The Bike List

Brooks B15 Swallow Saddle (Chrome) £145

Tested by Ped Baker, tester for The Bike List

As we all know, the cycling world is one where it’s possible to drown in high-tech anagrams and gobble-de-gook. Trademarks and patents are all painstakingly researched and developed in an effort to extract the maximum wallets from pockets as well as Kilojoules from legs. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to saddles. A saddle is one of the three contact points of man and machine, so it seems it deserves a special burst of brain melting gumpf and twaddle. 3D CAD, flexfoam, flowgroove, Geofit, Co-moulding – if you can think of a daft ‘high-tech’ sounding name, it’s probably been stuck on the back of a saddle at some point or other.

One saddle maker that doesn’t take part in this high-tech meley is Brooks*. The majority of Brooks’ saddle patents were registered before the second world war and they’re still using many of the same machines and manufacturing techniques today. The patent on the B15 Swallow was registered in 1937 and the design hasn’t changed since, but if you’re thinking that the Swallow offers nothing more than an authentic finish to your restored childhood Raleigh you’d be very wrong.

The Swallow is a ‘sports’ saddle which basically means it’s longer and the profile is narrower than other Brooks models. The scalloped sides give ample thigh clearance while the rear still has enough breadth to cater for bigger than average riders. As the leather top is long, this gives the saddle a slight ‘hammock’ sensation meaning it’s comfortable and forgiving from the off. I’m used to Brooks saddles, and the usual ‘break-in’ mileage needed until a saddle conforms to my sit bones, so this isn’t an issue (break in time is usually around a month depending on the model).

But the Swallow was comfortable before I’d reached the end of my drive. After a couple of months the saddle has further mellowed into an all-day-comfortable perch. The only aspect of the Swallow I’d question is the price – at £144.72 it’s considerably more expensive than, for example, the standard B17 model at £77.68 but there doesn’t appear to be that much difference in the construction of the two saddles.

There are some downsides. As with all Brooks saddles, the leather top has to be looked after. Leather dressing (a type of wax polish) needs to be applied a couple of times a year and getting the saddle wet will quickly ruin the finish. So if you’re the kind of rider that prefers to leave your bike leaning up against the shed from one month to the next, it’s probably best to go for a plastic saddle. The other disadvantage is that once your smitten with you’re saddle, you’re likely to become a Brooks bore, tugging the ear of anyone who even mentions that they’re vaguely interested in cycling.

*Except for the addition of Titianium framed models.

At a glance

Verdict The grandaddy of the racing saddle. What it lacks in high tech innovation it makes up for in comfort.

Brooks says:

The B15 Swallow is a faithful reproduction of a saddle specifically conceived with the sporting cyclist in mind, the result being a timeless design widely regarded as the precursor of all modern racing saddles. This saddle was originally patented as long ago as 1937. At that time a great many such Brooks Saddles were exported to the continent, where they were very popular amongst professional cyclists competing in the various tours and stage races. Today's Swallow still proudly bears the original patent declaration on the tensioning plate beneath the svelte leather upper. This text retains the word “deposé”, the patent application for the Swallow having initially been registered in the Paris patent office.

The timeless design of the Swallow remains virtually unchanged today, our only concession to modernity being the recent introduction of a lighter model. The Swallow Titanium, features lightweight titanium rails for a significant weight reduction over the traditional Swallow Chrome, although in all other respects the Swallow models are the same as each other, and indeed exactly the same as their historical namesakes.

  • Length: 285 mm
  • Width: 153 mm
  • Height: 62 mm
  • Weight: 490 g
  • Frame: Chromium Plated Steel


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