Re: [Classicrendezvous] B15 vs. B17

(Example: Framebuilders:Bernard Carré)

Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 18:44:20 -0800
To: "Donald Dundee" <>,
From: "Joseph Bender-Zanoni" <>
Subject: Re: [Classicrendezvous] B15 vs. B17
In-Reply-To: <>

Ken and listers,

In the first place, lets make sure it is understood that I said questionable, not wrong. That is questionable in the sense of being subject to question. I simply said that some of the assertions did not hold true for the B-15s I own. My purpose was to get some people to measure their saddles!

I think it is reasonable and settled that the B-15s are more variable. That certainly makes sense based on what Chuck pointed out, the B-17 having select leather and the B-15 not.

The assertions I questioned exactly were:

"the leather used was thinner"

"normally used an under patch"

"produced until 1971"

I simply presented measured data from a sample of 4 B-15s: thick leather around 5mm thick including one with leather 5.8mm thick, no under patches and at least 2 from bikes sold post 1971. That data certainly places these three assertions in the category of being subject to question.

You didn't say anything about chamfering, I did based on my sample. Evidently it is not simple.

As to the crooked B-17, it indicates that the selection process was certainly subject to mistakes. In this case, a piece of leather that varied a millimeter from one flap to the other was used in the select saddle. Over the years that resulted in a crooked saddle. Since the topic is comparing the two saddles, it would seem meaningful that the quality ranges can overlap and a good B-15 can be better than a bad B-17.


A readAt 09:38 AM 10/30/00 EST, Donald Dundee wrote:
>"a number of assertions that are questionable"..... Well, what are they?
>My information comes from not only observations over 25 years of collecting,
>but from George Flegg, shop foreman at Brooks for over 50 years, and a close
>friend of mine. I suppose if I did an averaging of thicknesses of the B15's
>in my collection, I would find the following to be true:
>1) The B15 is of thinner leather, on avearge, than the B17.
>2) The consistency of the B15 is highly variable, with thickness
>measurements running all over the map.
>3) The B15, for the most part, have under-reinforcements when cut from a
>thin hide, which is the most common.
>4) there may be examples of B17 with this reinforcement. There may be
>examples of B15 without it.
>Furthermore, who said anything about chamfering. I could give you a history
>of that technique, but I won't. But just for your information, there was a
>period when both B17 and B15 were tooled instead of chamfered, and there
>was a period when both were chamfered.
>I still don't understant your point about your crooked saddle? What is the
>Ken denny
>Boston, MA
>>From: Joseph Bender-Zanoni <>
>>To: "Donald Dundee" <>,,
>>Subject: Re: [Classicrendezvous] B15 vs. B17
>>Date: Sat, 28 Oct 2000 22:14:50 -0700
>>I have to say that the post below from a few days ago has a number of
>>assertions that are questionable.
>>Quickly measuring the 10 or so Brooks B-15s, B-17s, Pros and Swallows that
>>I have, the average leather thickness at the flaps is typically 5mm plus or
>>minus .5mm. Of the three B-15s in the sample, none are thinner than the
>>average and in fact, the thickest leather on a Brooks saddle I own is a
>>B-15 at about 5.8mm.
>>As to quality I have one B-17 Champion Narrow that is at 5.5mm on the right
>>flap and 4.5mm at the left. Guess what- this 1964 saddle is pretty crooked
>>over the years.
>>None of my B-15s have an under patch. I have a Lycette Swallow with an
>>under patch but it has 5mm "flaps" too.
>>Also the B-15s and Swallows are not chamfered.
>>I agree about the steel rivets.
>>It also seems to me that many Schwinns (Sport Tourers and Super Sports)
>>came with B-15s well after 1971. Of course Schwinn may have held a large
>>inventory. Who knows how many sets of Nervex lugs they bought in advance of
>>their immediate needs.
>>Maybe the B-15 was intended as an OEM variant? Does anyone on the list
>>remember buying one new that wasn't part of a bike?
>>After all that, and all those Brooks saddles I seem to own, I am still not
>>a Brooks aficianado and Ideale has never worked for me at all. I am coming
>>to realize that the Narrows and especially the Swallows fit me better. On
>>the other hand, Larry Strung has a 50's Brooks sprinting saddle so narrow
>>that it only fits, as the Vermonters say, where the sun don't shine.
>>MyAt 11:35 AM 10/27/00 EDT, Donald Dundee wrote:
>> >Well, sort of. Firstly, a comment about the B15 line vs the B17 line. The
>> >B15 line of Saddles, which included the B15 Standard, narrow and Swallow,
>> >was a lesser grade saddle than the B17. The leather used was thinner and
>> >generally rejected for inclusion in the B17 line. B15's normally employed
>> >reinforcement under-patch which was intended to strengthen the
>> >patch was not used on the B15 Swallow. Finally, perhaps teh most
>> >distinguishing feature of B15's was that they used hollow steel rivets.
>> >can tell by the fact that they are split on the underside.
>> >The B15 line was produced until 1971, when it was discontinued for
>> >reasons within the company.
>> >
>> >The B15 Swallow had cutaway sides that were interconnected underneath by
>> >riveted plate. The B17 Swallow, which had a similar profile to teh B15,
>> >utilized the same hardware, was an extremely well-crafted saddle. Made of
>> >heavier leather, it employed an integral stiffener wire, hand stitched
>> >within the side flaps, and a chrome-plated fastening plate on the
>> >This model was produced until 1970/71, to the best of my knowledge, but
>> >according to george flegg, shop foreman at Brooks, it was made on a few
>> >occasions subsequent to 1971 on special order.
>> >
>> >Both B17 and B15 lines were available in Black or Brown. Earlier versions
>> >the B17 Swallow were available with optional "dull" finish. Also, earlier
>> >versions of the B17 swallow normally used black rails, with chrome rails
>> >optional.
>> >
>> >There were also lightweight versions of the B17 Swallow (model B57) which
>> >employed stainless steel rails and aluminum cantleplate. these are quite
>> >rare as bi-metallic corossion often occured at the cantleplate/rail
>> >location, causing fatigue failure.
>> >
>> >My 1970 WB Hurlow shown at Lars Anderson this past season was equipped
>> >a B17 Swallow with shiny black finish. My 1950's Ephgrave had an earlier
>> >version of the B17 Swallow with optional dull finish, oval embossed logo,
>> >and early nameplate.
>> >
>> >The last reiteration of the Swallow was in response to demand and did not
>> >hold a candle to earlier versions. This model, produced from the late
>> >through mid 90's, had the side flaps riveted to an arch-shaped, black
>> >enameled, steel plate which connected the side flaps together with
>> >copper rivets. The production of this saddle had nothing to do with Mike
>> >Kone or Bicycle Classics, but rather the company's interest in
>> >retro-introducing the item. It fell short of expectations.
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >>From: Sheldon Brown <>
>> >>To: Jerry Moos <>, Jeff Slotkin <>
>> >>CC: Classic Rendezvous <>
>> >>Subject: Re: [Classicrendezvous] B15 vs. B17
>> >>Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2000 10:59:56 -0400
>> >>
>> >>Jerry Moos wrote:
>> >>
>> >>>I have a similar question, which Sheldon can certainly answer, but
>> >>>may also know. Was the Swallow made up until the shutdown? Sheldon
>> >>>them on his site, but I didn't find them offered by any other vendors.
>> >>>Were Sheldon's NOS? Also, is the Swallow technically a variation of
>> >>B-17? (I think I remember hearing references to a "B-17 Swallow")
>> >>
>> >>In the 1960s, there were both B15 and B17 Swallows, and lots of other
>> >>models that no longer exist. Some time in the late'60s, I believe,
>> >>there was a fire at Brooks, which put them out of action for quite a
>> >>while.
>> >>
>> >>When they got back up on their feet, it was with a much reduced
>> >>product line. They gave up on their extensive line of touring bags,
>> >>leaving that market to Carradice and others. The Swallow was one of
>> >>the models that was discontinued at that time, and I think the whole
>> >>B15 line went out then as well.
>> >>
>> >>The prices of used Swallows got so high (I've heard of Japanese
>> >>collectors paying as much as $400 for them) that they were prevailed
>> >>upon to re-introduce the model sometime in the mid '90s. I think
>> >>Mike Kone may have had something to do with this. The recent
>> >>Swallows have no reference to B17/B15.
>> >>
>> >>Sheldon "About To Leave For Work On One Of My Swallows" Brown
>> >>Newtonville, Massachusetts
>> >>+--------------------------------------+
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>> >>+--------------------------------------+
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