Oddly if you want an hard bike saddle you have to spend more money than for a soft one... also leather saddles are very expensive.
In this instructable I'll show you how to refurbish an old saddle into a nice leather one, also very hard if you want...
Step 1: The Old Saddle
The saddle had a synthetic upholstery, which was not so good regarding trousers consumption... since that material is rather sticky, and the friction on the trousers fabric is very high. So I wanted to change the covering into smooth leather.
The other reason to work on this saddle, other than its very bad condition, was to harden its surface. This could be very unusual, but I'm pretty sure that on long routes, soft saddles are not comfortable, maybe some cyclists will prove me right...
Step 2: Removing the Covering
Anyway, you obviously can leave the padding in place, and only substitute the synthetic covering with a leather upholstery.
With small pliers remove the metal staples and detach the covering.
If you want to keep the padding use a brush to wash and clean the surface, so to remove all the remained glue.
Step 3: And the Padding
Here you can see the three layers of my saddle. There was an inside foam padding, followed by a gel shape, and finally a thin soft fabric to keep the gel in place. Gel is very funny... it adheres on everything and it reminds me a small gel octopus I had when I was a child, you threw it on the wall and it descended with strange movies...
After removing the three layers you have to clean the plastic shell, I used a metal sponge and it works very good, with also the result to obtain a rough surface to better glue the leather.
Step 4: Mark the Shape
You can also discard the foam padding and insert back the gel between shell and leather.
As leather I used a waste piece I obtained for free. I could have used the original covering to obtain the right shape. The other solution is to roll the saddle up with the leather scrap and mark with a pen the border, considering about one inch of margin.
Step 5: Cut and Dip It
Cut the leather shape and dip into hot water. This will make the leather very soft and elastic, and it will also show how much colorant it loose when wet... you don't want to go to a meeting with black behind in a rainy day, do you? It happened to me with a red saddle on white trousers... it's not funny ;-)
Step 6: Mold It
After about one hour in water, if you see that water is not much black, you can take the leather out and upholstering the saddle.
Since it's wet, we don't want to glue it now, only we let it dry after stretching it to keep shape.
To lock the leather in place, and avoiding it will shrink, use some clamps. If you find wrinkle-free clamps is much better, since they will not leave marks on the dry leather.
After stretching the longer sides, lock them under the metal frame, then stretch the back side and lock it with some metal staples. Now you can pull the back sides and for last the front nose.
Step 7: Let It Dry
Leave the saddle near or over the radiator (if it's winter and it's on...) so it gets dry.
I changed the position of the clamps after one hour or two... so I avoided the danger to have squashed surfaces on those spots.
Step 8: It Fits Like a Glove
You see that now the leather keep the shape and it doesn't need the clamps anymore... it's not yet glued to the shell.
Step 9: Glue It
To glue it I used a neoprenic glue. I added glue to the plastic shell and then I covered it with the leather, but glue was a bit old, so it got dry very fast, and it didn't adhere very good. So it's much better spreading glue over both surfaces, then waiting they get dry, and closing the cover pulling it very tight. With these glues is good to beat the two surfaces after gluing so to make a stronger union.
Step 10: Lock the Edges
Now make the same with the leather borders. Add glue on the bottom side of the saddle and on the leather, wait 10 minutes, then stretch and pull very hard the leather before pushing it on the plastic.
Do it first on the longer sides, try to insert leather under the metal frame.
Step 11: Last Effort
Then go on with back side and with the nose. Pull very strongly and push surface very hard. They should adhere at once.
Step 12: Finish It Off
The saddle is almost finished. To make a better connection I added a pair of staples where plastic is enough wide.
Step 13: Like Brand New!
Here it is, as you can see the surface is very smooth, and the saddle seems new. You can make the same with a different coloured leather, or also with some leather pieces sewn together to obtain some nice art...
The saddle is back on my bike... time to ride!