I’ve watched cycling for as long as I can remember. It’s thrilling to me to watch men and women push themselves to feats of physical stamina that us mere mortals can only dream of. Though most of us can’t attain those heights of physical performance we still push ourselves to ride harder and lose that extra weight, lower the time on our favorite route by a few seconds or hang with the elite riders on the Saturday morning group ride. Those are our feats of physical stamina.
When watching the pros ride their bicycles it’s amazing how effortlessly they propel themselves and how comfortable they look on their machines. They ride for hours at a time in what appears to be euphoric comfort while trashing their bodies in superhuman efforts. Is the ability to ride for hours at a time actually comfortable to them or do they suffer as much as I do? I’m not talking about suffering from a physical exertion stand point but rather suffering from actually being in the saddle and hunched over the bars for a significant period of time. For me, that period of time is limited to about an hour or so. After that I begin to feel discomfort and wonder if every cyclist feels what I’m feeling or is there something wrong with me or my equipment.
You see, comfort in the saddle is bothering me. I’m certain my current bib shorts are part of the problem but I’m concerned that I may have other issues. I always thought that as cyclists, once we’re accustomed to riding, we should be able to ride semi-comfortably for several hours on the bike. I’m finding this isn’t the case for me right now and it has me worried. I find it hard to ride comfortably in one position for any length of time/distance and have to move my hands around a lot and get out of the saddle to relieve pressure. Is what I’m feeling normal or should I be able to achieve a level of comfort on the bike that will enable me to ride comfortably for hours? I believe there are several factors that may be in play which include my bibs, bike fit, saddle, weight and, perhaps, my bike.
- Bibs. I discussed my bibs and the problems I’m having with them in an earlier post. I know I need new ones but I don’t think they are the answer to all my problems. If you have bib recommendations please leave them in the comments.
- Bike fit. This is always the short answer when cyclists discuss riding position and I’m sure it plays a significant role in comfort as well. I was fitted to my bike when I bought it 15 years ago but haven’t had it checked since. My gut tells me that’s probably very bad. I’ve gained a lot of weight since I purchased my bike and 15 years has got to have affected my fit.
- Saddle. I still have the original saddle that came with my bike when I bought it. It appears to be in good shape but I wonder if, with the technological advancements made in saddles over the last 15 years, if I would benefit from a newer, properly sized, saddle.
- Weight. I’ve probably gained 80 pounds since I bought my bicycle. I’m sure the extra weight I’m carrying is putting a lot of stress on the pressure points when I’m riding (like contact points between my rear and the saddle) and losing those extra pounds will alleviate some pressure. Will it be enough to let me achieve euphoric comfort in the saddle?
- My Bike. I’ll admit that when I purchased my bike 15 years ago that I knew nothing about bicycle components or frame geometry. Sometimes I feel like I was the latest sucker to walk in the door and the sales staff off-loaded a bike they were having a hard time selling. Don’t get me wrong, I like my bike but believe it may be a big contributor to my discomfort. It’s a 14-speed with down tube shifters, the older quill-shaft stem and classic road handlebars. It’s all aluminum with zero carbon fiber. I can’t get into the drops because of my gut but if I could I don’t think I could ride in that position very long because of the angles involved. With today’s newer, more upright designs, I sometimes wonder if it’s time for me to go ahead and upgrade in order to a level of sustainable comfort.
I can’t help but notice how several of the items above are related. Losing weight would not only take pressure off my sit bones on the saddle but would probably also improve my fit. Getting a properly sized saddle for my current weight may help as well. Getting a new bike with a more relaxed position may help with fit and saddle discomfort. See what I mean?
So, am I expecting too much by wanting to be comfortable on my bike? I don’t think I am but I may just be ignorant to what to expect and have my expectations set too high. I’d like to hear about your comfort levels on the bike and if you can ride for hours with little to no discomfort.