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 C17 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 C17 review, I'll take a look at their Cambium ‘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 review is based on my own personal experiences with the C17 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.
Testing the Cambium C17
I tested the Brooks Cambium on a Stanforth Skyelander 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 in the rain.
On the road
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 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 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.
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, the Cambium C17 was simply not for me.
What did I think was wrong with it?
This is a really tough one to answer. I mean, the simple answer is that it just wasn't comfortable, but I need to define why for this review. The main issue is that the vulcanised 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 C17 was not for me, that doesn't mean that it might not be for you. 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 breaking in period
- Two year warranty (can be extended)
- Doesn't seem to mould itself to your rear
- Not quite wide enough
- 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!
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.