Brooks England has been proudly providing cyclists with accessories for more than 135 years, with a strong emphasis on quality, comfort and durability.
It is a well-known and well-respected brand that remains as popular today as it ever was.
J B Brooks was founded just off New Street in the centre of Birmingham in 1866 by the young and innovative entrepreneur, John Boultbee Brooks.
The company started to produce small pieces of general leather ware, particularly for the equestrian trade.
The inception of the world-famous Brooks leather saddle came about by a chance event, when, in 1879, the horse that Mr Brooks used for commuting to and from his business died.
A friend of his subsequently offered to lend him his bicycle. The carved wooden saddle on bicycles in those days proved to be far too painful and hence Mr Brooks began his quest to find a more comfortable alternative, using his acquired knowledge of leather. He filed his first patent for the B17 leather bicycle saddle shortly after this.
Brooks soon began to expand in size and product range and moved to a new much larger building adjacent to Snow Hill Railway Station.
The company remained within the Brooks family for a little over two generations.
Thereafter, it became part of the Raleigh Cycles and then the Tube Investments empires, moving across the city to its present location in Smethwick in the early 1960s.
Since July 2012, Brooks has been under the ownership of the Italian Selle Royal Group; this has brought a renewed invigoration to the company, with strong sales and marketing, publicity experience and stylish packaging etc, while all the time maintaining a commitment to retaining production in the UK.
The skills needed to manufacture our leather bicycle saddles are quite unusual and rare in these modern times. They have been passed down from man to boy, or woman to girl, through the generations and entail a degree of subjective decision making in some of the leather processes.
Although some modern technology has been introduced into the production line, our saddles are still in essence hand-made in the traditional method used by Brooks since the early days.
Brooks today employs 40 employees at its UK site plus a number of staff in Italy and around the world. As well as saddles, Brooks offer a vast array of other cycle accessories such as handlebar grips, leather bar tape, rain capes, trouser straps, toe straps, mud flaps, maintenance tools and tool bags.
The impressive range of quality bags is still growing and there are designs for both for the cyclist and for the modern lifestyle user, or commuter, with hand-help, shoulder strap and backpack varieties which come in both leather and canvas (or canvas with leather details) models.
The main benefit of owning a leather saddle is that the leather adapts and conforms to the anatomy of its rider, delivering a high level of comfort even on the longest treks. It is a favoured saddle of long-haul tourers, even cyclists that attempt an around the world adventure.
A Brooks saddle is also renowned for its durability. If correctly cared for, it can last for many years
Brooks is described as a happy place of work and employees tend to build up many years of service.
Steven Green is the office manager and has clocked up almost 36 years at Brooks.
He said: “Of course I have not been doing the same job within Brooks for all of those years. I began as a young kid, straight from school in the cost office, calculating the manufacturing costs of each product. Since then, I have spent time in the wages department, production control, personnel, piecework input, accounts/bookkeeping, sales administration, order despatch and finally commercial. It is a great place to work and my colleagues are like a second family to me.”
He aded: “Business is good at Brooks and our design and development department is constantly busy looking to introduce new lines to keep our loyal customers excited.
“Our latest release has been the Cambium saddle, which has seen a bold step away from our heritage leather to produce a saddle base that combines vulcanized rubber with organic cotton. Already, it’s proving to be a big hit amongst the cycling fraternity.
“Furthermore, within the next few weeks, we will begin producing a new range of leather cycle/shoulder bags at Smethwick that have been designed by collaborating with the Royal College of Arts in London.
“Life at Brooks is exciting and the future is bright. A working day at Brooks is never dull - it’s always busy with lots to do.
“Everybody at Brooks takes pride in their work and we are honored to play our part in helping to produce such fantastic products.”