginning of November, I set off to ride a loop of North America. A tour that is still on-going, and will take another 9 months or so. 3 days before the trip, an experienced touring friend looked at my bike in what I thought was a fully prepared state with its lush thick foam saddle and said, “Before you go, you have to swap to a Brooks saddle”. But why? It had thick padding, and on the short test rides I’d been doing, it was comfortable.
I should explain at this point about the project. I hadn’t done any cycle touring before this. My cycling experience was very much non-distance related, years ago being involved in trials riding, but more recently just the short commute to work. The idea of the ride came about through a desire to have an adventure, explore North America and its culture, and an urge to be immersed in a lifestyle-on-wheels for a while. In November I flew to New York to begin Part One – cycling south down the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, from NYC to St Augustine, Florida.
Skip back a few days, to just after that saddle conversation. Time to do some research: Insert. ‘Touring Saddles’ ‘Comfiest bike saddle’ ‘Which saddle for long distance cycle touring’. Search.
Click here for more panoramic lifestyle and landscape compositions over on Dave’s Instagram feed.
Brooks. It was the one name that popped up, over and over again. Talk about being a newbie, eh? So I had a look at their website and their product line. Now I have to be honest – in my non-experience – the saddles hardly looked comfortable, ‘hard’ being a key part of that reasoning. Where was the squidgy foam?!
So you can guess what came next. Insert. ‘Are Brooks really comfortable?’. ‘Leather saddle cycling feedback’. ‘B17 vs Flyer’. Search. You get the idea. The internet can be a wonderful thing. But after several hours of research, the outcome of the online threads consistently ended up with users recommending the B17 or the Flyer for heavy-duty touring. So I went for it, and ordered a Flyer – it has springs, after all!
It seems like on the message boards and the online reviews, user experience with an out-of-the-box Brooks can go one of two ways: 1) it’s good from the word go, or 2) there’s a bedding-in process. The saddle arrived two days before setting off on the 11,000 mile cycle. I was about to find out, one way or another, which category I fell in to, clearly hoping for the former.
Day 1 – no problems at all. Happy days. The ride out of NYC went well, I managed to cover 58 miles which was way above any distance I’d done before. Maybe I was on track to be a category 1 – that’d be awesome. Day 2 – Nope, definitely a category 2. I was sore. Sitting on the saddle wasn’t that fun, so my strategy was to break it down into stints. 1 hour cycling. 15 mins off the saddle. And so on. This happened for a couple more days, and I was starting to miss that lovely foamy saddle.
Day 5 and the breakthrough came, the one that Brooks users everywhere talk about. The infamous Brooks goodness – those dints and that leather springyness. The saddle had become engraved with the custom shape of my rear end – and it was comfier than most sofas.
I’ve done over 1100 miles on the Flyer now, and at the time of writing am approaching 30 days of cycling on this trip. No chafing, awkward rubbing or need for padded trousers. No maintenance other than very rare applications of Proofide, and covering the saddle in the rain. No saddle sores. And most importantly, two bespoke derrière dints. The reviews are legitimate – the cult-like status of Brooks clearly down to the genuine positive user experience that the saddles provide. The Flyer – one less thing to worry about for the next 10,000 miles.
“Vacant, Pensive, Etc.” – Dave’s eligible Dashing Bike Photo Contest entry. Try one yourself!
Dave Gill is currently cycling an 11,000 mile loop around the circumference of North America, documenting the people, culture, places and the ride along the way. Follow the journey and his blog at vaguedirection.com.