Restoring a Vintage Leather Saddle
NOTICE: I HAVE NOT BEEN PAID FOR ANY PRODUCT PLACEMENT IN THIS BLOG; THESE ARE JUST CLEANERS I EXPERIMENTED WITH, THANK YOU!
When I first saw the leather on the Peugeot PA10L I was about to buy, I really didn’t think it could be restored. The large and very ugly stain that covered almost half of the leather seemed impossible to remove. I believed it more likely that I should have to throw the saddle away if I was serious about restoring the whole bike. Who would want to see a nicely restored vintage Peugeot with a horribly stained saddle? I had no idea where to start. However, this vintage Ideale 92 surprised me, and in fact, I surprised myself when I eventually completed a rather easy and highly effective restoration of this cool old saddle.
The Cleaning Materials
After doing some online research, I decided that it would be best to buy some saddle soap. Most people recommended using this for cleaning a variety of leather materials, from horse saddles, leather sofas and car seats, to the removal of stains from jackets and shoes. However, as saddle soap is more expensive ( around 12 euros for a bottle ), I decided to try something cheaper and simpler. I bought some leather wipes made by Baranne, a brand that seems to have been around for a long time and well established in this field. I used the wipes over a couple of days, and they really cleaned up the saddle.
Heating and Cleaning
After I had used the wipes for the first time, I decided to utilise heat to open up the leather’s pores to help aid the cleaning fluid reach deeper into the saddle material. The easiest method seemed to be a hair dryer, which can be carefully controlled and which has multiple heat settings. I used this process of heating and wiping the saddle multiple times, until I was actually very satisfied with the outcome. In fact, I have to be honest, I thought that was it. The saddle looked much better and the stain was much less visible as the leather had darkened and the colour was deeper as well as much more attractive.
The Final Stage
I was quite happy with the outcome of the cleaning which had been both effective and cheap to use. It was only by accident when I was in a supermarket that I saw a protective cream for leather, which was only 4 Euros. “Could the saddle be improved?”, was the niggling question as I debated buying it. At the same time, I didn’t want to ruin it either, by adding further chemicals to the delicate leather. In the end, as part of this experiment, I decided to buy the cream. I used the hair dryer again before adding the white cream which, conveniently, has its own brush tip. As soon as I began using it the colour of the leather deepened once more, and the finish became more shiny and the saddle looked more rejuvenated. Success!
Caveats for Leather Care
Adding the cream was a bit of a risk, I felt, for an object that is designed to be sat on for long periods. The cream is also a form of colouring, which worried me. Would it be like putting shoe polish on the saddle? No one would want to get off a bike and have a stain from a reconditioned leather saddle, for obvious reasons. However, I have tested it a number of times with white cloths and tissues, and have ridden the bike for ( albeit short ) rides, and the colour remains intact. None has come off since I added this final coating of protection and shine. This Ideale 92 saddle now looks so much better, it really is worth the effort to restore these old beauties.
The stain is still visible, if you look carefully at the leather, but it is no longer the most prominent feature of this saddle. I think the only way to restore this Ideale saddle was to darken the leather, as hitherto it was a dusty brown, old and brittle, which only emphasised the large blemish across its centre. It’s hard to see any other way of ridding a saddle of such a mark, so I am content to have the leather a deeper shade of brown, thereby helping to disguise the stain that will always be part of this saddle’s future. See below for details.
About the Saddle
Ideale are a highly reputable brand of saddle that was founded by Jean-François Tron in 1890. The 92 version was introduced in 1960, and would have been the perfect saddle for any high end bicycle of this great cycling era. The 92 has “Rodee Main Selon Rebour” stamped into the leather on its top, which refers to the process devised by Daniel Robour to break-in a saddle by hand before installing it. Daniel Rebour was quite the savant when it came to cycling, he was a bicycle journalist, an illustrator, writer and very knowledgable rider. You can read more about him here. It’s very cool to own a saddle that has such provenance and history, and I’m impressed that Ideale remains proud of it’s past and its place in cycling.