Riding in Comfort

Last Modified: 07/10/2019

For endurance riding, one of the keys to success is making the rider as comfortable as possible on the bike.

There are three contact points between the rider and the bike. These are the saddle, the handlebars and the pedals. All of the riders weight is born on these points. The bike fit is successful when the weight is born appropriately by each of the pedals, saddle and bars.

There are many telltale signs that a bike fit may be needed:

Shoulder and Neck PainAching in shoulders and neck after a certain distanceAlter reach, usually reduce itflip stem to raise bars, fit shorter stem, move saddle forward
Saddle painpain in buttocks/sit bonesshift some weight to bars/pedals.Raise saddle or lower bars or saddle is too narrow, use wider saddle raise saddle and/or raise stem
Leg rubbingpain in upper thighreduce frictionShave Upper thigh, wear better shorts, use narrower saddle
Saddle painpain in frontal/perineummove weight to sitbonesDrop nose of saddle, use saddle with cut out hole, use Adamo saddle
Wrist painache in wristsReduce weight on handsraise bars, use gel bar padding, use bars with an oval profile, use padded mitts
Numbness in fingerslack of sensation in one or more fingersLess pressure on handsraise bars, use gel bar padding, use padded mitts
Knee painpain in front of knee, persists and gets worse with distanceLess stretching movement in kneesaddle too high, lower saddle
Knee painpain in back of knee, persists and gets worse with distanceEnsure knee moves over full comfortable rangesaddle too low, raise saddle
Achilles tendon painpain in Achillies tendon immediately on cyclingDo not over stretch tendonsaddle too high, lower saddle
Hot footburning sensation in ball of footreduce pressure on ball of footensure shoes are not too tight. Wear appropriate socks. Move cleats towards rear of shoe
Lower back painaching in the lower back, especially when climbing or pushing hardMuscular response from leg effortProbably not a bike fit issue

Hand numbness is commonly associated with endurance riding. It is typically due to excessive pressure on a nerve in the hand and possibly vibration damaging the nerve. Nerves regrow at a very slow rate hence recovery can take some time. The following suggestions were made for avoiding hand numbness:

  • Pad the bars Use thick tape, gel inserts can be installed, or apply two layers of tape.
  • Wear gloves with lots of padding
  • Use a bike that is inherently comfortable Bikes using a stiff aluminium frame with thin high pressure tyres are of their nature less comfortable than bikes made from steel with larger tyres at a lower pressure. Part of this comfort factor is the transmission of vibrations to the hands
  • Use a bike that fits
  • Use bars that allow many hand positions Having many different hand positions allows the rider to move their weight around onto different parts of the hand.
  • Improve core fitness A person with strong core muscles can effectively “move” their weight into a better position. This will take their weight off the hands and onto the backside and pedals
  • Use bars with an oval profile Bars with an oval profile distribute the load over a larger area, thus reducing the pressure on a specific point.

The saddle is one of the well-known contact points. One can spend a lot of time trialing different chamois crèmes, different saddles and different knicks. If you spend a enough time on this quest for saddle comfort, one often finds that the just problem disappears. The body adapts.

Another popular post-ride (or overnight on a big ride) saddle application is the soothing emollient “Sudocrem”. Widely available in Australian pharmacies / supermarkets, it is a zinc oxide / benzoate concoction for treating nappy rash / pressure sores. It undoubtedly goes under various other names world-wide. It should be at the bottom of every drop-bag. Apply and sleep.

Of course if you want to cover all bases, Creme Randonneur is the multi-purpose cream of choice.

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