Spring is in the air for me and it’s starting to get nice enough to go out on some beautiful trail rides. On the first ride of the year I noticed rather quickly that my saddle was squeaking horribly. At first I thought to myself that this is just leather being leather but it got to me and before long I was doing research into why saddles squeak and how to stop them.
A Squeaking saddle is caused by the leathers your saddle is built with rubbing against other parts of the saddle. This can be because the saddle is new and needs to be broken in or because the saddle is in need of moisturizing.
Now I’m guessing you don’t really care what the issue is you just want to know is how to stop it right? That squeak just gets under your skin with every step. Keep reading to find out some solutions to your problem.
When does a squeaky leather saddle happen?
A squeaky saddle is primarily caused by your leathers rubbing against your tree. The tree is normally made out of wood and wrapped tightly in a layer of leather to add strength and protect the wood from the elements.
When this wrapping leather touches the leathers of your fender, the wide flap your knee rests against, and over time can dry out causing your squeak. Alternatively, the same can occur on a brand new saddle before it has been broken in.
In both cases, the fibers of your leather are stiff and grab onto each other. Eventually, however this hold breaks free causing a small noise, take this time hundreds of thousands or more fibers and you end up with that awful squeaking sound.
How do I fix my squeaky saddle?
In order to fix a squeaky saddle, you need to eliminate those stiff fibers by conditioning your leather, or as an alternative, you can provide some lubrication between them. First, and most importantly make sure your saddle is clean, and conditioned properly. A dried-out saddle with tons of dirt on it is probably going to make some noise so start there. If you have already done so one easy solution to the squeakiness is to use baby powder.
Flip the saddle upside down so that you can easily get at the underside of the saddle. Under the leathers of the fender, and the jockey, way up where they are attached sprinkle some baby powder. This process provides a bit of “lubrication” between the leathers which prevents the fibers from snagging on each other.
Word of caution though. Baby powder has a tendency to dry out leather which in turn can cause tons of damage to your leather. Leather repairs are quite costly so use the powder sparingly! Small amounts will provide plenty of slippage to stop a squeak.
Why don’t we use oil as a lubricant?
Assuming you have a properly conditioned and clean saddle, some people will say to use oil or a glob of leather conditioner to resolve the squeaks; however, personally I prefer not to. This preference is for one simple reason. Dirt and grime love to stick to oil.
Think about laying out a piece of cardboard, put some oil onto the center, and then throwing dirt at it. When you pick up the cardboard where is the dirt stuck? The same is going to happen to your saddle as your riding down a trail or in a dusty area.
That dirt and grime is going to cause issues in the long run that I don’t want to repair. Baby powder, on the other hand, does not collect dirt and grime.
If all else fails using a proper leather conditioner and making sure that it is fully dry before taking to the trails could help. The best one I know of is this Leather Honey off of Amazon.
What about my synthetic saddle? That has no ‘leather fibers’?
Lucky for you the situation is actually quite similar! The synthetic fibers of your saddle are rubbing together and causing a squeak.
You should be able to follow the same steps above excluding the oil and leather conditioning parts. Synthetic has it’s own process of cleaning that, honestly, is quite simpler. Use a damp rag with a bit of standard dish soap on it to clean away any dirt and grime.
I’ve already added baby powder but it’s still squeaking, help!
Unfortunately, I have some bad news for you. If you have conditioned and cared for your leather and put baby powder between your leather flaps and you still have a squeak there is likely something bigger causing the noise.
In this case, I recommend taking your saddle to a saddlemaker or possibly a leather repair person (At least in my area they seem to know a lot about saddles).
It’s possible that you have broken your tree if you are a western rider. If you ride English I have read that it is a possibility that your headplate has come loose. In either case, serious repair is needed before the saddle is used again.
In some cases, though your saddle may not be worth the time and money it takes to repair, and unfortunately you may need to sell it as decoration or repurpose it for your own decor. Throwing it away is an option… I guess, but the hoarder in me says no.