>>I have heard many times over the years that it is not a good idea to clean leather bike saddles with saddle soap as it dries out the leather too much.<<
I've posted this before so appologies to those who have read this rant. It's meant for those who haven't.
Saddle soap does infact tend to dry leather. If you have no available alternative, at least rinse the saddle throughly! And get something better asap to use when you next need it....as well as for belts, shoes, toe straps, hand bags (at the current exchange rate, a good purse restoration is worth 2 or 3 back-rubs), &c.
There are many widely distributed options. My favorite for value and effectiveness is Lexol's leather cleaner. After rinsing(not soaking) and before the leather drys, the leather dressing may be applied. This insures an even application and helps to avoid surface cracking particularly in drier atmospheres as exist in centrally heated homes. Lexol treatment is far better than Neat's foot oil for saddles that have gotten too dry.
And never, never, never flex-test or tighten a dry saddle. This WILL damage the fiber matix.
Never apply Lexol to a saddle that hasn't begun to dry out.
Never pre-soften or break-n a leather saddle prior to riding it. Butt bones do a better job than baseball bats for softening a saddle to the correct contour of your own anatomy. A THIN application of Proofride or one of several other wax/oil treatments to the bottom of the saddle will soften it enough for the break-in to begin....& it serves to protect the underside from mud and road oil. Use a cheap, inch-wide, bristle paint brush for reaching under the cantle and pomel.
Never let another rider (other than a twin sibbling) ride your saddle for more than a very short distance.
Never ride on a wet saddle. Better to walk a bike home than wreck a good break-in and even stretch the saddle beyond usefulness. Carry a shower cap or a Carridice saddle cover in your kit.
There's more to be said about this....maybe we need a CR web page with treatment and restoration instructions.
Calvert "Leather Prude" Guthrie KC