This week we are focusing on making your bike as comfortable as your living room recliner. If you are looking for answers on how to make riding a bike more comfortable you’ve probably tried different saddles, but your discomfort doesn’t come from a hard saddle.
Many cyclists can skip straight to step three to resolve their discomfort. Endurance cyclists and anyone riding a serious distance of mileage on their bike will benefit from all three of the steps outlined below.
Step 1: Get a Saddle Fitting
There are many different shapes and sizes of bike saddle available. It’s a common misconception that wider and softer saddles are more comfortable. The truth is, saddle shape plays a larger role in determining how comfortable you will be than the firmness of the saddle. In fact, a firm saddle can be more comfortable than a soft saddle because the pressure point is less spread out from sinking-in the softer materials.
All reputable bike shops have a saddle fitting station. This involves sitting on a gel pad, then measuring the distance between your sit bones from the impression left. This step will determine the proper width of your saddle. Unfortunately, determining the proper shape is not as easy. There are saddles that have a raised arch, saddles that are extremely flat, and even saddles that have a slight dip in them.
When I test saddles I buy them from a bike shop with a user friendly return policy. For example, at Scheels (not available in all states) if you aren’t happy you can bring your item back without question. Even when I have them order a saddle they don’t carry, if I don’t like it I return it to the store to try something else. This allowed me to try all three saddle shapes at my appropriate saddle width. I determined a flat saddle is most comfortable for me.
I’ve had the best luck with Ergon Saddles. If you prefer to shop online, check out the Ergon Store on Amazon. Ergon sets the standard for comfort on a bike. Their grips and saddles have the best reputation in the industry for solving comfort issues on a bike.
Step 2: Get a Bike Fitting
Once you have the correct saddle shape and size confirmed, you need to make sure your bike fit is correct. A new saddle will have a different profile than your old saddle. There is a lot of geometry involved with bike fitting. A slight adjustment to saddle height, or the sweep of your handlebars will alter your body position.
Your body position on the bike determines how much pressure your sit bones feel from your saddle. When trying to determine how to make riding a bike more comfortable, you have to adjust several different variables.
To test these geometry changes at home, find a hard chair. Sit completely upright with a straight back while focusing on how your sit bones feel in the chair. Now lean forward 6-8 inches and you should feel the pressure points change underneath you.
A thorough bike fitting will adjust crank arm length, stem angle, handlebar sweep for flat bars, and handlebar width for drop bars. All of these adjustments change the position of your body and the pressure you feel on your saddle. A few micro adjustments will dramatically change your level of comfort while riding.
Step 3: Wear Cycling Shorts
This is the most important step you can take to improve comfort on your bike. Cycling shorts have a built in chamois that acts as a pad for your bum. They also prevent friction from the constant movement of your legs against the saddle. That means you get a softer feeling under your bottom, and you won’t have to deal with chaffing from the sweat and rubbing that goes on while riding.
They make cycling shorts for road cyclists as well as for mountain biking. If you like baggy fit shorts while riding, there is still a cycling short for you. Personally, I always ride with my Pearl iZUMi Escape Quest shorts. I don’t wear anything over them on my road bike, but I will throw a pair of gym shorts over them while mountain biking.
The Escape Quest lineup is considered entry level, but they are the most comfortable cycling shorts I’ve found and they have proven to be more durable than some of my higher priced shorts. I’ve found them on sale on Amazon for less than $50. (Check Current Price on Amazon Here).
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