Tweed-clad fun at Brooks’ 2011 product launch

New saddles, rain cape and luggage

We assembled outside Brooks’ factory in Smethwick, near Birmingham, to take part in one of the most interesting product launches we’ve had the pleasure of attending.

The plant is now producing up to 800 handmade leather saddles a day, and during a brief tour we saw every part of the production process, from the cutting and colouring of the leather to the pressing of the shapes, hand leather finishing and hand beating of the brass rivets to anchor the leather in place.

But the real reason for the day was the Picnic Ride, an assembly of 40-plus members of the cycling press from as far-flung fields as Canada, Japan, Korea, Europe and the US, all ready to ride out to

Blackwell Court
, home of the Brooks family.

The dress code was simple – vintage or tweed – and the sight of us all weaving our way through the maze of Birmingham’s towpaths certainly led to plenty of quizzical looks.

It was good to see that all those invited had bought into the idea, bar just two UK-based journos who deemed it okay to turn up in Lycra (not us though – we’re all up for the tweed) and were made to ride at the back.

GetCape, WearCape, Ride

As is traditional for a British summer, the weather varied between long periods of heavy rain and heavy periods of torrential rain. Fortunately, we were provided with the new Oxford rain cape.

This huge triangle-shaped canvas with a built-in neck and hood is made from waxed cotton with tweed detailing. Woven into this fabric is a Scotchlite reflective that glows in the dark but looks normal in daylight.

It may look a little strange but there’s a reason why the cape has been de rigueur for cyclists for most of the last century – it works. This version will be sold as the JohnBoultbeeOxfordCape as the Brooks name can’t be used for clothing due to copyright issues with Brooks Brothers suits.

If the quality of the cape and the clever reflective tweed is anything to go by, then the clothing range should offer something very new.

Brooks oxford rain cape: brooks oxford rain cape

Brooks' John Boultbee Oxford Cape offers a modern twist on a classic design

Special Selection

The new-for-2011 Brooks Select range is based around the B17, B67, Flyer and Swallow, plus ‘S’ women’s-specific versions of each.

Instead of Brooks’ standard leather, which is sourced from cows that aren’t intensively farmed, Select leather is from Swedish ‘freedom farmed’ cows, which have been reared organically outdoors for many years, making it tougher and stiffer.

The saddles are left in their natural colour so the finish is different on each but generally much lighter than the vegetable-dyed standard Brooks range.

Brooks claim that the Select models are much harder wearing than the standard saddle and feel noticeably stiffer. We’ve seen Brooks saddles that have lasted for decades, so if the Select is as hardwearing as they claim, this will be one saddle you can pass onto your kids or even grandkids! All prices are still to be confirmed.

Brooks flyer s select saddle: brooks flyer s select saddle

Brooks' Flyer Select saddle uses organic leather from Scandinavian cows

Bags of goodness

Brooks are also expanding their luggage range for 2011. A first for the company is the Islington rucksack, made from waxed cotton with a structured shoulder and straps that can be run vertically as normal or be crossed over for carrying heavier loads.

The strap system features a clever quick-release clasp for adjustment and a series of loops you can clip to with a karabiner style hook to alter the depth of the straps. The bag expands massively and features a drawstring rain cover inside the flap to keep the contents nice and dry.

Islington rucksack: islington rucksack

Brooks' Islington rucksack features a clever adjustment system and rain cover

Barbican leather shoulder bag: barbican leather shoulder bag

The ever-popular Barbican messenger bag is now available in an all-leather variant. It won’t be cheap but it’s a beautiful thing.

The hampstead holdall is the ideal weekend bag: the hampstead holdall is the ideal weekend bag

The Hampstead holdall could be the ideal weekend bag. It can be strapped to a rear rack, carried just as luggage or you can quickly adjust the straps with those karabiner style clasps and it can be used as a rucksack

Hoxton and camden: hoxton and camden

Camden – a large tote style bag designed to fit into wicker baskets and Brooks’ own Hoxton wire basket

Brixton satchel – smaller version of the barbican messenger bag, it also converts into a tote bag, so we’d figure that’s one for the ladies: brixton satchel – smaller version of the barbican messenger bag, it also converts into a tote bag, so we’d figure that’s one for the ladies

Brixton satchel – smaller version of the Barbican messenger bag. It converts into a tote bag, so we reckon it’s one for the ladies

Soho leather shoulder bag: soho leather shoulder bag

Soho – Made from Brooks’ saddle leather and sized to fit a 13in laptop or iPad

Cornwall front: cornwall front

Cornwall – Brooks’ take on the classic bar bag

Devon couple: devon couple

Devon – highly structured waterproof rear panniers

Warren Rossiter

Senior Technical Editor
Approaching two decades of testing bikes, Warren can be found on a daily basis riding and exploring the road and off roads of Wiltshire's Salisbury Plain in the UK. That's when he's not travelling the world to test the latest kit, components and bikes.
  • Discipline: Road
  • Preferred Terrain: Big, fast descents and rough surfaces like cobbles or strada bianca
  • Current Bikes: Decade Tripster ATR, Dedacciai Temarario, Cannondale Synapse, BMC Granfondo Disc Di2, Genesis Day One CX, Parlee Z Zero Custom, Storck Scenario Comp Custom, DMR Trailstar, Bianchi Pista, Cube SUV 29er e-bike
  • Dream Bike: Bianchi Oltre Disc, Bianchi Specialissima, Cannondale Slate, Buffalo Bike
  • Beer of Choice: Brew Dog Punk IPA
  • Location: Wiltshire, UK

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