Brooks B17 Imperial

Even though some saddle makers give the impression that “anatomical” saddles are something new, Brooks was making slotted saddles as far back as 1890. They produced saddles with what they call “cutting” for over 50 years, until the practice fell out of favor after World War II.

Interest in slotted leather saddles has been rekindled in recent years, and to address the demand, Brooks is introducing three models with cutting for the 2009 season: the B17 Narrow Imperial, the B17 Imperial, and the B17S Imperial.

From Brooks:

Nowadays most saddle manufacturers offer a range of anatomical saddles, claiming that they were the first to find this solution or that their invention works best. We recently discovered that Brooks offered saddles with cutting over 100 years earlier than any other saddle maker. In the 1890 Brooks Catalogue you can read that the Imperial, Long Distance, Climax and other saddles had “registered cutting, a sure preventive to all perineal pressure”.

Discomfort in the genital area is definitely not a new issue. Brooks has produced saddles with cutting for over 50 years, till the 1950s we may suppose from the catalogues we preserve in our archives. This feature eventually went out of production after World War II. For many decades nobody spoke about the cutting anymore, until today’s saddle makers introduced this feature on modern “plastic saddles”. Why was the production of leather saddles with cutting discontinued? We don’t know, but certainly it is now time to reintroduce this line of saddles.

During the last year we have produced a number of prototypes of the Brooks Imperial Saddles and distributed them to our best dealers and partners, as well as to over 100 passionate cyclists.

This focus group was including Brooks and non Brooks users, cyclists who like saddles with cut-out and those who don’t. These people have thoroughly tested the B17 Imperial and B17 Narrow Imperial on various types of bicycles, terrains and weather conditions. In “The Brooks Bugle“, our new publication, you can read a selection of their comments.

From the 1890s to the 1950s Brooks developed many shapes and sizes of cutting. When redesigning the cutting we prototyped a few of the original shapes and our final choice was the form found in a drawing of patent N° 20,144 of 1898. We slightly changed the length and width of the cutting and developed 2 distinct versions of it: a longer and wider one for men and a shorter and narrower one for women. These address the different needs of pressure relief of men and women.

The new Brooks Imperial saddles feature a lace binding the flaps. Beside guaranteeing a better retention of shape, this lace has the additional function of giving an extra flex control to the seat. Each saddle is delivered with a set of laces in 4 colours: black, red, white and blue. Brooks plans to release 5 models in the Imperial range. We start with the following 3 models in the launch phase: B17 Narrow, B17, B17 S

Imperials should start shipping in early 2009.

Brooks England

8 Responses to “Brooks B17 Imperial”

  • martian1 says:

    I’ve ridden a B-17 Imperial test seat about 3000 km since April 08. Have rotated the seat among three bikes; a CrossCheck, Schwinn Tandem and Trek 520, swapping with nicely broken in B-17 and B-68. With each bike the handlebar is level or slightly above the seat with a relatively relaxed riding position. Have ridden in a number of different conditions from short commutes to all day rides. The Imperial is COMFORTABLE, at least as comfortable as any other seat I’ve ever ridden on. It is a great seat. Did seem to take a little more time to tweak the position for it to be perfectly comfortable and the tension of the laces is important. The seat is COMFORTABLE.

  • jamesmallon says:

    I have a non-cut B17 Narrow, and a titanium Swallow (got for half price, but still $250!). No other saddles I’ve ridden compare. Seems like a few more leather saddle makers are joining the market these days. I am almost curious enough to buy one from Velo Orange. It’s amusing how good old-school bike tech was/is, and how much more reliable than ‘space-age’ materials. We should all give a big thanks to messengers. Without their hard-won knowledge, the rest of us would not have rediscovered Brooks saddles, steel frames and fixed gears.

    Funny that cut saddles are old-school too. I’ve had them, but standard plastic-saddle. On those saddles it does make a difference, but a regular Brooks is better, and so is a thinner chamois (which is hard to find). Counterintuitively, the less padding down there, the less there is to put pressure on that area. I don’t need the cutting on the two Brooks I have, but I will consider it for the third.

  • Alan says:

    martian1 sent this photo of his B-17 Imperial..

  • Croupier says:

    Too bad they won’t come in brown like my B68.

  • Alan says:


    I suspect they’ll expand the selection if sales are good.

  • Karl OnSea says:

    Just fitted my first Brooks to my tandem rebuild project (a late ’70’s Pashley, now complete with a B66). If they would start making saddles with the embossed Art Nouveau designs shown in the pictures, I’d probably smash my Daughter’s piggy bank to get the cash to fit ‘em to all my bikes!

  • Andy Buchan says:

    I have had a Brooks saddle for maybe 10 years on a mountain bike which has suffered a lot of use and abuse. Last year one of the rivets failed which holds the spring in position. I returned it to Brooks and they mended it, replaced the other rivet of the pair, did a fast job and charged only return postage.
    Brooks products seem to be of a high quality and I was pleased that they would repair rather than advise replacement.
    Thoroughly happy with their products and service.

  • Tim says:

    Everyone seems to be enthusing about the Imperial. Personally I think its a poorly designed saddle. Firstly, from an aesthetic point of view, the cutout is far too big and completely out of proportion with the size of the saddle. To me it looks horrible, tha Ladies one being slighhtly better. The B17, even in the early days NEVER had a cutout anywhere near this size. Why? Because it was not necessary! Brooks show details of saddles from the 1890 catalogue with big cutouts…. They dropped them soon afterwards, if you look at the later catalogues which you can download from Brooks website you will see this very clearly. The reason they were dropped is because the large cutout did not work! I’ll wager that nearly all the testers ride this saddle with hi-tec padded inserts protecting their butts, so of course they will seem comfortable. Also, because they stretch easily, they appear comfortable out of the box. I’d like to see a heavily used one in a couple of years time, with the tension bolt screwed out to maximum… what do you do then? The truth is there is no comfort substitute for a B17 which has taken time to bed in. By the way, I speak from the point of view of someone who makes leather saddle covers for veteran bikes, and has a large collection of early saddles and cycling literature.

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