Author Topic: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?  (Read 1147 times)

Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« on: June 04, 2018, 10:14:13 pm »
Following tension bolt failures on two Brooks B17 specials and a nose cone failure on a Spa Nidd (all within ~3500km) I'm left wondering whether Gilles Berthoud might be the answer in the quest for a reliable leather saddle.  I haven't abused the saddles that have failed in anyway and tension the saddles only to take up the slack when the bolt becomes loose, but at 85kg with most of my weight distributed above my waist in a relatively upright position I am probably giving these saddles something to complain about?
Most of the stuff I say is true because I saw it in a dream and I don't have the presence of mind to make up lies when I'm asleep.   Bryan Andreas

Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2018, 10:42:47 pm »
I bought an Aspin Ouverte a couple of years  or more ago.  At first the leather seemed to stretch alarmingly quickly, so that I was tensioning it after almost every ride.  Then it just settled down.  The two sides of the cut-out clash sometimes, but M Berthoud has widened the gap since then (he had a stand at the Semaine Federale last year). 

The other problem was that I couldn't get the saddle back far enough.  I took the saddle apart and reshaped the rails to cure that .  Since then, I've bought a Nitto set-back seat-post which correct positioning without butchery.

I also have a solid Aspin* which I shall retire soon as I have just received a new Ouverte, and a pair of rails to return the older one to original spec.

*Given to me by a friend who found it unforgiving and preferred Rivet's offering (which I couldn't get on with and sold).

Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2018, 10:55:34 pm »
I've had a Gilles Berthoud Aravis on my Hewitt Cheviot for the last 4 years (a bike I use for year round commuting as well as touring) which replaced a Brooks Imperial I had stolen. It's been the best saddle I've ever owned, it's supremely comfortable (much more than the Brooks was, even from Day 1, but then improved further), the leather is much thicker than the Brooks was and has aged well (I went for the natural version, which was very light coloured to start with, but darkened to a nice burnished honey brown), it looks great and I've had zero problems with it. Will probably get another one or the Soulor/Galabier for my next bike.
Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway

Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2018, 07:06:34 am »
saddle parts fail by fatigue. IME bodyweight is only part of the equation; some folk ride hard tyres on bumpy roads, and some have a forceful pedalling style that causes the saddle rails to flex with every pedal stroke. Both these things can create more fatigue damage in a saddle's metal parts.

That said, the quality of the materials, design and manufacture of the parts makes a difference too. Spa Nidd noses are known to be vulnerable to failure, because they are made in such a way as they have an almost perfect crack-starter in the corner. In the case of Brooks nosebolts they seem less likely to last than they used to; I suspect that the material quality is variable/poorer than it used to be.

Steel is funny old stuff; it is usually specified (on an engineering dwg) to meet some minimum quality level. However depending on the way it is made and who made it, it will exceed these minimum  values and it may also have some other properties that do not appear in the quoted specification.  Sometimes these are tested for, other times they are taken for granted or simply not known in detail.  Note that if the steel is only fit for purpose because of its secondary (unrecorded) properties, it will end up costing more if it is bought with these properties assured, one way or another.

So what happens down the line with a mature product  is that some buyer decides that they can get "the same steel" from someplace else, or steelmaking practice changes slightly (in a way that is not captured in the specifications and tests) and the result is that the same parts no longer do the job properly/reliably. 

We may be seeing that with parts like Brooks nosebolts; they may have been outsourced from a different manufacturer, and/or made from steel that has a different source/manufacturing route.

I have seen problems of this sort appear in many well-established products. In the case of a Brooks nosebolt, I can see it happening very easily; the bolt is fatigue loaded in bending (something which is unusual for a bolt and may not be tested for normally)  and all kinds of things can alter the performance of such a bolt, for example residual stresses from the manufacturing process, the inclusion population of the steel, etc.

Is a GB saddle a better bet? Probably. Good to compare the warranties, spare parts availability and manufacturer support on offer. Of course nothing will quite make up for a saddle that fails on you and spoils your ride though.

cheers

Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2018, 08:04:41 am »
As Brucey mentioned you can get spares for every part of the GB saddles, and it looks like they could be easily repaired at home. I've had no need to replace any parts yet, but it's good to know they're available. I did go for the version with the titanium rails (Aravis) instead of steel rails (Aspin), so can't comment on the durability of the steel rails - my main reason for that wasn't so much for weight-saving, but because the bike is used as an all-year round, all-weather commuter and I was put off by the chromed steel rails on the Brooks I had previously which pitted and rusted in places, despite using mudguards.

At some point I guess I will have to replace the leather saddle top, but think mine has some years left. I will be able to re-use the titanium rails, though. I do use a Brooks saddle cover in the rain, I found the rubber GB cover made the saddle go black in places, something to bear in mind. I weigh about 75Kg BTW.
Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway

Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2018, 08:30:46 am »
About 8 years ago I suffered a rash of failures on modern Brooks saddles (never on my 1960s/70s) so thought I would try a GB.  At the time the Aspin was bottom of the range.  It suited me very well straight from the box, so much so that I now have 5 of them.  If needed, spare parts are available but the handling charge is high.  my first Aspin did not have the disc between the rails that later ones have.  I emailed GB who promptly put one in the post, free.


Colour - this can get washed away in rain.  Two of my Aspins are "natural", i.e very pale, and they develop a gorgeous dark brown sheen induced by sweat and polishing by shorts.  In the rain this sheen can be washed off the nose where it is exposed to the wind/rain blast.  It takes 100 miles or so to regain the lovely colour.  I have a black one which has also lost colour at this point, for the same reason.  The colour seems slow to return but probably because I ride that one very seldom.  My other two are the cork finish, one of which is on my hack so gets used and abused the most.  For some reason this does not seem to loose colour around the nose as much.  This saddle has been used for about 15,000 miles since it is the one that is used the most of the 5.  Steel rails are stainless and there is no hint of corrosion on any of mine.


Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2018, 08:36:34 am »
About 8 years ago I suffered a rash of failures on modern Brooks saddles (never on my 1960s/70s) so thought I would try a GB.  At the time the Aspin was bottom of the range.  It suited me very well straight from the box, so much so that I now have 5 of them.  If needed, spare parts are available but the handling charge is high.  my first Aspin did not have the disc between the rails that later ones have.  I emailed GB who promptly put one in the post, free.


Colour - this can get washed away in rain.  Two of my Aspins are "natural", i.e very pale, and they develop a gorgeous dark brown sheen induced by sweat and polishing by shorts.  In the rain this sheen can be washed off the nose where it is exposed to the wind/rain blast.  It takes 100 miles or so to regain the lovely colour.  I have a black one which has also lost colour at this point, for the same reason.  The colour seems slow to return but probably because I ride that one very seldom.  My other two are the cork finish, one of which is on my hack so gets used and abused the most.  For some reason this does not seem to loose colour around the nose as much.  This saddle has been used for about 15,000 miles since it is the one that is used the most of the 5.  Steel rails are stainless and there is no hint of corrosion on any of mine.

I didn't know the GB steel rails are stainless, I probably wouldn't have gone for the Ti one if I'd known, ah well, GB's Ti tax isn't as high as Brooks' I think
Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway

Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2018, 06:23:49 pm »
My two old 80s Brooks Professionals lasted very well.  I think they changed shaped subtlely over the years, as did my arse, until by 2015 we were no longer on quite such good terms. 

By contrast, a newer Professional had thinner leather and deformed quickly in an unhelpful way.

They all fetched money on Ebay, so a good investment.

Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2020, 06:03:30 pm »
A few years ago I bought a 2nd hand Gilles Berthoud saddle on Ebay , to replace a Brooks that was past it's best.   Not sure which model but fairly narrow.


It's only had very light use, but the nose seems to be twisting around the long axis of the saddle.    What can be causing this & how do I fix it ? 
Not fast & rarely furious

tweeting occasional in(s)anities as andrewxclark

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2020, 07:04:35 pm »
Does your saddle have the clamp that is missing from the earliest versions?
https://berthoudcycles.fr/en/579-anti-twisting-clamp-for-saddle-rails.html
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2020, 07:12:38 pm »
My saddle has been going since 2013 no problems.

Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2020, 07:30:20 pm »
I have 2 GB saddles and can confirm that without that clamp, they can twist. The clamp resolved the problem.

Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2020, 07:40:54 pm »
Thanks.   No clamp on mine & GB want €15 shipping for a €7.50 part.     None of the UK dealers seem to have them.
Not fast & rarely furious

tweeting occasional in(s)anities as andrewxclark

Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2020, 07:57:17 pm »
Thanks.   No clamp on mine & GB want €15 shipping for a €7.50 part.     None of the UK dealers seem to have them.

A UK dealer might be able to order one with a consignment for less cost.

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: Gilles Berthoud Saddles - reliability?
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2020, 09:00:35 pm »
When I emailed GB asking where I could purchase one in the UK for my 2008 saddle (before the clamp was standard), they were very helpful. It cost me nothing.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...