The Ups and Downs of a Saturday Ride

The new Brooks saddle got the best of him

Saturday morning Brendan and I parked at Lucky's and set out for our first long ride together in some time. As usual, our plan to take it easy early was disturbed by a tailwind and some fast company on Foothill. Neither of us said anything of course, we just raised our speed to keep the wheels in front. I suppose when we stop doing this we'll be dead.

We rolled along, passing a disturbing memorial to another fallen cyclist on an innocuous uphill stretch of Sandhill. By the time we reached the foot of Old La Honda the overcast was lifting. I pocketed my Stowaway Jacket and Brendan shed his Softshell Gilet for the climb. We rolled over the little stone bridge and into the shaded quiet of the hill. If we thought we'd be suffering alone it didn't last as a large group ride intent on getting home for lunch surrounded us with chatter and shifting gears before spitting us out the back.

With a wave Brendan cut me loose to find my own pace to the top. I picked off a few back markers and glanced at my watch to calculate how much pain was left before Skyline. The last sharp pitch came soon enough and then the mailboxes appeared signaling I'd reached the top. Brendan came along a few minutes later. We fueled up, took a couple of pictures and then put the outer layers back on for the fast descent down 84.

Flying down the smooth surface of 84, we shot past the Pescadero cut off and made straight for the coast fighting a pretty strong headwind. Taking turns on the front we made good time though. Gray mist still clung to the golden hills and drifted above us in the company of a lone buzzard. At Stage Road we pulled into the San Gregorio General Store for provisions (a mint It's It bar for me) and water. We'd caught up with the group ride and between all the bicycles and motorcycles parked out front the place was full up. Per the establishment's rules, we took off our shoes and padded about inside to get what we needed.

Flashback: the night before I'd told Brendan I'd swapped stems between my Cervelo and Enigma. He commented that switching equipment before a long ride was potential trouble and then he showed up that morning with a brand new Brooks leather saddle. Yes, I said a brand new Brooks leather saddle. A Brooks. Leather. Saddle. Have I given it enough emphasis.

By the junction at San Gregorio Brendan's nether regions and the Brooks were in violent disagreement. To make it clear just how uncomfortable the relationship had become, the saddle was creaking like an old hag with every pedal stroke. We rode up the Stage Road spur to Highway 1 then down to Tunitas Creek and the right that would take us back over the hill to the valley.

Tunitas never fails to impress, at least until the climb really starts to bite. In the cool of the Redwoods, the new asphalt put in for the Tour of California was black and velvet smooth. The stickiness of the first few months was gone. Conversation ended shortly after the smooth stuff started and we settled into our respective rhythms. I battled the hill, Brendan battled the hill and the Brooks. Someone had spray painted mile markers on the pristine surface and somewhere around 2.5 miles to the summit the worst was over. My back was tightening up so as soon as the slope eased I got out the saddle and pushed the pace back to Skyline. Brendan appeared in good time, sore but soldiering on.

Another brief pause to throw on the Stowaway and we were off down King's Mountain to Woodside. On the descent I was uncomfortably tailed by a car with a bike rack on the roof; what's up with that. Then in the middle of a tight series of S turns, a dirt bike coming up the hill wheelied past a car into our lane as we approached. WTF.

In Woodside I began a caloric binge that would last well into the evening with an apple juice, half a ham and cheese sandwich, and a piece of coffee cake. That had me stoked for the run back to Lucky's. By the time we got to the car, Brendan was contemplating riding on his seatpost sans saddle and threatening to sawzall the bike.

After driving Brendan home and putting away my bike and gear it dawned on me that I'd left my Rapha Stowaway and Cap in the parking lot at Lucky's. Panic. I jumped back in the car and blasted back to Los Altos remembering on the way that my debit card was in the jacket. Well, true to the store's name I was lucky. Thanks to the Stowaways compact size when folded the jacket and cap were still sitting next to the curb some 90 minutes after I left them.

About time I caught a break at the end of a week that saw Juli accidentally launder my Garmin 305 and a garage door opener. The opener survived the GPS did not.

28 Responses to The Ups and Downs of a Saturday Ride

  1. BR says:

    August 1, 2009
    Dear Private Secretary of Her Majesty the Queen. Please personally deliver this to her royal person.
    You’re Majesty,
    I am writing to you from my bubbly luke warm jet tub, having a gentle man-cry in an effort to explain the strange whinging that you no doubt heard late this evening your local time 8-10PM. That whinging you heard really wasn’t a lost kitten in the garden or a hungry baby down the road but it was in fact me, 7,000 miles away cycling up Tunitas Creek Rd. You see, your Majesty, I had to write in the hopes that you can save others from my fate.
    Smethwik, Birmingham? I am sure you know this area. It pains me to inform you that Lucifer himself is alive and well there making bicycle saddles under the moniker “Brooks Saddles.” It’s my belief that this company is none other than the workshop of every lost soul that has ever descended to molten torture chamber of the Dark Prince himself that we typically refer to as Hell. Sure, they appear to be gentle lads with well worn tools, they appear in B&W photos on down tube shifted custom steel bikes, wooly sweaters, crochet gloves, sipping pints of yummy beers I can’t afford all wearing those little eye glasses on the ends of their noses but I know better. As I was pedaling up Tunitas on Saturday it hit me like lightning…even all of the voices in my head agreed that I shouldn’t be there. “They” as I affectionately call them were not in their usual moods when one will whisper…… you’re too old..go home and the other would reply shut your pie hole he’s fine….c’mon lad get going…….first voice would reply back…God you are a mess..pack it in Gobshite-really….take up Bocci for God’s sake but I digress. Caligula himself makes bike seats and I bought one! Every time I dismounted my bike to take inventory of my limbs and pray I glared down at the perch from Hell expecting to see rusty barbed wire or broken glass soaked in acid and cried to the heavens. Sure enough I survived….after I drifted home at 4 MPH I pulled out my copy of the Hortus Deliciarum on page 873, paragraph 2, 3rd line….. “and Lucifer will return to Earth in 1882 and set up shop in Smethwik, employ lost souls and from their workshop they will make really hard bike seats.”
    I took it upon myself to ring Brooks Saddles but the Harpy that answered the phone laughed at me in that kind of way that a hot chick does when at age 15 they reject your request for a date…sorry…the voices again. I asked the she-devil if I could speak to her manager and I immediately knew I was in trouble when I could hear the minotaur hop to the phone. He roared with laughter when I told him about walking like a duck, rifling through the hall closet for diaper cream – oh he loved that one. In a synthesized voice set to howling winds, Gregorian Chant and a Black Sabbath base line that I couldn’t identify….might have been Children of the Grave.. he said to me “jackass, it’s a 500-700 mile break period in on a new Swift ya’ feckin eejit ya…don’t make your first ride on the bloody new saddle a 65 mile death march!” NOW FECK OFF-CLICK!
    The evil bastards….for the love of humanity…..appoint a Royal commission to explain the risks of doing business with The Dark Prince…don’t let the Brooks people buy the hides of old mean cows….show them that Medieval tools of torture have no place on a bicycle… they feed the cows concrete?….how can the Evil One search the universe for lost souls AND find the time to make bike seats?
    Ma’am, can you call in an airstrike to Smethwik and free us earthly mortals from the embarrassment of adult diaper rash?, dispatch a SWAT team, turn off their power, levy an arse tax. I am not a hater of your country! I love what you all did with the 1957 XK-150 drop head coupe which still has no peers, The Who!, Brad Wiggins, Def Leopard, Bass Ale, Rapha, Elizabeth Hurley, Pink Floyd, Monty Python, etc all highlight just how great your country is. Rise up! Cast the Evil One out! Now is the time!
    Thank You.

    Ps – I am sorry that President Obama returned the bust of Winston Churchill when he took office. I didn’t vote for him, he’s probably a good guy but he might turn out to be the next nutter at 16 Penn. I’ll see what I can do, TTFN.

  2. I’ll take a second helping of Elizabeth Hurley please.


  3. willy in pacifica says:

    I ran into Tim and his wife a couple of times at the Marin Century on Saturday. He managed to climb up on my Other Vanilla and try out the Sella An Atomica. Then he had his wife do the same. Maybe I should have let Brendon give it a try so he could have saved both his ass and his wallet.

    Seriously Brendon if you are looking for a nice looking very comfy saddle give the An-Atomica a try. They have a money back guarantee so grab one just before a long ride and give it a go.

    • Willy,

      He was in REAL pain. I couldn’t even enjoy a good laugh about it, it was so bad. Glad you met up with Tim and Marcella.

      Sorry I missed you and the girls on that three seat juggernaut. Definitely need to get some pictures of your team while the weather is good.

  4. willy in pacifica says:

    I used to have a Swift but after 300 miles it would get to me. Most folks would never get that far into a ride but the An Atomica is the Holy Grail of saddles for me. And at about $150 it is about half the price of the Swift. But when your ass feels that bad you will pay anything for the right saddle. I am very satisfied with the An Atomica and have one on each of my three long distace bikes. I rode the first day at PBP with the An Atomica guy and I am sure I sold a few on the way out to Brest.
    Of course your mileage may very and there are some that it does not work for. But with a money back guarantee how can you not give it a go.

    Or I guess you can try breaking in the Brooks over the next few months.

    I hope to ride down your way again with the girls this weekend just not sure which girls. My youngest has thrown the oldest off of the triple but the oldest now fits on the back of the double. I am taking the oldest up some of the tougher hills that we could never get up on the triple. Maybe we can make it up OLH then shoot back down 84 to Roperts.

    • BR says:

      Hi Willy – All good suggestions but remember that we cycle with different decimal points. Your 100 is my 10 ! I’ll break this saddle in eventually. I do feel bad for Michael listening to me me bitch all day. It was a super ride for me and it meant a lot to complete it from a personal view.

  5. willy in pacifica says:

    I forgot to mention maybe Tim can bring his son along depending on how far he rides.

  6. Tim says:

    Wow – I miss a post or two and there’s lots to catch up on! Great to read about your long ride, Michael and Brendan. Wish I could have been there – however, as Willy notes, we (me, Marcella & Georges) were busy battling coastal fog and winds on the Marin Century. It’s a nice ride – lots of different terrain and some super views. Would be great to do it ensemble next year. Ideally with less bloody wind. Willy – will def check out that saddle for both of us. As for this weekend – I’m thinking of maybe a coast ride on Saturday – or possibly OLH-Skyline-down West OLH-84-Pescadero-West Alpine.

  7. Tim says:

    PS – Brendan: hope you’re feeling better today. I’ve been using an amazing post-saddle-induced-abrasion cream in recent weeks – Bach Rescue Cream – at Whole Foods. I may also cave and buy a pair of Rapha shorts; I had none of these problems when wearing the Rapha 3/4 shorts this past winter. Hmm….

    • BR says:

      Hi Tim – All better thanks. I put the Lucifer on the commute bike for now to loosen it up. I do like your suggestion on the cream and I’ll get some. On the Rapha bibs? Order me a pair of XXXXXXXl from Rapha and I’ll report back on the results. ;-)

  8. marc says:

    supposed to leave a wet towel under the seat before riding with tons of Brooks conditionner… ease into it man…

    • BR says:

      Thanks Marc…to clarify? I need to stash a wet as in water wet towel under the saddle the night before as well as Brooks saddle cream on the top.

  9. willy in pacifica says:

    I am up for a OLH, 84, Alpine ride this weekend.

    But since I am getting ready for the 508 I am not allowed to ride behind anyone so you guys will have to stay on my wheel if that is OK with you guys.

  10. Joe says:

    I see that you are using a hitch mounted bike rack but don’t recognize the model. What is it and what are your impressions? I am using a roof top rack and want to cut down on wind noise and increase my gas milage.

    • It’s a two bike rack made by Raxter (in the U.S.A). Small company with great service and a really good product. I originally bought this because it’s considerably lighter than the offerings from other manufactureres. Weighs around 30 lbs, so it’s easy for my wife, who’s petite, to wrangle on and off the car. It comes with both 1.25″ and 2″ hitch connections. We’ve got it on a New Beetle, and that necessitated the smaller, 1.25″ hitch.

      Bikes are held solidly between two arms, with additional industrial velcro restraints. When I’m out with a Brendan who rides a very large bike (63″) the rack easily accommodates two very differently sized bikes. Two years and counting, and I’ve not had a single problem with the rack. Its light weight means we take it off the car when we’re not using it; and putting it back on the car is a one-minute, one-bolt exercise.

  11. Henry says:

    Send the Brooks into Selle An-Anatomica and they will convert it. I sent them my well worn Team Pro that was comfy before but better then perfect after they added a cut out, glued on an extra piece of leather (clydesdale treatment) and replaced the rivets. I prefer the shape of the Swallow to the SA titanico so after my positive experience with the Team Pro, the Swallow is going in for the SA treatment.

  12. marc says:

    From sheldon rip

    The easiest and fastest method to break in a new saddle is with a liquid leather dressing, such as neatsfoot oil, Lexol, seal oil (a French favorite) or baseball glove oil.. These products are available from shoe stores and sporting-goods stores. There are probably lots of other liquid oils that would work as well-RAAM pioneer Lon Haldeman uses SAE 30 motor oil, but his saddles tend to wear out after only 300,000 miles or so (according to Cyclist Magazine). Paste or wax type leather dressings, such as Brooks Proofide, Sno-Seal, and saddle soap will work, but it takes much, much longer to break in a saddle that way.

    You can just pour the oil on and rub it in by hand, or for a more drastic approach, you can actually soak the saddle. The easiest way to soak a saddle is to turn it upside-down on a sheet of aluminum foil, then form the foil up around the saddle for a snug fit. Pour in a whole 4 ounce can of Neatsfoot oil or whatever oil you prefer, and let the saddle soak for 30 minutes to an hour. Pour the remaining oil back into the can, and wipe the excess oil off with a rag or paper towel. Install the saddle onto the bike, put on your black shorts, and ride. Even the most recalcitrant saddle (the thick-skinned Brooks Professional) will be substantially broken in within 200 miles or so.

  13. Sophrosune says:

    Dear Velodramatic,

    I don’t want to come across as critical because you and your blog are always so positive, but I wonder do you ever ride your Cervelo? It seems that now you are salvaging parts off it. What a pity! I know you love your Enigma but couldn’t you take your Cervelo out for a little spin now and then?

    • No worries on that front. I’ve been riding the Cervelo with Topolino wheels a lot lately. The combination feels really good. I just swapped a 100mm stem for a 90mm stem, so both bikes remain in active service.

  14. Jason says:

    I’m lovin’ your photos, they are always so good. I’ve got your site linked up on my my blog as a favourite. Have done for some time now. Keep up the quality work!

    Cheers From London

  15. Brandon says:

    I fortunately had a much better Brooks experience. I bought mine in mid-April and put about 200 miles on it through a series of 30 – 40 miles rides. I had only conditioned it with Brooks Proofide (applied liberally, left overnight, then wiped off). It was pretty comfortable at that point.

    Then, the real test, back to back 75 mile days. Day 1 brought an arc-worthy downpour for 30 minutes which left my saddle soft and flexible and day 2 left me sitting on a nice formed (to my backside) piece of leather. I have since tensioned it once very slightly to remove a little sag, but I personally like mine to be pretty taunt.

    Also, that doesn’t look like a Swift. Mine has hand-pounded copper rivets, but it’s also black. Maybe that isn’t black and doesn’t have copper rivets.

  16. BR says:

    Hi Brandon – It’s the B-15 Swallow Chrome that I have, good catch. I have two B-17′s that are larger and have copper rivets and both had a break in period as well. BR

  17. Brandon says:

    BR – That makes much more sense. The Swallows look like they need a break in period.

    Good luck with the break in.

  18. Simon says:

    It’s a long shot but try putting the 305 in a bowl of rice . . . .there is no better medium for attracting water from where it shouldn’t be. I can’t recall whether you can open up a 305 but if you can, then so much the better chance of success.

    • Thanks Simon. Took me a minute to figure out you were describing a terrific natural dessicant for the Garmin 305 that got laundered. I’m pleased to report, the unit IS working again. I just left it for a couple of weeks, turning it on briefly every few days. The LED display, which started off as a black blob of pixels, gradually got better and now it’s working normally. Amazing. For all the stick I’ve given Garmin about lousy software, their hardware really can take a ridiculous amount of abuse and still keep functioning. Well done Garmin.

  19. Dougie says:

    Michael just could be that Juli always washes your kit on the “sensitive cycle” as she would being a sensible wife. She trusts you to empty your own pockets??? What a Gal.