Ask any cyclist: Racing saddles are uncomfortable. Especially for the first few months, when they feel like pieces of wood. But Brooks, the venerable British saddle maker, wants to change that with Cambium, a new saddle that arrives already broken in—without any of the normal torture. Your more sensitive parts (read: your crotch) will thank you.
What Is It?
The new Brooks racing saddle. A huge departure from the sea of leather and plastic racing saddles out there. The Cambium is a rubber take on the way Brooks' saddles famously ride.
Why Does It Matter?
It's the first saddle of its kind—a racing saddle built out of rubber. Most competitive cyclists go with slim leather saddles that take months to break in and never really offer the level of comfort larger or more padded ones can. The Cambium takes comfort and puts it in a racing form factor—thanks to the seemingly indestructible vulcanized rubber that sits on top of the Cambium's removable frame.
The saddle is gorgeous. Brooks is known for making the best looking saddles and they don't compromise in this new foray into rubber. Rather than the traditional leather found on most of their products, the Cambium substitutes a treated cotton textile material that is resistant to the elements.
I rode the Slate color, which is a two-tone grey cotton on top of a brown rubber similar to the color of the leather used in most of Brooks' other products. It's a really classic look that will go with most bikes. The other style is called Natural, which is a cotton color similar to a tan snakeskin wrapped over a lighter brown rubber.
The measurements on the saddle come in at 283 mm long and 162 mm wide; a little bigger than other saddles. In terms of weight the Cambium weighs 415 grams, which is twice as much as most racing saddles.
The frame of the saddle is completely removable from the rubber, which should make for easy repairs if the time ever comes where your butt proves to be too much for the Cambium to handle.
The secret to the already broken-in feel is Brooks' one-of-a-kind rubber saddle. While most saddles are either leather or cushioned plastic, the Cambium uses an Italian vulcanized rubber.
The amount the saddle can flex is absolutely incredible. Normally, a saddle with so much give would worry me—but structurally, it's very stiff. The saddle forms to your butt, giving an almost custom fit. Once you're out riding, it absorbs a huge amount of bumps and vibration. It's like the Tempur-Pedic of race saddles.
Resting your derriere on a Cambium feels like sitting on nothing. You know you're being supported by a saddle, but it just doesn't make its presence known to you. It sits under you, discretely providing a comfortable ride.
The rubber of the saddle has a thin trim around the edge. It wears away and smooths out over a week, but the lip actually creates a lot of friction when you first ride the bike. I didn't get any chafing from it, but it was an uncomfortable feeling that you'd never get on a leather saddle.
The rubber is really comfortable and for a daily commuter and cycling enthusiast like myself, its almost a perfect fit. However, it can't replicate that tucked in, very strong support you get from a really stiff leather or plastic saddle especially when going fast. It supports you well, but this is more touring saddle than fixed gear racing saddle. Some riders may take issue with the extra 200 grams, but for my purposes, it's worth it.
My favorite part about the saddle is actually something no one has caught onto at all thusfar: The rubber is immune to cold weather. As opposed to my Selle Flite (a saddle I love and trust) the Cambium can be outside all day and never be freezing cold when I get back on it.
I love the ride of the Cambium. It's smooth, comfortable and just a beautiful-looking bike component. What more could you ask for?
Should You Buy It
Depends on how you ride. If you're all about speed on the velodrome then I suggest a stiffer and more lightweight saddle to really tuck in when needed and shave off the extra grams of weight that you don't want.
But if you like going long distances or are a commuter—or just someone who rides around for the love of the sport—you'd be missing out if you didn't at least give it a try. For $160 it's pretty reasonably priced, considering the build quality and comfort it provides.
Other similarly-priced saddles aren't exceptionally spectacular. They just happen to all be good, light racing saddles. Based on looks and feel alone, Cambium is a saddle worth owning. Toss in the fact that it requires zero break-in time, and you've got yourself a winner.