Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Demise of the Brooks B-72 and a Bike Tube Explosion

When my Rivendell Sam Hillborne was first built up several years ago, I tried out a variety of set ups to find one that would work well for me. Initially, I tried to use it more as a road bike with drop bars and a narrow saddle, but the problem was that the top tube is a bit long for me to use comfortably in this manner. As saddles and handlebars were exchanged, I ultimately found a good fit with my inverted Albatross handlebars and a Brooks B-72 saddle.

The B-72 seemed to be a perfect fit for this bike. Then, one day I was attempting to fix a squeaking problem under the saddle with some oil and it got a bit out of hand. The oil ended up drenching the saddle and I had to let it sit out for some time to dry and get back to some sense of normal. Not too long after this event, I realized that the sides of the saddle were splaying far too much for my comfort and I decided to go to a leather shop and have the saddle laced underneath to keep this from occurring. It wasn't anything novel, and I'd heard of many others doing this very same thing, but generally it was done to older saddles that required some extra love as the years had passed. The shop I decided to visit for my fix did a wonderful job at carrying out my request and things went along smoothly. One slightly annoying factor was the need to deal with the laces any time the saddle was adjusted. Most people would probably set up their saddle and be done, but mine always seemed to need a bit of tweaking from time to time.
After some years of use, the B-72 is showing wear, but doesn't look too bad from the top, considering it's seen rain, snow, hail and many bright and hot sunny days.
The saddle was originally sent with a special bracket to help use this saddle on a modern seatpost. As can be seen from the under side of this saddle, there are two rows of rails that need to fit on the post. When Sam had set up the saddle, he found using the special bracket to be a nuisance, so he opted to use only the two rails on the bottom of the seatpost. Never thinking anything of this, I went about using the saddle for years in this manner. 

Over the last year or so, I've noticed a bit more spring or squish in the saddle, but assumed this was simply due to it breaking in over time. I've ridden the saddle for about four years now, so I just believed that this was the nature of leather saddles. After a recent longer ride on the Hillborne, I was concerned about the movement taking place on the saddle. One side seemed to be inordinately full of movement and squishy. I asked Sam to check it out, but when I returned to see how things were going, he'd made the shocking discovery that the saddle was actually broken. Not the leather, but the rail had completely split. 
It's easy to see here that the lower line of rails and the upper line have converged into a single one over time due to pressure and improper use.
This is obviously no fault of the saddle, and if anything, I'm impressed that it held up so well to the abuse it was put through over the time of use. However, it's always a good reminder that there is usually a reason for the "extra" parts that are included. The bracket for the rails on this saddle is definitely not extra and as a precautionary thought to anyone else who might be doing this right now or pondering not using the bracket on a modern seatpost, I thought I would share the tale.

My much loved B-72 is now a part of the saddle graveyard and I am experimenting with other saddles we have to see if I can find the right fit without purchasing a new one. Lesson definitely learned.

This past week, we've had some pretty warm days here in Colorado. On one of these hotter-than-I'd-prefer days, Sam decided to take his road bike to work in the car so he could get in a good ride at lunch (he's training for a race this weekend, so any little bit helps). As he got started on his lunch time ride, he realized he had a flat tire. Instead of spending his lunch riding, he ended up at a bike shop to buy some extra tubes, after which he changed out the flattened tube for a new one. When he pulled out the old tube there were tiny little dimples in it and one had a small puncture.

It seemed odd, but he didn't think too much about it. As he returned to the car to drive home at the end of the day, he opened the back of the car only to discover that the other tube had completely - well, the best way to describe it is - exploded.
As you can see, the tube is pretty well shredded. The only thing we could determine was that it just got so hot in the car that the tubes expanded, causing the ultimate destruction. The tube that had been replaced was just fine, but had only a few pounds of pressure in it (which likely saved it). While we do have a bike rack that the bike could've traveled on, I suppose it seemed easier in the early morning moments to just toss the bike in the back of the wagon. Another lesson to be learned though when it comes to hot summer days and fully inflated road tires/tubes.

Have you taken a shortcut or left out a piece of something and had it go awry? Any lessons you've picked up while riding (or traveling) in summer heat? Stay safe out there.


  1. I have several bikes and I rotate, so that's probably why I haven't had more problems with saddles or seat posts [Thomson seat posts are rated very high.]. I'd love to ride leather saddles but the hard ones don't agree with me so I use good gel saddles with a cut out in the middle - like Terry Liberator X gel for long distance bikes and seats like Sunlite Cloud 9 men's Sport get seat and Freedom Elite Greenbelt women's saddle for other bikes .

    1. I don't typically have problems with saddles either, but I think because it simply wasn't being used properly (with the appropriate attachment for the seatpost) it became an issue. I think finding the saddle that is comfortable for you is what is most important. I love leather saddles, my husband doesn't (he also doesn't like the break in process). I believe that whatever works for the rider is absolutely the most important aspect.

  2. I can see why the saddle rails failed when attached to a modern seat post, but the tire tube explosion in the car - that's a new one for me.

    1. Yes, it was quite odd! I didn't think that was possible, but apparently if it gets hot enough, they will explode.

  3. The saddle situation was goofy, and I guess deep down, I knew where it would go, but at the time we needed a quickly adjustable situation, because the riding position was changing so often. Lesson learned on that one. The tube explosion makes sense to me, even though I have never experienced that before, It was just so hot, probably 150 in the car I'm sure, and the expansion of a high pressure tube/tire is just too easy!


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