In our climate, it rains pretty steadily for 3 seasons. Would a leather saddle (like a Brooks) be appropriate for my bike, or should I look for a different material?
I've used a Brooks saddle in a similar climate (Vancouver, BC) without any major issues. Treat the topside with Proofide every 6-12 months and keep the underside dry (fenders, wedge bag, etc). Store the bike in a dry place between rides so that the leather can dry out naturally. A saddle cover would probably help but I've never used one.
I have a Brooks, properly treated with Proofide, and I use full fenders, but major rides while raining make the saddle so soft that it bends all the way down.
That is a problem that can be partially avoided with rain covers, but you cannot forget yours never!
Also, if the saddle keeps wet when you arrive, you can pull it to original shape and wait for it to dry again. It becomes even more comfortable after that.
The only problem is the case where you need to keep riding (for example, on a holiday tour) and the saddle is STILL wet from yesterday. I don't know what to do then...
Amazingly, though, even all the way down it is still comfortable and pretty rideable.
Once, a dutch guy was crossing my town on a long tour, with his brooks fully stretched down, and he only complained from sore hands, not from sore bum. It was incredible!
So, I would say: "Yes, go for it, but you have been warned!" ;o)
I've been riding an old Ideale saddle for a while now in all weather in New england with a year round commute for several years with no problems.The secret is as others have said- FENDERS and treatment. I treated the saddle with proofide for break in, and once the saddle had more or less molded to me, I treated the whole saddle top and bottom with sno-seal, which is a wax based waterproofer for leather used in winter conditions. Its semi-solid so apply with a hairdryer to heat the leater and let it melt and soak in. I reapply the sno-seal as needed (when water gets absorbed) or sometime in the winter, and the leather practically beads water off now. Still lets it be soft enough to continue to adjust to my bum as well.
If it works on a 50+ year old piece of leather its got to work on a new one!
In your case I would say that you can use a Brooks-style leather saddle with two recommendations:
- Fenders - having fenders on your bike will keep much of the water and gunk off the underside of your seat.
- Find a waterproof seat cover. Velox used to make a great one, which you can still find sometimes online. Rivendell sells one that looks very similar but I have not used it.
If you have used a leather saddle before and want to make it work in your climate, I would give it a try with those two changes. If you are just considering switching, I would probably stick to a modern style saddle like the Specialized Body Geometry series.
I ride my B-17 in the rain, on the trail, through the mud, rivers, and streams.
I don't apply Proofide and it stays in great shape.
It was worn in about a 2 years ago and I tightened the spanner bolt about 1 full turn and it hasn't moved since. I even branded the leather with my initials and it hasn't changed the way it feels on my bum.
I cant imagine a better saddle to ride. With not having any trouble out of mine in all weather/all mountain riding, I say go for it, just keep an eye on it to make sure its not doing something crazy.
I'm a recent Brooks convert and have a B17 on my road bike. A great hack for riding in the rain is to use a plastic carrier bag. Simply put it over the saddle and wind each handle loop around your seatpost in opposite directions and tie the ends together. This protects the top of your saddle from rain and the bottom of it from road spray.
I've ridden mine in the rain (and after being parked in the rain), and everything has worked out. I treat with proofide regularly, and the water beads up and slides off, even after 8 hours in light rain. I recently bought a Team Pro, and they seem to come with rain covers now. So if you get a new Brooks and have fenders, your saddle won't even be exposed to water while riding in the rain.
I still suggest proofide after each ride for a week after getting a new saddle, and then at least monthly. The stuff is cheap: just use it.
Not everyone thinks that a leather saddle, i.e. 'Brooks', is necessarily suited to year round riding. Hence there is an aftermarket saddle cover specifically designed for 'Brooks' saddles:
If you are concerned about your 'Brooks' seat holding up over winter then you might want to get one. I got a cover for my girlfriend, its well constructed and seems like it should hold up very well.