Thursday, July 5, 2012

2 legendary B17s

During WW2 in the 1930s and 40s, the famous American bomber the B17 Flying Fortress earned a well deserved reputation for being a tough and reliable aircraft. Not the fastest nor having the biggest bomb load, it endeared itself in its ability to withstand abuse and enemy action. The German airforce calculated it took firing 1000 rounds at a 2% hit rate to bring the bomber down! Thus, it could bring its crew safely back despite extensive battle damage. Many flight crews have expressed mythical confidence in the B17.

Similarly,  much has been written about the Brooks B17 saddle and it is a popular choice for long distance tourers all around the world. My honey brown B17 has been with me over 4 years, done over 5000km and been to many different lands. Its definitely not the lightest nor the most sleek looking saddle and is made with old technology dating in the late 1800s (even earlier than the Flying Fortress), using the traditional stretched leather on a metal frame design.

Yet, many happy B17 users wax lyrical about how comfortable it is especially when properly run in. In fact like aged wine, the longer one uses it, the more comfortable it becomes as the contour of the leather develops precisely to the contour of one's unique bottom. Of course not everyone will agree to the B17 and critics point to its lack of comfort especially prior to breaking in. But if one persists, the reward is sweet.  The late Sheldon Brown opined that this is truly the "best choice" for serious cyclists.

For any long distance tours and adventure missions that lay before me, like the flight crew of old, the B17 is my preferred choice.

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