Small update-y things: It was so hard to leave Missoula! It has some sort of bicycle gravity.
I had my fifth flat the other day. All but one have been in the rear wheel. And these are supposed to be flat-resistant tires! I’m sorely tempted to buy a tire liner or inner-tube goo or something.
I hate mosquitoes. I mean, nobody likes them (except some kinds of bats and birds, I suppose). But even with DEET on my clothes and the “natural” stuff on my skin, I get bit. And even if they’re not biting, they’re hovering all around you, looking for a spot to land, which starts to drive you batshit crazy. I’m used to them coming out near sunset and then giving up after it gets dark, but the last few days they’ve just been constant, anywhere we stop. And I’ve got at least one bite that isn’t from a mosquito, I don’t know what it is. And it takes a couple of weeks for each bite to stop itching. Gaaaah!!
On the positive side of things, the weather has been good (although last night was rather cold) and the scenery is lovely as we head towards Glacier National Park. We’re in the Flathead National Forest currently. Well, at this very minute I’m in the tiny (but pretty awesome) library in Condon. There are three people in here plus the librarian, and all three of us are bicycle tourists on computers updating blogs/facebook.
But, on to the subject of this post.
As I started this trip, I figured my butt would be sore at first because hello, long days in the saddle when I haven’t done that in a while. And I was right. But rather than my ass getting used to riding, it just generally got worse. On days with long uphills, where I’m spinning the pedals and most of my weight is on my butt, I would have to stop every few hundred feet and get off the saddle just to get the circulation back. It was so bad that it was cutting off circulation to my legs sometimes and making my knees hurt!
And after I thought about it, I realized: this saddle is over two years old. No wonder it’s making my butt hurt. That foam/gel padding stuff doesn’t last forever.
So, I needed a new saddle. But what to do? Should I buy another synthetic saddle that would need replacing in two years, or get something else?
Many of my friends who are serious cyclists love their leather Brooks saddles. I would go so far as to say they’re considered the gold standard for touring especially.
But….I don’t buy leather. I’ve been vegetarian since 2003 and vegan or mostly vegan since 2005.
BUT….part of the reason I went veg to start with, was for environmental reasons. And which is better for the planet, buying a plastic and metal synthetic saddle every other year, or buying one leather and metal saddle I use for years and years? (Then again, nobody is really asking the cow this question, now are they?)
After much mental hemming and hawing, I decided to give a Brooks saddle a shot. And after thinking about it, I decided on a Flyer.
My preference was for the lady’s style, in brown. Do you think any bike shop in Missoula had a Brooks Flyer saddle at all? Pfft. No. Two shops had B17s. That was it. And I really wanted those springs.
But then I remembered: Oh, duh, Adventure Cycling has an online shop! I saw some of the stuff in their office….I wonder if they do all their sales from there?
Sure enough: They do. And yes: you can buy anything in the catalog/online store, right there in the office. So I took a deep breath and bought the first new leather item I can remember purchasing in at least half a decade. A woman in the sales department went back into a surprisingly small room, filled with shelves and boxes to the ceiling, to get it out of a box and hand it to me. I got some Proofide too. Our friend Heather was really thrilled that I bought a Brooks and took a picture!
They didn’t have it in brown (oh well, I have black pants anyway), nor did they have the “lady’s” version. But apparently, the lady’s version is just a little shorter, and not for anatomical reasons, but to make it easier to dismount in a skirt/dress without it catching. Well, the nose of the regular version isn’t any longer than the saddle I’ve been riding, with skirts and all, so I’m not worried.
I’d tried a B67 before and hated it, but it was one that Shawn had been riding for a bit, so it was broken into his butt. And when I complained, nearly everyone said I hadn’t given it a chance.
It’s true that breaking in a Brooks saddle while touring is probably the definition of idiocy, but I’m trying it anyway (and I’m carrying the old saddle with me just in case). I’ve read that it takes five hundred miles to break one in properly. Fifty or so miles down, four hundred and fifty to go?
I’ve ridden with it for a day and a half, and here’s what I’ve discovered so far:
I was right in that the padding in my old saddle was compressed, since it wasn’t my sit bones that were hurting, but the area around them, where the plastic supports were on the old saddle. The Brooks? Yeah, I know exactly where my sit bones are now. Getting back on the thing this morning was wince-inducing.
And I’m having the same problem with this one that I had with the B67 I tried: It’s not nice to my crotch. There’s no pretty way to say this: It’s pushing, hard, on my genitals. I end up riding sitting up as much as I possibly can to avoid putting more pressure on my “soft tissues,” as the bike industry euphemistically calls the area. When I do have to ride in the drops (like for a long descent) I put a lot more weight on my pedals than I used to.
And I know everyone will say the same thing: Oh, you just need to break it in. I’m trying to give it the benefit of the doubt, but I seriously can’t figure out how that works. When you break it in, the leather contours to your sit bones, yeah? Which means the leather sinks a little under your weight. Doesn’t that make the part that touches my crotch higher in relation to where my sit bones are? Won’t that make it push on my crotch more instead of less?
I wonder how much of it is breaking it in, and how much of it is that people’s riding posture changes so they don’t have any weight on their genitals. ‘Cause right now, if I lean over at all (and my handlebars are pretty damn high), it feels like all my weight is on my poor crotch.
Any other women have this problem with new Brooks saddles? Did breaking it in really help?
In related news: Proofide is SO GROSS. It’s mostly tallow (that would be beef fat) and fish oil. After rubbing it into the saddle I have to clean my hands really good or I’m totally yucked out. I really hope it doesn’t melt in my bag and get on other stuff.
And, last but not least: Adventure Cycling posts the photos it takes of people who visit, on their flickr account! Here it is: