The B5N is no longer in the manufacturer’s catalogue but comes up for sale on auction sites occasionally.
More than any other bike component, saddle choice is a personal matter. Brooks saddles are produced from traditional materials and have been the choice of touring cyclists for most of the twentieth century because they are comfortable for riding long distances. During that time bikes have changed considerably: the industry that used to make sit-up-and-beg roadsters is now dominated by performance cycles which have longer stems and, in many cases, longer top tubes. As a consequence, a modern bike usually needs a narrower saddle to be comfortable.
The Brooks B5N met this need. With deep sides, it has the same construction as the classic B17 from the same manufacturer, but the B5N is 15 cm wide meaning there is less likelihood of chafing for riders of slim to average build. Those deep sides prevent the saddle top from bowing in the centre – which Brooks’ other slim saddle the Swift is prone to. In fact, on the example I own, there is no discernible variation in height between the centre and the nose – which means the B5N may suit riders who find the nose of the Swift uncomfortable. The B5N has lace holes on the sides – lacing it up will prevent the sides flaring outwards as it softens. It also has saddlebag loops.
I disliked Brooks saddles until I found one that was the right shape for me. That happened to be the B5N. Unlike my B17s and Swift, it was comfortable from the outset. After approximately 600 miles, it has not changed. Some cyclists talk of the need to ‘break in’ a Brooks, but I believe a saddle of the correct width should need no adjustment period. I suspect that many riders of modern bikes who use the traditional B17, a saddle designed for an upright riding posture, experience initial discomfort because they are using a saddle that is too wide.
As with any leather Brooks, the B5N shouldn’t be left in the rain. This means it needs covering if the bike is parked in town. (As a cover, a plastic bag secured with a rubber band is preferable to a branded saddle cover because it avoids advertising a valuable saddle to thieves.)
Reliability: 9 / 10
Practicality: 7 / 10
Average score: 8 / 10