Like you, I researched extensively reviews of the Brooks B17 Imperial Saddle before purchasing. I recognize no saddle is a fit for everyone, but the overall great ratings convinced me to give it a chance.
I also researched the myriad of break-in recommendations, from the sublime to the ridiculous. In my own case I used a technique recommended whereby I took the new seat, turned it over and applied with an old toothbrush the Proofide that came with it everywhere I could reach on the underside of the saddle.
Then I put the saddle in our oven at the lowest temperature (170 degrees) for 20 minutes. Then I removed (with hot pads) the saddle and re-applied more Proofide wherever I could reach. Then, back into the oven for 20 minutes. I repeated this for around 6 cycles of this process, then let the saddle cool to room temperature.
I installed the saddle and rode about 15 miles. then I extended the mileage. After only a few rides I found the seat to be quite comfortable. My fourth ride I went 50 miles and not once did I think it was uncomfortable.
I recently got my dream bike and , of course, had the Brooks put on the new bike. The technician told me I must not care about speed because the brooks weighs so much. I told him I am always interested in speed, but do not race and comfort is a higher priority than weight of the saddle.
I have several hundred miles on the new bike and have not once thought about my ass on any rides.
Love this thing!
Brooks saddles aren't for everyone, obviously. But they do provide me with the most comfort of any saddle I've tried. They are all I ride. This particular saddle went onto a 1987 Fuji and enhances the comfort of the steel ride in a more aggressive riding position.
I bought this because of ongoing soft tissue pain on long multi-day rides. Break in took a while but it is the most comfortable saddle I have ever owned. It feels good in the morning and better each time I get back on the bike during the day.
This Brooks B17 Imperial saddle is on my main touring bicycle, a 1993 Bianchi Project 5 cross bike, converted to a gravel bike with aero bars. I will benefit from the comfort of this saddle on multiple consecutive, 40 mile days of cross country travel.
I will use this saddle on my touring bike ,like all Brooks saddles it does need breaking in. After about 200mi it will conform to my shape. I find it best to take 20mi daily rides until it is my shape, then longer rides will be fine. This saddle came with a wrench and a sample of leather dressing. If you take the time to break it in it will comfortable for several years.
Having owned a Brooks saddle for almost 40 years I decided to try this model. I felt it was completely broken in after about a 100 miles. Although it was not unduly uncomfortable before that. I use this on my all-road bike and on gravel or easy single track its been feeling great. I dont always wear padded shorts and have not had any problems. Ive got about 500 miles on it now with no regrets.
I have put off purchasing a Brooks saddle since I was 20 years old - 40 years ago. During these years of separation, I have ridden every make and model of saddle on the market that now pile high in a cardboard box in my closet. Piled just as high are the butt calluses I accumulated riding over 8,000 every year commuting to work, racing, and bike touring across the United States. It has taken a long time to return to my roots in the 70's when I rode Masi, Ital Vega, Raleigh, and other great Brooks holders of the era. But I'm back, here to stay, like finding a high school sweetheart at your 40-year reunion.
I applied several coats of Proofhide to the underside of the saddle over a 2 week period. I also loosened the adjusting screw approximately 12 turn. After 50 miles or so of use the saddle is quite comfortable. Much easier to break in than the standard B-17 which I also have.
I took my partially broken in B17 and my WTB saddles on my coast to coast trip last year. The idea was that if I got a little sore I could switch saddles for a day or two for some relief. By the time I crossed the Cascades I stowed my WTB and dropped it with a friend in Boise. It took 37 riding days to cross the US. Of those 37 days only 8 days were without rain of varying degrees(don't cross the US in the Northern climes in the spring time). I treated the saddle about 4 times, top and bottom, during the crossing. I thought it held up extremely well considering the water torture it endured. I'm still riding it approximately 20 milesday commuting to and from work. The Brits know quality especially in bike saddles. If I had one critique it would be how long it took me to break it in. But it was well worth it. Without a doubt I will exit this life with Brooks on my bike.
Daily commuter (29 miles round trip for more than 20 years), very pleased at how this saddle is not only very comfortable once broken in, but, how it was never uncomfortable like I always thought they would be. Again I wish I would have believed all the hype years ago as it would have saved me a lot of time and money. In the Pacific Northwest the rain cover comes in very handy and is a great fit as well.
I was a little apprehensive when I learned it may take 500 miles to break this saddle in. Some years I may not ride 500 miles all year. Anyway it was an immediate improvement and allowed me to increase the frequency and length of my rides.
Also, I had experienced prostate pain with blood in my urine (Gross, I know) with another saddle. This is why I choose the saddle with the interior cutout. I have not had any prostate problems with this saddle. I am very happy with this saddle.
Monkey see monkey do... Go show up to a rando ride and count the number of Brooks chosen by cyclist who regularly ride 200K to 1200K events. The first time you sit on your Brooks Saddle you will think eh... its pretty good (I road mine fresh out of the box on a 300K event with no problems)
The first time you ride your bike after your saddle is broken in (For me this was at mile 819) you will think Holy smokes! This is wonderful... now I understand why all those old dudes use these saddles!
The bottom line is that once your saddle becomes shaped to YOUR BUTT you will never have a saddle problem again. Just like breaking in a good pair of boots....
I'm getting older and it's become harder for me to get and stay comfortable on longer rides. This past winter I've tried a half dozen different brands and styles of saddle. Some were better than others and brought improvements which typically turned out to be relatively short-lived. And then I bought a Brooks B17 for my touring bike. Instantly, I felt more comfortable in the saddle than I have in years. An immediate settled-ness and fit. It's terrific and well worth the extra 100 grams. I'm considering getting Brooks saddles for all my other bikes.