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Peter Gostelow

Adventure cycling

Brooks B17 Imperial

Brooks have been making saddles since 1866. For many long distance cyclists their B17 has been the saddle of choice over the years. It goes without saying that a comfortable saddle is one of the most important considerations when riding a bicycle for an extended period of time. Brooks have recently re-created the design of a much older model in the form of the B17 Imperial. It follows the same design as the saddle I used on my last trip – the idea being that the hole in the middle relieves perineal pressure. I’ll be testing one over the next few months to see if it’s the right saddle to ride through Africa on.

Brooks B17 Imperial


  1. The frame weight is my biggest gripe, not the components, and if that breaks, I’ll need it welded or a whole new frame. But what I’m getting at in the end, is that if I had another chance, I would not have bought the Thorn. But of course it depends on the individual riding it, and where, other people would love the bike.

  2. Truth be told, I feel like I am riding this unnecessary ‘Bently’ around, when it really isn’t needed. Unless I was doing fully-loaded downhill mountain biking, my Thorn, in my opinion, is overbuilt. Like I said, get a steel frame Mountain bike, and you’vew got nothing to worry about, spare parts everywhere! (By the way you still have to clean the chain with the Rohloff, I just looked at mine now, its filthy and rusty!)

    Even with an Aluminium frame, like your old bike, how many of them, realistically, fail on tour? Very few I reckon!

    I’ve never ridden your bike, but you’ve done so many miles on that thing it would almost be unfair to take an untested bike through Africa! Keep the Cannondale! (Or we’ll swap, you pay freight) 🙂

    • Kyle, I’m surprised you’re moaning so much about your Thorn. I don’t see it as being overbuilt. I probably could ride my bike through Africa, but there would be a much higher chance of things breaking and getting spare parts would be harder in rural Sierra Leone than say rural China.

  3. Hey mate, I’d have to recommend not using the ‘Imperial’. I was one of the testers Brooks used when the seat was experimental, and I used it from London to Croatia. It had sagged a lot, and was extremely uncomfortable. I had two Brooks saddles I used before this crapheap, a regular B17 that I gave to a Canadian cyclist and an ancient B66 with springs (Best saddle I ever used, but unfortunately replaced it with the ‘Imperial’)

    Nice photo of Tajikistan by the way!


    • Kyle, thanks for this advice. I was starting to think today whether it would be better to stick with the trusted B17, but even that doesn’t suit many people. Also interesting to hear your advice about bikes. I’m curious to know why you would start again with an old mountain bike. I rode 30,000 miles on a bike that many people would never consider strong enough to last that distance. The essential truth is that you can ride around the World on anything. I was happy with my bike, although there was always a small worry that something would break or not last. In Asia I was never ‘that’ far from somewhere where I could get it fixed. In Africa I think it is a little different. No, I don’ t need the Rolhoff, and a Sherpa for £1000 would suffice. It is partly through laziness that I would consider getting a Thorn Raven with a rolhoff – not have to worry about cleaning the chain, replacing casettes etc.

  4. Did you have problems with your previous saddle?

    • No real problems, but so many people ride a brooks that I’m curious to see how it feels.

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