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Brooks Cambium C13 saddle review

24 Jun 2019

Comfortable saddle that blends classic styling with a modern approach

Cyclist Rating: 
• Looks great • Hard-wearing • Comfortable
• Won’t suit everyone • Not particularly light

Saddle maker Brooks is as British as fish and chips, wet weekends and Brexit. Except it isn’t. The company that began life in Birmingham in 1866 is now owned by Italian saddle behemoth Selle Royal, and this Brooks Cambium saddle is manufactured in Italy.

Not that this is a problem. We should be thankful that one of the stalwarts of the British bike industry was saved from extinction in 2002 and still produces some of the most refined and desirable leather saddles in the world – even if they are not actually made in Britain.

Leather isn't for everyone, however – especially in these days of rising veganism – which is why in 2013 Brooks developed its first Cambium saddle, made from vulcanised rubber with an organic cotton cover.

Buy the Brooks Cambium C13 saddle from Wiggle

Jump forward to 2019 and the Cambium range comprises 28 different saddles, with differing widths, colours, weather-proofing and cut-out sections, but all with the same rubber and cotton foundation.

This particular saddle, the Brooks Cambium C13, is perhaps the centrepiece of the range. Introduced in 2016, its aim was to take the comfort and elegance that Brooks was renowned for and make it sportier to suit the needs of serious road riders.

The result is a saddle that weighs 268g, some 150g lighter than its C15 predecessor, but still a long way off the lightest sports saddles on the market. To compare, a similarly-priced Fizik Arione R1 saddle weighs 165g (as an aside Fizik is also owned by Selle Royal).

‘The initial brief was to design a saddle that could have the Cambium comfort, reducing its weight to the minimum possible,’ says Brooks designer Ugo Villa. ‘It might not be the lightest saddle on the market, but the C13 is a saddle with unbelievable comfort at that weight range.’

Much of the weight saving comes from a carbon fibre rail, which is attached to the rubber seat by way of four aluminium rivets at the rear and one at the front.

This has the advantage of maintaining the classic Brooks look – the rivets are part of the appeal – while still being functional. This is one of the few modern saddles where you really still can ride ‘on the rivet’.

The idea behind the vulcanised rubber shell is that it flexes under impacts from the rider, providing support and comfort in a similar way to a leather saddle without having to be ‘broken in’ as traditional saddles sometimes need to be.

Villa says, ‘We use natural rubber for its elastic performance. Usually saddles are made with a solid base with different foams on top. Our Cambium range has a flexible top made with one unique piece of vulcanised rubber that creates a “hammock effect” to support the rider’s weight.’

The Cyclist viewpoint

I’ve been riding with a Brooks Cambium C13 saddle for over a year now. That in itself should say something about its effectiveness – I’m not one to stick with a saddle that isn’t comfortable from the off.

At first glance it doesn’t look very comfortable. The surface is hard to the touch, and the shape makes few concessions to prioritising sit bones over the soft, fleshy bits that any man considering a future family wants to keep intact.

What it does look like, however, is elegant. I’m a big fan of its sleek curves and the weave of its cotton top sheet. The shape manages to be both sporty and classic, equally at home on a high-end race bike or a traditional steel-framed cruiser.

The flexible rubber works, too. Despite its fairly rounded profile, I find that I get few issues with discomfort or pressure, even on long rides. The flex is imperceptible – there’s no bounce – and after many months of use it has not changed shape since the day it was fitted (it’s not meant to adapt to the rider in the way leather saddles do).

The cotton top layer means the saddle is neither too sticky nor too slidey. Moving around feels natural in a way that some saddles can’t match – they either glue you into place or eject you out the back as soon as you put some power down.

Also, after a year of use, the material looks pretty much as good as new. There’s a bit of wear, but again less than I would expect to see on a padded saddle. The solid surface makes it easy to wash and wipe clean.

Buy the Brooks Cambium C13 saddle from Wiggle

Does this mean that it’s the perfect saddle? Well, that’s always going to be a matter of opinion.

I have a colleague who tried a Cambium and didn’t get on with it, eventually rejecting it after a couple of months of discomfort. That’s always going to be the case for some people depending on body shape and riding style.

There’s also a potential issue with the oval rails. Just make sure the clamp on your seatpost will fit it securely or you may have to shell out for a new seatpost on top of the £172 for the saddle (that’s the RRP; a glance at a well-known online cycling retailer shows you can get a C13 for under £100).

That’s about the only issues I can find. Personally, I think the Cambium C13 is a very handsome saddle with an innovative approach to comfort that really pays off.

And best of all it’s British. Well, sort of.


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