Other than bibs (specifically, chamois design), there’s nothing more intrinsic to comfort on a bike than the saddle. Granted, many seat preferences come down to individual body shape, hip width, and style of riding, but some saddles quickly stand out. Over the years, I’ve tried pretty much every one on the market, and I usually ride a Specialized Romin or Oura on the road and the WTB Silverado on dirt. But then I tested the Brooks Cambium, which I found to be the most forgiving and comfortable saddle yet. Half a dozen other Outside testers, all with different body types, agreed that this is the best saddle they’ve ever ridden.
The Cambium is not your father’s Brooks. It’s still handmade in Birmingham, England, but the Cambium isn’t constructed of handcrafted leather. That might sound like sacrilege to Brooks devotees, but what the Cambium series gives up in tradition, it gets back in performance and weight. And with the sleek finish and gorgeous rivets, the Cambium is still classier looking than anything else around.
With a cotton-infused vulcanized rubber top, the Cambium is supple and forgiving out of the box. It doesn’t need the long break-in periods that Brooks’ leather series demands. Meanwhile, the entire range is narrower and significantly lighter, meaning they are better suited to performance bikes. Truth is, I’ve had and loved Brooks saddles over the years, but I never could bring myself to put their anchor-weight on top of the lightest, ripping bikes in my garage. The Cambium brings the give and form-fit of the leather line into the modern day.
I first tested the Cambium C15 ($180), which comes in one width (140mm) and uses a steel frame. The amount of cushion afforded from this hard, foam-free saddle impressed me, especially in the carved version that uses a cutout design for increased flex and decreased pressure points. It was still not light, though, so then came the C13 ($220), which has carbon rails and is available in three widths (132mm, 145mm, and 158mm). Thanks to the flex of the carbon, both the solid and carved design felt slightly cushier than their steel counterparts, and in the medium width, the saddle is about 30 percent lighter. I’ve taken to running the solid C13 on my road bike, since I prefer a little firmer feel, and the C13 Carved for gravel and mountain, where the trim shape and extra give make an extraordinary difference in how long I can sit without discomfort, even compared to my time-tested favorites.
There are lighter, sportier saddles than the C13—the narrowest, 132mm Carved version tops out at 250 grams—but this saddle is so merciful on long rides that I’ve decided the quarter of a pound is a tiny price to pay. I’ve since put Cambium C13s on all my personal bikes. And honestly, the color options (black with gum-wall base, chocolate, and khaki) of the C15 almost have me ready to add a bit more heft just for the look.
Looks aside, if you’re at all uncomfortable in your current saddle, the Cambium is worth some consideration, even up to the wider C17 and C19 options. Because as a bike-fitter once told me: you’re only fast if you’re comfortable.