29 April, 2011

The No-Rivet Leather Saddle

 We were chatting with our saddle manufacturer a couple of years ago about alternate methods of attaching saddle tops. And I was just thinking aloud about the possibility of a replaceable top and a way to have a top that didn't have rivets sticking up. I'd more-or-less forgotten the conversation when we received the saddle above. It uses machine screws and washers to attach the leather top to the frame, otherwise it's a VO Model 3.

I'm putting this prototype on my bike to see how well it works and lasts. It would be more expensive to make saddles this way, mostly from welding threaded bosses to the frame to accept the screws. And they are a little heavier. On the other hand, the top could be easily replaced and there are no rivets that stick up. If we made a titanium-framed version it might be truly great, and truly expensive. Wadda you think?

32 comments:

camp6ell said...

and from a practical standpoint, it seems that the leather could be easily replaced by the home mechanic? i'm sure 90% of saddles get ditched because of the seating surface being worn out, so this would seem like a real boon to keep them going for a few more years and miles.

reverend dick said...

WANT.

(Berthoud has a similar saddle.)

Gunnar Berg said...

To me this is a solution looking for a problem. But then again, the Rev rides more by mistake than I do on purpose these days.

Terry said...

How many times does one need to replace a leather saddle?

Anonymous said...

To keep cost down, why not sell it as a "saddle kit"? Sell the parts and let the consumer assemble it.

dwainedibbly said...

Somebody will steal it.

Just kidding, of course. It is an interesting idea, and might be a good way to distinguish the product in the market. As a Maker, I like the idea of being able to replace a worn leather on a good saddle frame.

You could get silly with this. For example, Mrs Dibbly would probably want purple bolts.

Brian said...

As mr reverend dick points out, the replaceable leather idea is not original. That's not to say sitting on it would feel the same, but a few years ago Berthoud released a very fine saddle of similar design.

Nate Knutson said...

I don't know that I really get it... aren't one of the key points of awesomeness of a leather saddle that when taken care of they can last decades, or at least a decade? Seems to be a bad tradeoff of weight/cost/complexity at best. Also, wouldn't stocking replacements be kind of a drag in this case? You'd HAVE to have them, wouldn't sell very many of them, they wouldn't be the cheapest parts, they'd lock you into the design, and most people buying them would only need them because they abused the leather.

John Ellsworth said...

I'd be surprised if any of the tops were ever replaced (other than boutique treatments), but I'm not sure why any gearhead wouldn't do a clappy dance for the added bolts and washers.

Jon said...

Seems to me that you could use a nut and a bolt, and avoid the threaded tab. Might keep the cost down...

Anonymous said...

I don't see any reason to switch from using Brooks Saddles. The Berthoud is a nice alternative. But beyond that I really don't think there's a need for another leather saddle. I say put your resources into developing things VO oriented cyclist need and want such as dependable quality 6 speed FWs and 7/8 speed cassettes with nice gear ranges appropriate for randonneuring and cyclotouring. Also, get a production pass hunter and camping bike out there.

Anonymous said...

With the way Brooks quality has gone down there is a reason to switch to VO saddles. They last longer.

Anonymous said...

I have 5 Brooks Saddles, the oldest being 4yrs old and no complaints with the quality, comfort or style. I'm sorry but the VO/Cardiff Saddles just don't seem to be a worthy alternative. VO has definitely filled a void with some of their products but others such as their shifter mounts which just seem a copy of the Paul mounts just bum me out. On the other hand, their frames are really a good call and it's nice to see them out there as there aren't really any other production rando frames out there.

Le Cagot said...

To the anonymous commenter above, first Paul introduced thumbies. Next, Soma copied the Paul thumbies. Then VO introduced a hinged version that fits both road and mountain bars, big improvement. A few weeks later Paul introduced a hinged version. I doubt Paul copied VO. Sometimes two companies are working on a similar component at the same time.

You should put a few thousand miles on a VO saddle and see if you still prefer Brooks.

Stephen Lee Ogden said...

It's my understanding that all Berthoud saddles have this bolt feature. It's not that innovative. Brooks will re-leather and rivet a saddle for a small fee. So both offer a "re-use the rails" option.

masmojo said...

Build that saddle & I will buy at least one maybe more!!? At one time I had A Brooks B-72 With a broken frame & another with a bad top! I Thought tomarry the good top to the good frame! I bought the appropriate rivets, but trying to attach them without the proper tools is challenging! While I agree that it may seem rather pointless to some on a saddle that will last 10+ years, many may not understand the emotional attachment one gets to a saddle that lasts that long and satisfaction one gets from keeping it alive! Regarding the shifter perches: I have some & I was rather torn between them & the Paul's, but I liked the hinged design & I think that separated them from what Pauls was offering. (at that time) They really are different & really cleaned up my handle bars!!

Francisco said...

This is a good idea, it addresses issues that I've experienced w/ Brooks saddles. First is the rivets themselves, the steel rivets have a bad habit of rubbing on fabrics so much that they will wear a hole into your gear. Second, if you crack a brooks frame your going to need a dremel in addition to a replacement saddle frame in order to keep your broken in saddle top. If VO is willing to sell replacement frames for these saddles then, I'll be placing my order.

Anonymous said...

"How many times does one need to replace a leather saddle?"

Unfortunately about every 5000 miles with newer Brooks saddles. The racing model, which I prefer for comfort, is particularly delicate.

That means 1 new saddle per year, for me.

Steve Fuller said...

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I really don't find this fastener system attractive at all. A lot of the VO stuff is well designed, practical and really nice looking. This is, well, pretty ugly IMO. I haven't had a Brooks (or any other) saddle top wear out on me yet. I have broken rails.

Stephen Lee Ogden said...

An internet search spawned this comment ... VO should investigate a quality lace up touring shoe with a 3 bolt design. Import taxes would be insane but the market for a classy touring shoe that matches the aesthetic of your products / my personal style is a hard find.

Kilroy said...

Greetings,

You're onto something here. I wear clothes until threadbare and this is instantly appealing. The saddle not only has a nice presentation but says: "buy one saddle for a lifetime".

Best regards

Anonymous said...

What the bolt method adds is more predictability. Rivets inherently distort. It is not uncommon for a rivet to bend up on one edge, even on a Brooks Team Pro. Makes for a nasty boil. I think Berthoud is on to something using thermoplastic for the frame part of the saddle- proven on the Rolls, etc. descendants of the Unicanitor. Embedding a nut in thermoplastic ought not to be that hard to do, or that expensive.

hey dude said...

looks to me like just something new to throw out there to help generate new sales. not to dissimilar to what the bike companies do.

Anonymous said...

As a happy Berthoud user I can add another practical reason to like this design (assuming spare leather tops are available): user error. Things like leaning your bike against a brick wall at a controle, the wind blowing it over while it's parked, or crashes will quickly leave your beautiful leather saddle looking battered (at best) or with structural issues (splits, runs, etc.).

If these are not as excruciatingly expensive as Berthoud I could definitely use one.

On another note: what I really want is larger version of the Velox saddle cover that fits something like a Brooks Swift or Berthoud size saddle. Those balloon-like saddle prophylactics don't last long (and feel like they're not there when you accidentally ride with the cover fitting, which will surely rip the cover)

davidg said...

I can see these working well. The soft metal rivets are far from ideal and have had issues with them. Rivets pulling through the frame. Small rivets working through the leather. Etc. Bottom line I'd buy a saddle with these screws but on steel rails. Not crazy about ti, or the thermoplastics on the GB for that matter.

Anonymous said...

@Le Cagot, why would I purchase a VO when all my Brooks saddles are fine? I have one saddle that I've used for multiple brevet series and it's fine. The Brooks Pro classic and B17 classic (small rivets on both) are really the way to go.

Anonymous said...

I bought my first Brooks, a B17, in 1974 to replace a stolen Fujita. After reading some advice (not the best, in retrospect), I took the leather off the frame to perform a "softening" operation on it. Being a student working out of a dorm room at the time, I failed miserably at installing new copper rivets. I went down to the hardware store, looked around for an alternate solution, and came back with aluminum machine screws - the big flat-headed ones sold for binder posts - and aluminum nuts. Perfect fit, went right in, and have stayed in place ever since. So from this I say, sure the bolt-attached tops are great.

On the other hand, the same leather has been attached to the same frame with the same screws for 37 years and is still a functional saddle. From this I have to admit that replaceability may not be a big concern.

Rich F.

Jeff said...

I soon learned after riding my Berthoud saddle that you need to apply blue loctite to the bolts or they will quickly rattle loose. The second Berthoud I bought from Rene Herse came to me with loctite already applied.

Anonymous said...

beautiful and distinctive

Anonymous said...

I happen to own a Berthoud saddle with that very same system. It looks good, does not seem to add weight (my saddle weights at 330g. with ti rails), and looks like a good idea to me. Not only you can easily re-use the rails if the leather gets damaged (say from a crash, for example), but you can also do the opposite: Re-use the leather if a rails breaks of bends.

As others have said, this is not a new idea, but it would be nice seeing more saddles using this Berthoud system (make sure it is not patented) with different shapes.

Le Cagot said...

I see lots of Brooks saddles that are decades old, but they are on bikes that don't get ridden much. If you ride 5000-10000 mile a year you may need to replace any saddle in a few years. The longest lasting classic saddles were the original French Ideale saddles IMO.

Wissam said...

Was it not, to author of the post, worth mentioning this style of saddle was innovated by Gilles Berthoud? Again, a brilliant notion ought to be repeated, while it doesn't seem right to write an entire article and not mention it once...even allude to it?