Plain Jane Brooks B17 Into a Sexy Brooks Swallow




Introduction: Plain Jane Brooks B17 Into a Sexy Brooks Swallow

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.

Be the First to Share


    • Make It Modular: Student Design Challenge

      Make It Modular: Student Design Challenge
    • Tinkercad to Fusion 360 Challenge

      Tinkercad to Fusion 360 Challenge
    • Origami Speed Challenge

      Origami Speed Challenge



    Hey, thanks for that great idea, just did it myself to my B17 and it looks great. My experience: I used electrical tape, which was adhering too strongly and left marks on the leather after peeling it of, so you should choose the tape carefully. Maybe the brown leather is also more delicate. Also, the edges were spreading a bit in the front part, which I could correct by soaking it with a bit of water and then tying a thin rope around it. After drying, it keeps the shape.

    Looking forward to riding it when the weather is better :)
    All the best from Switzerland,


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Well, that just made my day! I had no trouble with the tape leaving marks. What kind of marks are we talking about? Did it strip off the leather? If not, try cleaning it up with zippo lighter fluid, or something like that. Test the cleaning fluid on the scraps. Good luck!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    It looks awesome! It's been more than a year. How is it holding up?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Great! I left some of the flap down and tied it under to keep it a bit more stable. It's at least as stable as my uncut B17. I highly recommend it!


    somehow I can't comment on the comment by mjursic below, so I'll put it here...

    Yes, it stripped the dark brown surface partly, leaving ugly marks. I ended up giving the whole saddle a used look (actually I had it for a few years already, so it was not new at all). Especially the BROOKS letters come out nicely after carefully filing them a bit. And a bit of shoe wax helped on the top surface... It really looks great now :)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Beautiful! I must say though, the skirts on my Brooks grew on me. At first I didn't like them, but now I can appreciate the (now) unique aesthetic.

    Bravo, though. I hope it rides as well as it looks?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I didn't dislike the skirts, I just wanted something different. I have my uncut B17 for my beater and my cut one for the fixie I'm building.