Long time listener, first time caller. I love the sexy look of side rails on a leather bike saddle. I’m funny that way. What I really wanted was a Brooks Swallow saddle, but I couldn’t afford the $320.00 price-tag. So I went to ebay and bought a B17 for $69, all in and decided to make my OWN Swallow.
Step 1: Layout
Used electrical tape to mark off the amount I wanted to cut off. I decided that since I’m 240 lbs, I wanted to leave something to tie together underneath in the middle for stiffness. So I taped off the Brooks stamps on the side skirts to save them for folding over later.
Step 2: Drill the Inside Corners
I used a 3/8” forstner bit on the high-speed setting of my hand drill to ease off the inside corners, so I could cut right up to them. Laid it out by hand using the diameter of the drillbit as the centre finder. Caution: Brooks saddle leather is extremely tough, and you have to be pretty aggressive to get through it. And when you do get through it, you'll have to take your drillbit out and push it through, because it's going to leave a flap.
Step 3: The Squeamish Part
Instead of using, like many people recommended, an angle grinder, I took slow, gentle passes with an Olfa knife. along the tape line I didn’t push hard at all, and it was easy, and best of all, it took me all of 10 minutes. Sorry no pix.
Step 4: Be Careful Folding the Skirts Into the Middle
I folded over the first side. I don’t recommend doing this cold: It cracked, and now it’s ugly. So...
I ran the second side under the tap, warm water, a little hotter than hot dishwater, for about 5 minutes, being VERY careful not to get it on the top of the saddle, or even too much on the newly narrow skirt.
NOW I bent it under into the centre and it worked just fine. I went back and did the other one. And THAT worked just fine.
I inserted wood blocks and shims in between the rails to shape it and hold the folding flaps in place. What I was aiming for was, like the Swallow, a hidden flap that follows the straight line of the cut, but gives strength and stiffness to the saddle.
Step 5: Finished Product With Last Mods Described
I drilled holes in the flaps underneath and tied them together with a learther bootlace. Works like a charm. Rounded the outside corners to eliminate sharp angles finished it up. Then I'm going to pop it onto my brand new gorgeous Marinoni Sportivo. As you can see, it's on my MTB beater right now, because I couldn't wait to try it out. Works great. Very stiff. Note the string, more visible in the second pic. That's an old brake cable looped around the rail on the top, and around the seat stay on the bottom. If you want to steal my seat, not that I'm daring you, you'll have to work for it.