[CR] Ideale mod 92 Diagonale - and Current Brooks

Example: Framebuilders:Mario Confente

Date: Wed, 4 Feb 2009 09:18:57 -0800
From: Jerome & Elizabeth Moos <jerrymoos@sbcglobal.net>
To: <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>, Daniel Gonzalez <dannyg1@mail.com>, jeffrey piwonka <jmpiwonka@yahoo.com>
In-Reply-To: <798814.77727.qm@web82702.mail.mud.yahoo.com>
Subject: [CR] Ideale mod 92 Diagonale - and Current Brooks

I just received an Ideale Mod 92 Diagonale from a French eBay seller. BTW it was about one tenth the price of that alloy-rail NOS mod 80 we were discussing yesterday. I think we discussed these a few months ago when a guy in Singapore was selling a bunch of later Leppers-made ones. Those turned out to be the shorter 92D (Dame or maybe Dammen) version. But the one I just received is the original T&B French-made men's Mod 92 Diagaonale.

This one is almost precisely the same width and length as a B17 Champion Standard, which implies it was intended for cyclotouring or randonneuring rather than racing. I believe someone said in the past thread that "Diagonale" refers to the hexagon of France, of which French cyclotourists evidently would plan trips to ride the diagonals, or I guess ultimately to circumvent. So if that is correct it would reinforce this as a touring saddle. Anyone else know more about the mod 92? When was it introduced? How successful was it? Did it succeed for a time in becoming de rigeur on Herses, Singers, etc., competing with those now astronomically price Idealed alloy saddles?

There is a photo on the CR site of the side stamping on the mod 92, which says Made in France and has the Ideale name but not T&B. Mine is identical. But the chromed nose bolt on my saddle is marked T&B, so I'm pretty confident they did indeed make the original French-made mod 92, although of course the later mod 92 was made by other firms in Holland or Germany.

I also note that my mod 92 does not have Ideale stamped into the copper rivets as was the case on most earlier Ideales. This also seems to be the case for a late mod 90 shown on the CR site.

BTW, I just received two new Brooks B17 Imperials, one Standard, one Narrow. My first impression is quite favorable. Brooks kept these reasonably priced, only a few $ more than a B17 Champion Special, although admittedly the Imperial lacks the large copper rivets and copper plated rails of the Champion Special. Some of the CR members in UK have been less than excited about the Imperial, as they regard the marketing content as rather high in that this saddle has little in common except a center cutout with the original Imperial from the 1890's, the original being much wider and otherwise different, while Brooks have been touting this as a reintroduction of an 1890's model. Perhaps that view has some validity, but I think this is a nice saddle, with chromed rails, which is an upgrade from the B17 Standard. And the leather seems as thick as any of the top current Brooks, although there seems some conerns as to whether Brooks is as selective in the quality of hides used in their top models as they were in the old days. Probably only a handful of CR members are knowledgeable enough to judge the quality of the leather used in a saddle, aside from its thickness and ultimately how long it lasts. So most of us won't be able to fully judge the current Brooks for years, or at least several months, even for those who put in a lot of mileage.

The Imperials each came with a copy of the Brooks Bugle, a color in house publication, which certainly has its share of marketing spin. But the spin factor isn't any higher than average, at least by current American standards, and there is some useful information there, although it is definitely advertising rather than objective reviews. I take it from the listed names of the editors that this publication and perhaps the Brooks marketing depatrment in general is staffed by a combination of Brits and Italians from the Italian firm that bought Brooks a couple of years ago. In discussing that acquisition they stated that Brooks had been "in decline since the 1950's" when evidently the Brooks family sold out their ownership. I suspect some UK Brooks fans may take exception to that statement, since I believe the Brooks Professional was introduced in the late 60's and was repotedly enormously successful.

But there is no doubt Brooks had been in decline in recent years, and much of that is down to lack of effective marketing, so maybe a few spinmeisters are a necessary evil if they help keep the company profitable. They certainly have introduced, or "reintroduced" a number of products since the Italian takeover. Some of these like the B17 Sprinter flopped and have had be be heavily discounted, and there are signs Brooks is now having to back off the outrageous price increases on Ti rail saddles have most probably hurt sales volume. But overall, I think Brooks marketing strategy has been better under the new owners than immediately before. So if the Italians will leave the manufacturing in England and it the hands of those who actually know something about leather saddles, and perhaps do something to address what appears to be a decline it the quality of the hides selected, then this acquisition may be a good thing for Brooks and their fans worldwide. Sure beats, IMHO, having Brooks disappear or become only a nameplate on cheaply made Chinese saddles.

I'd be interested to hear other CR members thoughts on the current state of Brooks and particularly their experience with the B17 Imperial if anyone has actually had time yet to put significant miles on the Imperials. A couple of CR members were involed in testing the prototypes and repoted favorably on them, but I don't know if the production version has departed significantly from the prototypes.


Jerry Moos
Big Spring, Texas, USA