In this Brooks C17 review, I take a look at the Cambium C17 saddle, and ask if it's a good choice for bike touring. Have Brooks come up with a perfect non-leather saddle for bicycle touring?
My Brooks Cambium Review
If you're into long distance cycling or bike touring, you're going to spend a lot of time in the saddle. 8,9 or even 10 hour days are not unusual, and so choosing a comfortable saddle is critical.
Brooks are already well known for their flagship B17 leather saddle, which is almost the de facto standard for long distance cycle tourists around the world.
In this Brooks Cambium review, I'll take a look at their ‘vegan' alternative, and see if it's in the same league.
Who am I?
If you're new to the blog, let me start with a quick introduction. My name is Dave Briggs, and over the years I've cycled around 40,000 kms all over the world.
My long distance cycling trips have included cycling from England to Cape Town, and Alaska to Argentina. Over that time, I've come to realise the benefits of a good saddle!
This Brooks c17 review is based on my own personal experiences with the cambium saddle, taking into account past experiences with other saddles. I'll lay out the pros and cons of the Cambium C17, and then finish off with a conclusion at the end.
Introducing the Cambium Range
First, I should probably explain what the cambium range of saddles is all about.
The Cambium bike saddle range is a product by Brooks England, who are probably most well known for their traditional leather saddle range. The Cambiums, however, are made from vulcanised natural rubber and organic cotton canvas.
It's actually difficult keeping track of just how many different Brook England Cambium variations there are. It obviously bewilders Brooks as well, because none of their website pages currently has a comprehensive list!
As far as I can make out, the following models are currently available:
These then also have options for carved cut-outs, and differences in width.
Honestly, the more choice there is, the more confusing things get sometimes!
This review though, is about the Brooks England Cambium C17 saddle.
Testing the Brooks C17 Cambium
I tested the Brooks Cambium on a Stanforth Skyelander touring bike over the course of a week cycling in Greece. During this time, I clocked up around 600 kms.
The bike touring route took me over mainly sealed roads, with less than 30 kms being on unsealed rough track. The weather for the most part was hot to insanely hot. As a result, this review does not include any experiences riding with the C17 Cambium in the rain.
Using the Brooks Cambium on a Bike Tour
My cycling distance per day averaged around 85 kms. For the first couple of days, the saddle seemed fine, and I noticed no issues at all.
On day 3, the familiar aching in uncomfortable places started about an hour before the end of my cycling day. This was nothing to get concerned about, as it happens on every tour even with the best saddle in the world.
On days 4 and 5 though, the uncomfortable aching feeling started happening earlier, until on the morning of the last day, I really just didn't want to get on the thing!
I tried all sorts to make the c17 Brooks saddle comfortable as well. Spirit level straight. Titled back. Tilted forward. I altered the handlebar height. You name it, I tried it. I just couldn't get comfortable.
My experiences with the Brooks Cambium Saddle
Keep in mind that anyone's review is just a combination of their experiences. This Brooks Cambium C17 review is no different.
Perhaps I am used to the comfort, and by comparison luxury, of the Brooks B17 leather saddle? Perhaps I'm a whinger?
Maybe the fact that I don't come from a road cycling background where I am used to sacrificing comfort to save a few grams of weight is a factor? Regardless, I decided after a couple hundred miles the Cambium C17 was simply not for me.
What did I think was wrong with the saddle?
This is a really tough one to answer. I mean, the simple answer is that it just wasn't comfortable to ride, but I need to define why for this Brooks Cambium saddle review.
The main issue is that the vulcanized rubber, whilst flexible in my hands, didn't seem to be so when I sat on it. In fact, the seat felt almost wooden when sitting on it! There didn't seem to be any give.
Again, I have to ask myself why that is. At 82kg, I am not the lightest cyclist (but it's all muscle, honest!), so was that an issue? The Brooks B17 is famous for its ‘hammock' effect, but in the Cambium C17, this was missing. Take a look at the video below to find out more.
Cambium C17 Pros and Cons
Whilst the Brooks C17 Cambium saddle was not for me, that doesn't mean that it might not be for you or other riders. So I've out together the pros and cons of the saddle just in case you want to further consider buying one.
- Non-leather saddle – A vegan alternative!
- No maintenance required
- A ‘racy' design
- No break-in period
- Two year warranty (can be extended)
- Doesn't seem to mould itself to your rear
- Not quite wide enough
- Started feeling uncomfortable on longer rides
- Simply not as comfortable as leather (in my opinion)
The Brooks Cambium C17 in conclusion
So, who is the Brooks Cambium C17 for then? I believe that if you are a road cyclist, you might look at this saddle as a great innovation for long distance cycling. If you don't want to use leather for whatever reasons, again, this makes a great choice.
If like me though, you've previously used and loved the B17 saddle, this is going to be a disappointment. It's good, but not quite good enough. Comfortable, but not quite comfortable enough. Basically, it's not leather!
In my opinion, whilst the Brooks Cambium C17 is arguably the best non-leather saddle for long-distance cycling on the market, it is still inferior to a good leather bicycle saddle. There's a reason the Brooks B17 design hasn't really changed much over the years – They hit their winning formula long ago!
My overall rating for this saddle after my bike tour and a few rides more is 7/10.
What is the best saddle for bike touring?
If someone were to ask me which saddle is best for bike touring, I would answer “A Brooks B17 leather saddle”. If the reply was “Oh, but I don't want a leather saddle because it goes against my ethics”, I would answer “Well, try the C17 then, but it's not really the same thing”. Because it isn't.
I hope you liked the Brooks Cambium C17 review! Please leave a comment down below to help the bicycle touring community, as we've all got unique perspectives and experiences to share.
We'd love to hear from people who have been using one for years, especially when it comes to durability etc.
My Brooks Cambium c17 Saddle Review
Please feel free to share this post, and pin this Brooks Cambium c17 all weather review for later.
You might also be interested in reading: Long distance cycling saddles, and cycling cameras for bike touring
Finding the perfect saddle
Readers who are considering either the Brook Cambium Saddle or classic Brooks for their touring bikes often ask questions similar to:
Is Brooks cambium good?
The Brooks Cambium C17 compares favorably to most high-quality aftermarket saddles. In my opinion, it is not as comfortable as the B17 saddle, but it is made out of different material and may appeal for cyclists not wanting a saddle made from animal products.
What are Brooks cambium made of?
Brooks Cambium is a line of saddles constructed of vulcanized natural rubber and organic cotton canvas, with a thin layer of structural textile added for extra durability and legendary Brooks longevity.
Is a Brooks saddle worth it?
When it comes to bike touring, Brooks have become the gold standard when it comes to what saddle to use. With a history dating back over 100 years, few other cycling products have been field tested for so long by so many people!
5 thoughts on “Brooks C17 Review | Is the Brooks Cambium C17 good for bike touring?”
I have a city bike from Detroit Bikes, with a Shimano Alpine IG 8 speed. It came stock with a Brooks Cambium c17. After two years of adjusting sear tilt, handlebar height, riding shorts, I concluded that it just wasn’t going to get more comfortable. I switched to the Brooks b67 and loved it right off the bat. Way more comfortable and a more classic look for this bike, which is more of a city/commuting bike. For touring and road bikes, I plan to stick with the b17 and properly made bicycle shorts. No cotton underwear. They will chafe.
NIce work Sir, thanks for your efforts. Re.CAMBIUM C17:
I got a new replacement C17 from Brookes yesterday after the cover of first one started to break at the back of the nosepiece and I moaned at ’em. The first one – same as yours -greyish and canvas-topped, silver “rivets”, shiny metal body and rails.. The new one a glossy woven-looking top, black “rivets”. the new one heavier by 60g, I dismantled both and transferred all the older metal bits to the new black cover. Weighing them I discovered that the rails on the old one are tubular, the nose and tail-pieces on the new one plastic and the rails solid round bar. Those rivets are, in fact, blind nuts and are screwed on from below with torx screws. The blind nuts on the new one are anodised black – thus wear will make the anodising reveal the metal below as it wears. Having swapped all the inferior bits I am back in business. Brookes have not modified the new plastic nosepiece to relieve cover-stress at the nose. but have removed some value. Poor move I say. So: I now have a new cover retaining all the metalwork from the old. Jet black shiny cover, silver blind nuts appearing like rivets and a handsome look. Whoever failed to modify the nosepiece must have been oblivious of the earlier failures. Whether this was an Italian or a British person isn’t known but is contrary to their ethos as cultivated in their absurd advertising copywriting. NIce they replaced it, sad they degraded it. Would I buy another? Dunno.
P.S. comfortable like no other, weight bedamned, bouncy seatpost installed too.
I’ve been using a Cambium on my commuting bike for over a year and I’ve come to the same conclusion: it’s just not comfortable. I’ve previously had a couple of Brooks leather saddles, the B17 standard model and the Swallow, which both needed a few months to mould to the contours of my backside but once broken in were extremely comfortable. Foolishly I let the saddles go when I sold the bikes they were fitted to; big mistake. I’ve been waiting for the Cambium to wear in but it’s no better than than day I fitted it so I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s never going to happen. It’s about as comfortable as riding a block of wood so I’m going to buy another Swallow and this time keep it for good, even if I sell the bike.
I have bikepacked exclusively on a c17 and it is perfect. Long days, many jams no problem. Wet/muddy/snowy no problem. Brush it off and go!
I bought C17 in August 2016 for my custom built Burls Ti tourer/audax. In December 18 a split became apparent in the rubber. In April 19 the whole saddle split behind the nose rivet and detached from the rails. This saddle was 2 1//2 years old and had covered perhaps 2000 miles tops. Brooks will not replace as it is out of warranty. V.poor