due to having departed a day or so early for our summer holiday last month, mrs washingmachinepost and i had an extra 24 hours to spend in glasgow city. personally, i'm not a great one for dragging myself round the shops; i usually have an itinerary and once completed, i'm not interested anymore. so, in order to waste a bit of time, i paid a visit to hmv in argyle street, heading immediately to the basement where they display a substantial collection of jazz compact discs.
in an effort to procrastinate even further, i found several racks of vinyl long-playing records, a medium that seems to be experiencing a substantial resurgence of late. it will give some idea of the era during which i experienced the bulk of my musical education to mention that the sheer joy of leafing through racks of jazz vinyl was one of the most satisfying bouts of nostalgia experienced for many a long year.
it will surprise you not at all, therefore, that i walked out of hmv carrying an art blakey's jazz messengers record under my arm, sporting the endless delight of a proper album cover, originally released in 1956, complete with comprehensive back cover liner notes. this purchase was joined by a crosley record player with speakers for my christmas, offering the undeniable joy of listening to 1950s jazz in the lo-fi manner that is our birthright.
this was contrasted dramatically by my other christmas present of an ipod touch and bluetooth speaker that offers digital clarity in faux surround sound with nary a connecting cable in sight. in fact, so compact and bijou is the speaker system, that it survives on a rechargeable battery. if i felt like it, i could carry ipod and speaker all the way to saligo bay on my bicycle and listen to state of the art music by the shores of the north atlantic.
a major contrast between the old and new faces of music appreciation.
it's scarcely a verisimilitude i'd expect to find in the world of the velocipede, yet, as mulder and sculley were keen to relate 'the truth is out there.'
my taurus corinto italian sit up and beg bicycle features a brooks leather b66 saddle, one of their more historic designs sporting rear springs and rivets. it's a brooks design that has existed since 1927, an era when weight-weenies were either few and far between or totally non-existent. this is perhaps just as well, since a b66 weighs fifty grams more than a kilo. in short, though one of the most comfortable saddles on the planet, it's not the ideal choice for an attempt on the galibier or alpe d'huez. in fact, there are more than just a few carbon frames on the market today that weigh quite a bit less.
brooks, however, would probably remain dear to our hearts if they were quite content to continue crafting their wide range of leather saddles as per john boultbee brooks' original ideology. the world is already awash with sleek, lightweight racing saddles, all the better to speed mr froome and his pals summitwards every july. but presumably on the basis that nostalgia ain't what it used to be, brooks have more recently brought us the non-leather cambium range, culminating in the c15 carved, featuring a cotton canvas top, married to a gum rubber base, undermining the weight of a b66 by well over 600 grams.
though the technology of manufacture may be on a parity with the leather of old, the rails that sit between saddle and seatpost are of precisely the same material: steel. now whether the folks at brooks felt the need to offer even less weight or to take advantage of aerospace developments, i know not, but a few months ago, the cambium c13 was born, still with the same canvas top and gum-rubber base as on the rest of the cambium range, but replacing metal rails with a continuous carbon rail. unlike the leather saddles built in the smethwick factory, the c13 is made in italy, from where my review sample was despatched.
though scarcely the most important feature from my point of view, the weight has now dropped to an almost svelte 259 grams, most likely due to the carbon rail. to place this in perspective, when the postie popped the box into thewashingmachinepost porch, on retrieving it, you'd have thought it was empty. the stylishly woven carbon fibre rail is of substantial constitution (9mm oval), prompting brooks to place a warning on their website that it may require a seatpost adapter. i'm not sure where i'd even find one of those.
i'd elected to fit the cambium to the seatpost on a ridley x-ride 20 for the duration of my festive 500 attempt. the knurled section of the carbon rails fitted easily with no complaint whatsoever. a sheet of paper inside the box invited me to test the saddle by participating in either an imperial century, a 50 mile time-trial or some other arduous undertaking which i have now forgotten since i misplaced the sheet of paper. i'm sure, however, that folks at brooks would be every bit as satisfied with my riding 500 kilometres over the course of a week.
unfortunately, i rather marked my report card on a pre-500 ride. with the great outdoors inundated by inclement weather, i fitted the saddle to the post while removed from the ridley, but re-fitted it at the wrong height. thus, on my return i had a somewhat uncomfortable posterior. it did take a few days for my bum to forget the discomfort, none of which could seriously be attributed to the c13. and while i'm here, it seems worth mentioning that brooks have followed the racing tradition of placing the number 13 upside down within the letter c that forms part of the logo.
a company that understands its market.
in keeping with carbon fibre's reputation for stiffness, the c13 is noticeably less squishy overall than its cambium predecessors, though i could find no distinction between the flex offered by the saddle top and either the c15 or c17. by logical deduction, the increased solidity must be at the behest of the carbon rail. though road chatter is a common hebridean complaint, even such a modest injection of carbon seems to offer a welcome degree of buzzkill.
i'd be lying if i said i'd experienced eight days of parker-knoll comfort. there were hours of slogging into galeforce headwinds that forced me to stand every now and again to relieve the discomfort, but in mitigation, i've yet to find a saddle with which that is not the case. in this respect, the c13 was no better or worse. at those points, i'd have more than welcomed a carved version, something that i'm pretty sure is in the brooks pipeline. however, despite a couple of very wet and windy days of around 100 kilometres apiece, i cannot deny having acquired a great affinity for the c13's proffered comfort.
the other area in which the carbon railed cambium offers a degree of excellence is when the ridley was actually being used as a bona-fide cyclocross bicycle. having learned at least the basics of leaping aboard a la nys and powers (albeit more slowly and clumsily) a previous criticism of the cambium range was an inherent and undesirable flex that made them less than specifically suitable for the competitive 'cross rider. though you'd probably have to ask sven and jeremy directly, for my cyclocrossing purposes at least, the c13 was a distinct improvement.
considering just how crap many of islay's singletrack roads have become and peppered as they are with frequent cattle grids, the cambium c13 was really rather good. there may arguably be a greater degree of specific comfort to be found in the c17, with its wider base, but as brooks' first entry into the lightweight performance market this carbon-railed version could very well be the one your posterior has been searching for so long. and if you've traditionally avoided brooks because of the weight factor, that excuse has now evaporated.
though brooks has an enviable and lengthy heritage, it's very encouraging to note that they seem to have no desire to rest on their considerable laurels. the cambium c13 is but the latest step along that heritage trail, maintaining an expected level of quality while adopting relevant portions of contemporary cycling technology.
a promising start to the new year for bums everywhere.
the brooks cambium c13 was issued as a first batch of 259 at a cost of approximately £190. it should become more widely available in 2016.
sunday 3 january 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................