Gilles Berthoud Touring Saddle Review – 14 months

It has been a little over a year since I first picked up a Berthoud Touring saddle to add to my rotation of Brooks B17 saddles in the stable.  I had been drawn to the Berthoud after going through a couple of the more recently produced brooks B17 saddles that were made with thin and fast deforming leather.  Looking at the options, it was either back to plastic, vintage or the Berthoud.  The Berthoud was reported to be somewhere between a Brooks B17, team pro and swift in shape.  This on came up on eBay, and I was first, impulse struck and it was mine.  The cork finish while growing on me would not have been my first choice, but the price was right and I do not have to see it while riding. 

Out of the box impression was very high.  The engineering and design are sound, everything was tight symmetrical and the leather was far thicker than any of my other Brooks saddles yet was not as hard as the Brooks Pro I had looked into as a possible alternate.  The plastic cantle plate and hardware are all top-notch with the precision you would expect to see on a european sports car.  I have read concerns about the use of plastic.  After having the saddle in my hands any concern is now gone.  The molding and assembly is top-notch showing not of the cheapness the work plastic infers, and should likely be relabeled as molded composite.  I find the design aesthetic pleasing, with a more modern cut to  traditional leather saddle.

Initially I mounted the saddle on My Eisentraut for the spring and summer.  After a few initial adjustments the position of the saddle was similar to that of my Brooks saddles with thee exception of tilt.  The Berthoud is much better set almost level to the ground.  Comfort was immediate, no break in required and I put in a couple 40 mile rides in the first week I had the saddle.  The shape is a bit flatter in the rear than the Brooks offerings while having steep drop off in the transition to narrow nose.  My sit bones are well supported with zero thigh rub.  I should note that I previously bought and sold a Selle Anatomica due to the excessive thigh rub I had with the more triangular shape of that saddle. 

Over the summer it just kept getting better.  While the saddle started to match my shape of my sit bones, the post ride deformation was barely noticeable.  The saddle leather is reported to be waterproof, and with the rainy season in the rear view mirror I was relying on sweat to indicate if this was true, but there was never any indication of moisture damage

Around mid summer I was having trouble with getting the B17 on my Roadeo just right.  The roadeo was becoming my primary ride and I moved the Berthoud over.   Problem solved immediately.  Summer into fall, roads paved and dirt, as well as some single track and the saddle was going strong.  Only at one point on a long hot dirt climb did I notice the saddle becoming a bit too compliant.  Closer inspection on a water break revealed that a few of the screws had started to loosen up a bit.  Tightening up with the allen key on my multi tool was sufficient to complete the ride.  That evening I removed each screw one at a time and added a little blue loctite before reinstalling the screws.  It has been over 6 months since this incident with no further indication of further loosening. 

With the onset of our rainy season I was once again wondering about the water proof claim for the leather.  Throwing caution to the wind I have ridden the saddle in multiple storms.  The only additional protection came from fenders and my soaked body sitting on it.  Once again after weeks of rain there is no indication of moisture damage. 

The leather is holding up incredibly well considering the abuse my 220 lbs has thrown at it over the last 14 months.  Of the 5 brooks saddles I have owned only 2 have performed this well and three were duds.  The leather appears to be waterproof as claimed, it will get a matte finish when damp, but dries back to a shine.  The cork color has rubbed off a bit on the nose.  I have not yet needed to adjust the tension, although curiosity is getting the better of me and I may start to play with it a bit in the coming weeks.  I would whole heartedly recommend these saddles to anyone looking for an alternative to the brooks offerings.  While the price is a little higher, I have more faith in these saddle’s ability to perform as claimed right out of the box.

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5 Responses to Gilles Berthoud Touring Saddle Review – 14 months

  1. Chris says:

    Any sign of the saddle … on your pants?

    Never liked how Brooks stained my nice khakis!

    Cheers,

    Chris

    • Rob says:

      I does not appear to have any staining power on my shorts. I will add that I have not had a problem with my honey brooks in that regard though.

  2. Jeff says:

    Have you done long rides on the saddle? How long? Can you compare comfort on this saddle with the comfort of a well-performing B-17?

    • Rob says:

      The furthest I have ridden in a single go with the Berthoud saddle is about 75 miles. My longest day on the saddle was this ride, http://oceanaircycles.com/2010/11/27/magarita-mixed-metric/

      I would say that the comfort is equal to the B17 in the sit bone region, but the narrow nose removes all thigh rub for me and takes the Berthoud ahead for those all day rides. Also the cut of the Berthoud allows me to shift around a bit better than on the Brooks I have had.

      One more qualification. Most of my cycling is done in either surf trunks for longer rides or regular shorts and boxers around town. I have a pair of Ibex knickers for cooler weather. The cut of the berthoud works incredibly well for me with the full spectrum of shorts. My brooks tend to get uncomfortable for me on longer rides if I have too much on the nether regions, i.e. cotton shorts and boxers or the ibex with chamois.

  3. Kevin says:

    Hi I like your site! I also have a Berthoud, Aspin model and love it. Just recently I noticed the front bolt was loose and I would like to tension this correctly. If you have some experience of this I am appreciative of what you suggest is a good amount of tension to apply. I can tighten it until it feels located then there is a fair amount of turn without too much increase in the load on the allen wrench. There is some mythology about tensioning leather saddles and I’m feaful of getting it wrong and ruining a work of bicycle art.

    Best wishes, Kevin

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