Before riding a touring bicycle, the longest I'd ever spent in the saddle was riding back and forth to work on my beach cruiser. I didn't know what a saddle should feel like. I chose the Terry Liberator X Gel because Cindie from Down the Road had been riding with one for years and it seemed like it should be great because it was designed by women, for women.
After we left, it took me a couple of months to notice just how uncomfortable I really was. I'd never done a tour before—I thought all those "hardcore" cyclists out there had to have a different version of comfortable than I did. At first, there were plenty of other things to occupy my mind—getting used to a fully-loaded bike, discovering muscles I never knew existed, camping every night, etc.
Until we started going over the 25-mile mark, things were okay. After that, slight discomfort would degenerate into very painful, raw skin. It was worse on hot, hilly, days, and better on easy, cooler, flat rides. Usually (hopefully) it would heal overnight, and the annoying process would start over again the next day. When I finally found some chamois cream at a bike shop, it helped some, but I was still having issues.
After a particularly bad string of days with especially raw skin, I was ready to try anything. Tyler always seemed so comfortable on his saddle, and he'd been saying I should get a Brooks ever since I had my first uncomfortable ride. It seemed pretty risky to fork over $100 without even getting to try one out first, so I did some research.
I read a forum on Team Estrogen's website with a thread about Brooks women's saddles; some women loved the men's version, some swore by the women's versions. I didn't know which one to pick, but we didn't have an easy way of shipping one here anyway, so the choice was put on hold for awhile. When we finally did find a shop that sold them, I wasn't forced to make a decision—there was only one and I took it. It was the Brooks Champion Flyer S.
Because the Liberator X Gel is somewhat squishy, with a clinging, textured cover instead of a slick one, I would sink down into the saddle, sticking to it and mashing and grinding my sensitive bits with every pedal stroke. With my Brooks saddle, I sit comfortably, perfectly supported without any friction. The saddle is so slick and smooth that my bike shorts just slide around on it.
Many people, men and women alike, experience an uncomfortable breaking-in process, where the hard leather on a Brooks saddle gradually forms to the shape of your butt. I haven't felt any pain whatsoever, though, and I've read about many women who love theirs instantly. All I feel is relief.
Since I started riding on my new saddle, I've had one day with very slight chafing which was fixed by adjusting the nose of the saddle up ever so slightly. I haven't had any problems since! Everyone's butt and bits are different, so I can only really speak for myself when I say: the Brooks is the clear winner in every respect.