Brooks Comfort Reviews Saddles

Brooks Cambium Review

September 16, 2019

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Brooks Cambium Review

Brooks Cambium Review
4.4

Summary

Brooks is a legendary name in the cycling industry—one that’s synonymous with high-end comfort, durability, and legendary craftsmanship. But, as with any luxury item, you’ll pay a premium to get your hands on one of their Cambium saddles.

Based on my limited experience so far, though, it lives up to its reputation. Whether or not it will provide meaningful value for you, on the other hand, is a nuanced discussion. Keep reading to find out more.

  • Comfort / Ride Quality
  • Appearance
  • Maintenance / Durability
  • Price
  • Overall Value

Pros

  • Brooks has manufactured bicycle saddles since the 1880s, with a reputation for quality and craftsmanship
  • Durable
  • Unique construction materials that require little-to-no maintenance
  • Unlike the company’s leather saddles, the Cambium lineup requires no break-in period
  • Mostly positive online customer feedback
  • Stellar firsthand experience
  • Responsive customer support experiences

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Multiple online reviewers have complained about premature wear on the saddle’s nose, although this isn’t something I’ve experienced
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Comments Rating 5 (2 reviews)

With more than 180 miles on my Brooks Cambium saddle, this article discusses what I’ve experienced so far. Plus, what the manufacturer advertises, and how it compares to competitors.

About the Brooks Cambium Saddle

The Brooks Cambium bike saddle was introduced in 2013 and features a contemporary base manufactured from vulcanized natural rubber, along with a naturally lightweight and waterproof organic cotton top.

Together, Brooks advertises their Cambium seats are ready to ride, immediately comfortable, and maintenance-free.

There’s no getting over the fact that Brooks Cambium saddles are pricey, though. Is it worth the investment, or should you explore seats from another manufacturer? Will it be one of the last bike saddles you ever purchase?

To help you find some answers, I’ll combine details from the company with my firsthand experience. Let’s begin by taking a look at the lineup’s specs.

How the Brooks Cambium Bike Saddle Works

Each Cambium saddle is handmade in Italy and features an organic cotton top accentuated by four aluminum rivets: three in the back and one on the nose. According to the Brooks website, the top “moves and flows naturally with the movement of the rider for better pedaling and control.”

The Cambium’s cover sits upon a “vulcanized” natural rubber base. As we explain in All About the Bike Tire Manufacturing Process, this term refers to rubber that’s heated to very high temps, which fuses its layers, increases its hardness, and boosts its elasticity.

The Brooks Cambium bike saddle blends unique materials like organic cotton and vulcanized rubber to deliver comfort and long service life. Credit: Brooks England SRL

Underneath it all, you’ll find tubular steel rails and a die-cast aluminum structure.

Together, Brooks tells us that the Cambium delivers “extraordinary comfort,” “exceptional freedom of movement,” and “a natural feel and flexibility unlike any foam or gel saddles on the market.”

Furthermore, each Cambium saddle features Brooks’ “hammock” design that dampens road vibrations and keeps you comfortable, regardless of how far you choose to ride.

What—Exactly—is Numac?

While Brooks advertise that each Cambium model is waterproofed with Numac, searching the company’s website for the term returned zero results, and there aren’t any third-party online references about this material or substance.

As such, it seems proprietary from Brooks.

I emailed their corporate office for additional details, and received the following reply:

“Numac was a maintenance product that we planned to release, but unfortunately did not pass our quality tests and was never launched on the market.

We changed the description on the leaflet as soon as we knew it, but some had already been distributed together with the fist saddles.

We really apologize if you got the wrong information.”

I was curious why Numac was still advertised on the Brooks website if it didn’t pass the company’s quality tests and if it’s not used to waterproof their saddles. The same friendly representative responded:

“We really apologize for the wrong information. Our website manager is now amending the webpage.

Numac was supposed to be a waterproofing spray. As it was never produced, we cannot share the ingredients.

If you are looking for some specific spray to waterproof your saddle, you can use a water-based spray, such as Granger’s.”

Numac remained advertised on the Brooks website as of publishing.

Cambium Care & Warranty Details

The Brooks website also advertised that Cambium saddles are “built for life.”

However, the care information posted on the Brooks website puts things into a real-world perspective: each Cambium saddle comes with a two-year guarantee against defects in materials or workmanship from the date of purchase.

Comparatively, Brooks’ leather saddles come with 10-year warranties.

What Are the Differences Between Each Brooks Cambium Model?

My Cambium C15 (more soon) is fashioned after Brooks’ B15 Swallow leather racing saddle, and measures 283 mm (11.14 in) long, 140 mm (5.51 in) wide, and 52 mm (2.13”) tall. It comes with a 450-gram (14.29 oz) weight.

Comparatively, the Cambium C13 boasts a continuous carbon rail and all-black aluminum rivets that reduces its weight by 150 grams.

The C17 is modeled closely after Brooks’ B17 saddle, which is almost one inch wider than the C15, but still retains its “racy shape and lines.”

The Cambium C19 saddle adds almost another inch to its width, which Brooks advertises makes it ideal for touring, city riding, and a more upright seated position.

The Brooks C13 (left), C15 (center left), C17 (center right), and C19 (right) bicycle saddles. Credit: Brooks England SRL

Here’s a quick reference table that pulls all of these specs together:

Brooks Cambium Model Comparison
Model Length Width Height Weight
C13 10.83” 5.2”, 5.71”, and 6.22” models available 2.17” 9.14 oz
C15 11.14” 5.51” 2.13” 14.29 oz
C17 11.14” 6.38” 2.13” 14.46 oz
C19 10.83” 7.24” 2.24” 15.98 oz

Next, we’ll move from advertising claims to my real-world testing.

My Initial Impressions About the Brooks Cambium Saddle

Living in Denver, Colorado, in a single-car family, and as someone who enjoys every second of the riding experience, I log about 4,000 miles a year. As a result, my saddle is exposed to a lot of wear and tear, and to every type of weather the Front Range can throw at it throughout the year.

Because I was worried about getting the Natural Cambium version’s top dirty, I chose to order the black model with vulcanized natural rubber underside and bare steel rails.

Unboxing the Brooks Cambium Saddle

My Cambium saddle (no perineal cutout) arrived via Amazon quickly, and spectacularly packaged from the company.

And between the embossed lettering on the slide-out box, the plastic sleeve, and cardboard backing, it was a sensory-filled experience opening each “layer” of the packaging—and quite clear that Brooks takes great care to exude excellence and pride of craftsmanship.

Brooks pays full attention to all of the finer details when it comes to the impeccably packaged Cambium saddle.

With this said, in today’s eco-conscious world, it represents quite a lot of packaging. Most of it is recyclable, however.

Brooks ships their Cambium saddles inside multi-layered packaging that, while fancy-schmancy, could be considered wasteful. The good news? Most of it’s recyclable.
Although thorough, Brooks includes a thick documentation packet with each Cambium saddle. I didn’t find it listed on their website, which could help reduce otherwise unnecessary paper consumption.

Brooks Cambium Appearance

In my opinion, the Cambium is a super sharp saddle. It’s clearly identifiable as a Brooks with just a glance, but with a more modern approach using materials you simply won’t find anywhere else.

Its top cloth feels unique compared to any other saddle I’ve ridden; almost like rough denim.

I love the classic brushed aluminum metal rivets that give the Cambium a robust, crafted feel, including the one with “C15” etched into its top.

It’s something you want to learn more about and looks fast, just sitting still.

In my opinion, the Brooks Cambium is easy to install, looks fantastic, and rides spectacularly., even with a saddlebag attached (Topeak Aero Wedge shown here).

Cambium Installation & Setup

The Cambium’s rails attach to the same areas as my previous Selle Italia, so installation and setup were no different than any other bike saddle I’ve experienced.

I only needed some hex keys and a couple of micro rides to make adjustments and dial in the angle, and I haven’t needed to touch it since.

Thoughts Regarding Cambium’s Weight

Frankly, I don’t carefully watch weight when it comes to any aspect of my cycling, so I didn’t compare the C15’s weight against my previous generic Selle Italia.

Going by hand feel alone, though, the Cambium is clearly more substantial, and probably won’t be on your list if you monitor every gram.

Cambium’s Durability

So far, I’ve logged just 180 miles on my Cambium. I was initially worried about excessive wear and tear on the top—it is fabric, after all!—but it feels solid and doesn’t seem out of line with basic vinyl and foam saddles.

I’m anxious to see how it withstands dirt, mud, and grime, as well as what happens when it’s time to wash.

Also, I’d like to maintain its appearance as long as possible (not to mention getting the most value out of its steep price tag), so I’ll be careful not expose it to the same hazards (e.g., resting my bike upside down on the ground, continually hitting it on the top of my truck’s cap, etc.).

Pro tip: Despite all of the paperwork that accompanies the Cambium, there’s no need to register your saddle on the Brooks website. Why? Because the Brooks Forever 10-year extended guarantee—and accompanying registration process—only applies to the company’s leather saddles.

Cambium’s Comfort & Ride Qualities

The Cambium’s top features a smoother transition between its front and back than my Selle Italia, which allows for entirely adjustable sit bone comfort.

The center is smooth and gradually transitions from thin to wide, which allows for better thigh grip.

Unsurprisingly, the C15 is meaningfully wider than any of my previous saddles and based on my riding preferences, I’m glad I didn’t go with a broader C17 or C19 model.

Still, I’d imagine the Cambium lineup will work well for a variety of anatomies, once you discern your width preferences. The saddle also has a much more gradual a sweet spot, whereas my previous seats have always felt like I was either on or off the sweet spot. 

What about the rivets? I haven’t felt them with my bike shorts on, but the ones in the back are definitely noticeable without.

My Cambium was immediately comfortable, as advertised, which I attribute to it’s the flexible nature of its vulcanized base. A completely different experience than generic stock seats I’ve used in the past, and their inexpensive plastic frames and so-so foam.

You can see that the Cambium (red outline) is a bit shorter and broader than my previous Selle Italia. However, the Brooks boasts a much larger sweet spot and entirely different feel. ©TreadBikely

Brooks Cambium vs. Competing High-End Bike Saddles

Bottom line: There’s nothing on the market precisely like the Brooks Cambium lineup. If you’re looking for a similar combination of organic cotton top, vulcanized rubber base, aluminum rivets, and die-cast aluminum structure, it’s currently your only option.

However, several high-end saddles might better suit your needs and preferences. Here’s how their key specs compare:

Model Dimensions Weight Notes
Brooks Cambium C15 11.14” L x 5.51” W x 2.13” H 14.29 oz Manufactured from organic cotton and vulcanized natural rubber, handmade in England, company established in the 1860s, 2-year warranty, no weight limit listed
Selle Anatomica R2 11.41” starting length, 4.58” W 14.82 oz Tensionable vulcanized EPDM rubber top, carbon rails available, modular frame, handmade in the USA, established in 2006, 1-year warranty, 250 lb weight limit
Fabric Scoop Pro Radius 11.1” L x 5.59” W x 1.89” H 6.84 oz Flexible base w/soft foam top, three profiles available in the lineup, carbon rails, nylon base, waterproof construction
Selle SMP F30 11.61” L x 5.87” W 10.4 oz Made in Italy since 1947, perineal cutout, patented downward-shaped nose, traditional foam padding, multiple colors available, promises to deliver better bike control

Like the Selle Anatomica R2, some Cambium models also feature a perineal slot for potentially improved comfort. However, SA was founded in 2006, so their saddles don’t come with the same rich history as Brooks if this is important to you.

Brooks’ Cambium saddles also come with two-year warranties, whereas Selle Anatomica offers one-year warranties.

However, SA saddles are adjustable via a screw, which can help ensure its leather is always correctly tensioned. They also offer carbon rails as an upgrade. With this said, this tensioning process also lengthens the saddle each time, which could potentially change its feel and comfort level.

Both the Fabric Scoop and Selle SMP saddles feature traditional elastomer foam padding, although the latter is also covered in black leather or colored microfiber. Scoop saddles come with carbon rails, whereas they’re an upgrade on the Selle SMP.

However, the Selle SMP weighs less than half that of the Brooks Cambium or Selle Anatomica, if you’re looking to shave as much weight as possible from your setup.

Let’s go ahead and pull all of these details together so we can come to a conclusion about the Brooks Cambium saddle.

My Bottom Line About the Brooks Cambium Saddle

I’m thoroughly enjoying my experience with the Brooks Cambium so far.

Its high-end construction and feel are appealing, it’s very comfortable, and most online reviewers seem to give it similarly high ratings.

Still, some complain that the fabric on its nose wears prematurely, which isn’t something I’ve experienced so far. With 180 miles so far, we’ll see if this stands up over time. I’ll be sure to report back along the way.

But, if you’re willing to splurge, I think the Cambium could deliver a solid level of value.

In the meantime: What’s your experience with the Brooks Cambium bike saddle? Do you feel it’s worth the money? Help other cyclists by leaving your ratings and comments below!

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Derek has more than two decades of experience as a cyclist. He currently travels full-time with his family via RV, enjoying the country's best biking destinations. A secular Buddhist, Derek frequently explores the intersection of cycling, mindfulness, and compassion in his writing. #rolloutblissout
4 Comments
  1. Dan

    I purchased a C17 carved, and it was an absolute revelation on my touring bike in regards to comfort. I even did the crazy thing of taking in out on a weekend away for it's first outing not acclimatising myself to a new saddle on shorter runs first.

    • Derek Lakin

      Hi Dan - Thanks for your feedback! My C15 is proving to be magically comfortable as well.

  2. Pierrox

    Nice review! Awaiting my C13... (found a new unused second hand at a decent price, couldn't resist). I read somewhere that the nose issue only affected the first series produced. Then Brooks went back to the drawing board and fixed it. If yours is a 2019, it's likely to be the rev. B model.

    • Derek Lakin

      Hi Pierrox - Thanks so much for your feedback, and for additional details about the nose issue. Feel free to follow up here and let us know how it goes after you've logged some miles on your C13! BTW, which width did you choose?

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