Legend has it that in 1865, and at the tender age of 19, a young John Boultbee Brooks purchased one of those new-fangled velocipedes. Finding the wooden saddle positively ruinous, he reflected on how it could be improved.
Now John’s father made leather saddles for horses, and so when his son approached him with his idea, Brooks senior gave his permission to use the family workshop. Without delay the young Brooks set about designing and developing a comfortable saddle made from the leather in his father’s works – and the rest, as they say, is history.
By 1866, John Boultbee had established a factory in Great Charles Street (Birmingham) for the manufacture of horse harnesses and other leather goods. As the new pastime of cycling became increasingly popular, the demand for saddles also increased, and by 1870 John had begun to specialise in the manufacture of bicycle saddles.
When the first safety bicycle hit the scene in 1880, cycling had officially gone mainstream. No longer were riders willing to accept that their only option was a hard piece of formed wood, and a leather saddle offered a far more appealing alternative.
In 1882, Brooks filed his first patent for a sprung bicycle saddle – the first of its kind. In the following years, Brooks went on to file numerous patents for other related goods, including galoshes, snap-on leggings, handlebar muffs, folding footrests, toe-straps, cycling shoes and, of course, bags.
By the early 1900’s, Brooks Ltd. was a well-established name, and they offered a fantastically broad range of bicycle saddles and other accessories such as saddle bags, panniers, tool cases, and even bicycle mounted cigar trays.
For nearly a century and a half the Brooks name has been associated with timeless character and innovation in the cycle trade. The proud Brooks tradition lives on thanks to the company’s outstanding commitment to quality, their refusal to outsource their manufacturing, and a deep recognition of their heritage.
To this day, John Boultbee’s saddles are still manufactured by hand in Smethwick, Birmingham.
“Whilst not giving an extra guarantee beyond the legal terms, we emphasise the fact that BROOKS Products are made throughout of the best material to be obtained, which, combined with experience and careful workmanship, and constant testing, is the best and safest guarantee that can be given.” (An Excerpt from The Brooks Book for Cyclists, 1907)