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Saddle Mystery Solved?

Well, maybe…

This is an interesting lesson in communication – how can you receive a clear and definitive answer to a question and still doubt whether your question has been answered at all?

In the summer, as detailed here, I bought a handsome but anonymous saddle on eBay. Then the other day I came across this, in an online auction catalogue:

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What struck me at once was the stamp on the side, with its ‘Greek key’ border and flanking pair of spoked wheels, which apart from the insert where the name appears, is almost identical to mine:

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In addition, the unusual-shaped cut-outs are also strikingly similar, as is the small detail of the location of the rivets, along the face of rear edge rather than the top of it, as Brooks do:

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Now Lepper are a Dutch company, still very much in the saddle-making business, so I e-mailed them some pictures and asked if they thought mine was also a Lepper saddle; and this morning received this succinct reply, which I reprint in its entirety:

‘This is a Lepper Drieveer 90 saddle’

So, mystery solved, then? Well, I am not so sure. The problem is that (thinking it might be helpful to present the evidence that had led me to my conclusion) I sent pictures of both the Lepper saddle on the auction site and my own, with the auction site picture first.

My suspicion is that the kind but busy folk at Lepper have looked only at the e-mail title (‘An old Lepper  saddle?’) and the first picture and identified that – for which I thank them, but it gets me no further forward. (“Drieveer’ is ‘three spring’, I believe, so does not help distinguish the two). It may be that I malign them, but I did send them a link to the original post and I notice that there has been no Dutch visitor in the time between my e-mail and their reply.

However, I do feel that the  similarities between the two are strongly suggestive of a common origin, but on the other hand it might be a case of deliberate imitation – the substitution of a decorative pattern for the (expected) firm’s name would point to that. On the other hand, mine is no shoddy article – it has been expensively made, and in one thing at least – the triple-wrought springs – it appears superior.

An interesting side note is the use of ’90’ to designate this style of saddle. It is used by Brooks, of course (originally just B90, then a range of models B90/1, /2 & /3, which I think varied slightly in size) and I am sure I have seen it on other British makes such as Wright and Middlemore. Did Brooks start it and the others follow suit, or is there some other reason for it?


4 Comments

  1. Rona says:

    It’s definitely a Lepper. I’ve seen two or three like it on Markplaats.nl over the years. It was a special offer saddle with the twisted medal. Gazelle had leather saddles for a short time as well, but most of the other leather saddle makers here were merged into or taken over by Leppers.

    • jfmward says:

      Thanks Rona! I was hoping some knowledgeable person out there would be able to tell me. Leppers seem to be very like Brooks, who also took over most of their rivals one by one (though I think they are now owned by Selle Italia, or were at one point).

  2. jfmward says:

    My thanks to Rona for her diligent research – we have corresponded on another forum, where she has revised her initial opinion and drawn my attention to this saddle, on a Goricke bicycle:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/classic-lightweights/5684724700/in/photostream/
    The stamp on the side is certainly the same – but does that provide the final answer? Did Goricke make their own saddles?

  3. jfmward says:

    Thanks to all the knowledgeable people out there, in particular Maarten Bokslag, Chairman of De Oude Fiets, as well as Rona, who was probably right first time AND second time… Maarten tells me that Lepper was originally a German firm, so it would be no surprise to find a pre-War Lepper saddle on a German bike such as a Goricke. I have e-mailed Goricke, who are still in business, but have yet to receive any reply – but I think it is 90% probable that Rona is right in saying it is a Lepper, and could be equally so in guessing it came from a Goricke bicycle.

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