NZ$151.74 - NZ$196.98
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The long-established flagship model in the Brooks range, the ladies B17 features a shorter, wider construction for comfort on touring and trekking rides.
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Historically, I've always ridden on high-tech, gel-filled, cut-out, super light saddles. Saddles that promise much, but often deliver little but discomfort. There are websites offering 'saddle trials' for those who, like me, suffer frustration in the process of finding a comfortable women's saddle. I've most often taken the trial and error approach, to the point where I currently have about four or five redundant saddles in my shed.
The Brooks B17 S is the women's version of one of the company's longest running and best selling designs, the B17. As the women's version, it is 7mm broader in the rear and 35mm shorter. The shorter length is certainly beneficial, but, as I mentioned in the review of the Flyer S, I'd have liked to have seen a couple of width options to cater for women with differently proportioned sit bones. Being female does not necessarily mean broader sit bones. The only narrower saddle Brooks produce for women is the Finesse Titanium, designed for sportives and racing, which is the same width as the men's B17 standard (170mm).
Having always used modern gel type saddles, the classic styling of the Brooks and the deceptively simple construction using leather and steel rivets was a little alien. It felt solid and well built, and at 472g a good couple of hundred grammes heavier than most 'sports' saddles. The weight and style of the B17 (and the Flyer) are best suited to the more sedate and less racy looks of tourers, commuters and hybrid bikes rather than leaner road bikes, and the B17 is indeed set within Brooks' Touring and Trekking category of saddles.
In use, the shiny leather takes some getting used to, but does help to reduce friction where it matters, and the saddle is so well crafted and shaped, that I experienced far less discomfort than with pretty much every other saddle I've ever ridden on. There is a cut-out version, the Imperial, but I found the B17 S sufficiently comfortable to feel the Imperial to be a case of fixing something that isn't broken. The additional weight over modern style saddles is not significantly noticeable in use on tourers and what tend to be heavier bikes anyway, and the durability of the Brooks definitely compensates for this, as does the way the leather moulds to the riders shape with use, making for a uniquely comfortable custom fit. Two eyelets at the back allow for easy fixing of a traditional style saddlebag.
All in all, it's a sleek, smart, well crafted saddle that's a good all-rounder for touring, recreational riding and commuting and it'll give you comfortable service for years and years.