I swung by the Two Wheel Transit anniversary sale last month and totally caved when I saw the Brooks saddles on sale for 50% off. I had been wanting one for months and I figured I would be hard pressed to find them on such an amazing sale ever again.
My current saddle was a Forte Contour saddle with cutout that I'd picked up for $10 off of Craigslist. I loved that saddle; it was comfortable, but best of all, it had a huge cutout that took the pressure off of my tender soft tissues and allowed me to ride in jeans without having that huge crotch-seam getting shoved into the sensitive bits. So, when I saw the B17 Imperial sitting there, on sale, in a woman's size, my eyes grew wider and took on a heart shape, just like in a cartoon.
I was so excited to take this saddle home and put it on my bike. After loading up with proofide and a rain cover, I tucked this beauty into my panniers and took it home to mount.
The next day, on my ride in to work, I gave the saddle its first test ride. Despite the fact that it was brand new and therefore needed to be broken in, it was quite comfortable. I was glad I had picked up the "S" version, which is wider in the sit-bone area, because I could tell I needed that extra width. The fit was just perfect in that respect.
Unfortunately, the cutout was not so fantastic. I had ridden on a regular B17 and just hated the way the neck of the saddle mashed up my soft tissues. I hopped off the saddle and gave it a bit of examination. Before purchasing it, I had noticed how far back the front of the cutout was and it was almost enough to make me put the saddle back on the shelf. However, my desire for a Brooks with a cutout was so great, I purchased it despite this fact. Unfortunately, my hesitation had been well placed, as I easily saw the reason for my discomfort was because the cutout was nowhere near where it needed to be.
Above you'll see the men's B17 Imperial on the left, and the women's "S" version on the right. As you may have already observed, the cutout has been moved toward the rear of the saddle on the "S" version -- not to mention it's a whole lot more narrow.
All I have to say is: WHY?
Why would someone think a woman's cutout needs to not only be made narrower, but be moved further back? I know Brooks had people test-ride their Imperial saddles, but did they not actually have any women test the "S" model? If anything, shouldn't the cutout be moved further forward?
Ok, ok, so I know everyone is shaped differently, but it still boggles my mind. I have more cushioning down there than a man, so the reason I would want a cutout is not for my perineum, but for the tender bits that reside much further forward than that. So, why on earth would Brooks decide to keep the cutout in the same position relative to the beginning of the neck of the saddle, rather than the part that really matters: the rear? We may never know.
In fact, I was so boggled that they had completely screwed up the positioning of the women's cutout that I contacted Brooks. A woman named Andrea promptly replied and asked if where I thought the cutout should be positioned and if I'd like them to custom cut one for me to test.
Well sure, I would love that! So I sat on my saddle and figured out that the entire cutout should be moved forward only half an inch, and then it should be fine. I sent this information back to Andrea three or four weeks ago, but never heard back and never received a custom saddle.
Instead, I took matters into my own hands. Twenty minutes and an xacto knife later, I found myself looking at a saddle with a much more comfortable cutout:
This modification caused me to realize the cutout should not simply be moved forward half an inch, but should be widened at the front. A woman really needs a bit more space up there than I'd imagine a man would. Now I have a saddle of greatness: the comfort of leather with the relief of a cutout -- a properly positioned cutout.
3 hours ago