Alpe d’Huez Brooks Saddle Aug 7, 2009

I don’t usually get into the whole custom saddle thing. Mostly because I tend to ruin saddles all the time and why spend a lot of money on some “limited” art piece only to trash it in a few months?

I will however say the design intent behind these custom Brooks saddles is really nice. If you watch the Tour every year, then you’ve obviously heard of The Alpe d’Huez. It’s been a stage finish of the tour since ’76. Back when the tour was ridden on steel bikes and no one even knew what carbon fiber was, the racers were all riding Brooks saddles.

Now that time has passed, but Brooks commemorates those racers by collaborating with a wallpaper artist. Dan Funderburgh is an artist from Brooklyn and he used the topography map from the Alpe d’Huez for the design. Dan loves bicycles and I’m sure he was stoked to have Brooks approach him.

  • Teh Historian

    “Back when the tour was ridden on steel bikes and no one even knew what carbon fiber was, the racers were all riding Brooks saddles.”

    It’s a nice thought, but not really. By the mid-70’s most people were riding plastic framed saddles — this is the era when the classics like the Unicanitor, Concor, Rolls, and all of those came out — I’m not a big enough nerd to know the exact years each of those launched, but the mid-70’s is definitely the era of plastic racing saddles. Even before plastic Brooks was far from dominant, Ideale was the best-known leather saddle maker and there were other French and Italian brands out there.

    One thing we forget is the limited role that British equipment and riders have had in the tour. No British rider has ever won the tour, and very few of the frames raced in the tour in any given year would have been British, even though there are of course some famous British racing makes that were certainly comparable to the continental frames of their era. The American perception of the classic era of cycling has always been UK-centric, especially in the track world, but the reality is that road racing has always been more of a continental sport. There’s a good reason why, for example, there has never been a British-produced racing group. The only exception was in the early and mid-60’s when Cyclo (itself originally a French brand that only started production in the UK for tariff reasons) produced derailers. Wanting a race-oriented name, they called them “Benelux”.

    So yeah, there probably was a Brooks ridden up the great Alp once in a while, but the idea of a Brooks TdF tribute saddle is a bit like Ford making a NASCAR-themed Jaguar (back when they owned Jaguar, that is). I can see how some Brooklyn hipster artist got sucked into this, and it’s certainly a good piece of marketing in the current climate, but it’s a bit off the mark.

  • prolly

    haha. Thanks man. I’m just regurgitating what Brooks is saying. The first saddle to ever use a plastic shell was the Cinelli Unicanitor. I have a ton of them.

  • Sean Y

    I agree about hesitating to throw down $200 for an artsy B-17, but not because it won’t last. How does one “ruin” a brooks B-17?

    Do you live it in the rain for days and then land tricks on it for hours?

    I’m 195lbs and ride year round in Seattle. It’s wet and hilly here, and the brooks saddles are one of the few reliable components..

  • prolly

    I wasn’t speaking about a B-17 Pro directly. More along the lines of Concors, Turbos, etc.

  • jared

    N.B.: The TdF first raced a stage to Alpe d’Huez in ’52. The Campianissimo won this stage, the first ever mountain top finish.

  • mark

    This model is a customized Brooks Team Professional, not B17 Professional. There is no such thing as a B17 Pro, though some B17 models have the big copper rivets. Also, the Brooks site is not quoted accurately here and leads us to believe that 1976 was the first year that the race finished on Alpe d’Huez. As Jared points out, it was 1952, won by Fausto Coppi and who knows whether he was riding a Brooks saddle. One thing is fairly likely, though, that he would have ridden a Brooks or another, similar leather saddle as Teh Historian points out. There are and have been other manufacturers of real leather saddles, though none as successful or long lasting as the Brooks line, in continuous manufacture since the mid-1850s.
    Regardless of the details, I think the sentiment is correct that for the first 70 or so years, TdF riders were racing on steel frame bikes with leather saddles. Therefore, it is perfectly appropriate for Brooks to honor that heritage even if British bicycle racing and manufacturing have rarely been on the podium. The two need no particular relationship for a tribute to be made.