The Bike Butler spotted that Brooks were going to do the unthinkable and produce a saddle with absolutely no leather. Brooks wanted people to test their new creation, the CAMBIUM. Given the amount of miles that I ride and the somewhat disappointing performance of my Brooks ladies Imperials in the longevity department, I put my hand up. I thought little more of it until an e-mail pinged in saying I was one of the lucky 100 cyclists chosen as CAMBIUM testers.
The original blurb said that the test saddle would a gents. Having started club cycling when the only options were saddles of the male persuasion, this wasn’t too big an issue but I was delighted when Brooks later said that a test batch of ladies CAMBIUMs were going to be made.
The saddle took a little longer to arrive than I’d expected. I’d figured that being ‘plastic’ (actually rubber and canvas), making 100 test saddles wouldn’t be too big an issue but I was mistaken. One rainy morning a few weeks ago, I pedalled down to the local post office to pick up a ‘Brooks’ labelled box. The CAMBIUM had arrived, hence forth known as L004, handwritten on her underside.
The CAMBIUM doesn’t have that signature Brooks shape. It looks more like a wider Turbo saddle; at the rear slightly rounded and not as wide as its leather counterparts like the Imperial. The nose is longer than the B17S Imperial, but roughly equal to the Rivet, a gents saddle. The colour of the fabric bonded over the rubber is ecru. There are saddle bag loops, but moulded into the backplate.
The next step was deciding which of my stable would get the privilege of testing L004. Casper, the Little White Moulton, was a non-starter. He’d already formed a close relationship with a Rivet saddle and, as he and I were looking forward to a succession of long rides including London Edinburgh London (LEL), changing saddles wasn’t on. There would be insufficient time before LEL. The mountain bike was spending more time in the bike room than on the road as it’s my winter commuting bike, so not really an option. So the Condor, my summer work / winter rando bike won.
The Bike Butler removed the Condor’s Terry Butterfly saddle and installed L004. Testing was full steam (pedalling??) ahead.
I have to say that the Condor looked a littler strange and not quite visually right with L004, due to the pale colour. The appearance of L004 hasn’t grown on me; particularly as with riding, the ecru colour is now moving towards a murky shade of paper-mache grey in several areas. However, despite initial concerns regarding comfort when L004 was removed from the box and protective bag, I have to say she has performed excellently on the daily commute (87km round trip) and for these journeys it’s a saddle I really like using. Despite looking and feeling similar to a Turbo saddle, the ride is that of a stiff leather saddle, rather than a plastic rock. However, I am reserving final judgement until I’ve done a 200km brevet on L004.
All my other saddles, except for the Madison G11 which gets occasional use on the tandem trike, all have cut outs, which I find significantly more comfortable for long rides (200km+). The CAMBIUM doesn’t, which I was a little worried about. However, I discovered that L004 gets along with shorts that don’t quite work with the Rivet, so delivering a comfy ride. So far, the fabric finish to L004 hasn’t been abrasive to the stitching on shorts, unlike the Terry Kevlar Liberator, which quite happily chomps through the zig-zag stitching used on the chamois inserts by some manufacturers.
Conclusions so far……..
To date L004 has been ridden for 1,000km and has proved comfortable. I like the stiff feel of the saddle, similar to that given by the Rivet. The real acid test to comfort will be using the saddle for a long ride (200+km). Other than the colour, which I feel isn’t dark enough; I can’t find any fault with the saddle. I have yet to ride the saddle in the rain, but looking at the construction of the saddle, L004 should be perfectly happy to get wet. In my experience, the Brooks leather saddles that I’ve used and owned to date aren’t happy in the rain.
I’ll do another review of L004 once she’s been used over several thousand of kilometres, seeing if this saddle is really up to the rigours of long distance riding.