Proofide and Upgrades for Eliza and Bert

Proofide and Upgrades for Eliza and Bert

Eliza Doolittle (the rod-brake ’78 Raleigh DL-1 that used to be Fiona’s) came to me with a Brooks B-66 saddle. Then I scored a ridiculous deal on a vintage B-66-S on eBay, which I installed on Eliza, and Bert inherited the B-66. So we now have two vintage Brooks saddles, one of them almost as old as I am, that are a bit dry and stiff, but seem to be in great shape (little surface cracking), despite their age and unknown maintenance history. I thought it would be best if I gave them some love.

Eliza’s new-to-her vintage B-66-S before treatment.
The 1978 B-66 that’s now on Bert. Poor thing probably hasn’t seen Proofide since the factory. 

I know there’s a perennial discussion going about alternatives to using Brooks’ Proofide product to condition and waterproof saddles. Everyone from Sheldon Brown to the guys at BikeForums.net have weighed in at some point on it. The neetsfoot oil used to soften baseball gloves is often suggested instead, particularly for reconditioning older leather that has dried out, but some think it can make the leather too soft and ruin the saddle. My feeling was, in this case, using something other than the saddle goop recommended by the original manufacturer might be false economy, so why overthink it, especially when I can easily buy it at my favourite LBS for less than twenty bucks? (However, vegetarians take note: if you’ve decided to use an existing leather saddle, you’ll want to research the alternative products that are available, since one of the main ingredients of Proofide is, um, beef tallow.)

This is how much Proofide I was told I should use. 
Like the old Brylcreem ad says, a little dab will do ya…

…unless your saddle is as ancient and neglected as mine were. Here is the B66S gooped up with about four times that amount, spread in a super thin layer all over. Immediately after spreading the goo (it feels just like hair wax, too) and taking this photo, I wiped off the excess with my rag.

Here’s what it looked like immediately after I wiped the excess off (still a bit shiny). If you look at the cloth on the rack, the slightly discoloured part was used to wipe. After taking this photo I went in with a corner of the rag to get the little globs on the edges of the holes. At the advice of the guys from redbike, I only did the top, not the underside (apparently the underside is only needed if you don’t have fenders.).

And here is Bert’s B66 gooped up with six times that fingertip amount – it was thirsty! After taking this photo, I wiped the excess off, then redid the driest bits with another two fingertips’ worth.

This is how much was used out of a 40 gram tin – the smaller 25 gram tin would have done me just fine. I think 40 grams might be a lifetime supply, if the stuff doesn’t go rancid.

Here is Bert’s saddle when I was all done.

Here’s a detail of one of the driest parts of the saddle after treatment – you can see that the surface of the leather had started to crack and flake a bit, and it’s rough enough that it was pulling tiny threads from my wiping rag – but feeling much smoother and looking better now.

The nose of the saddle was the other especially dry bit that got a second application of Proofide. I also noticed that the saddle looks like it may need retensioning, so I’ll get the guys at redbike to do that for me soon.

The chain on Bert was looking pretty cruddy and a bit rusty in spots, so I decided to apply some lube next. One generous drop per link, on the little roller in the middle (whatever it’s called), then wiping off the excess with an absorbent cloth.

The oil I used, bought at MEC, feels like veggie oil, because it pretty much is veggie oil. Since its purchase I’ve learnt that this stuff gets brutally sticky in our climate, and catches all kinds of road gunge, in addition to being best for the warmest temps – but since I’ll only be riding Bert with the trailer bike attached on the neighborhood sidewalks with my kids during the good weather, I might as well use it up.

The chain looked much better, and the rag looked much worse, when I was finished, and my hands were nicely moisturized from the veggie oil. …I guess the next job will be to clean all Bert’s little rust spots and carefully apply some wax or clearcoat.

Lookin’ pretty good, Bert.

Since I last griped about Bert, the correct Shimano shifter has been found and installed, the rear wheel has been pulled back so the chain isn’t too loose, and the Wald rack and a Crane bell have been installed, with the expert help of both Coreen and Keith at EBC. I’m still figuring out the little chainguard rub and trying to decide if the handling only feels squirrelly when the trailer bike is on it or if the headset needs attention or what. But all in all I feel pretty good that I’ve at least been in the room watching and taking mental notes and that I’ve gotten my hands good and dirty getting Bert to the point where he’s useable, even if my husband never ends up riding the darn thing. 

Eliza just came home this afternoon from a holiday at redbike with her new Steco rack with integrated kickstand (ordered online through the legendary David Hembrow‘s Dutch Bike Bits, because redbike couldn’t special order it through their suppliers), and the same kind of rear light that Pashleys have installed. They also tightened the tension bolt in the vintage Brooks B66S for me because they noticed the leather was practically touching the rails. Thanks guys!!

I also upgraded Eliza with my vintage chromed Miller bell, which used to be on Mary Poppins. (The little bell that came with Eliza got inherited by Audrey’s balance bike.)

A clear plastic shower cap will make a handy rain cover for the saddle until I can get something cuter.

Next I needed to install my antique quarter-sawn oak egg crate, to complete Eliza’s transformation into Super Grocery Bike. I carefully lined everything up so the crate is centred and the screws for the homemade clamp have lots of clearance. The back edge of the crate is just off the rack to give me the most possible butt clearance for riding comfort.


View of my home-made clamp from the top.

 

I tightened up the thumbscrews and voila! This is super sturdy and ready to carry a fairly heavy load.

 
The egg crate is now solidly clamped onto the rear rack.
Eliza is looking so useful and beautiful and timeless!
 
About a half hour after Proofide application, the saddle is looking much less shiny. 
I’ll still wait overnight before I take it for a spin.

As a finishing touch, I added fabric flowers to her front basket (I had these on the egg crate last year).
 
Eliza’s ready for her first grocery run!

PS: This post is part of our series for the LGRAB 2011 Summer Games! This is a “perform a maintenance task on your bike” post.

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