Being comfortable whilst riding your bike is extremely important. Afterall, if you go out riding and come back with aches and pains from being uncomfortable on the bike, let’s face it, you are less likely to be in a hurry to repeat the experience! In my opinion the 3 most important pieces of kit to purchase after or with your bike are
As you will be placing your delicate derrière on said saddle for multiple hours then it is very important that the saddle fits! When you ride the majority of your weight is placed on the saddle. Having a good saddle fit will help to ensure that you’re comfortable on the bike as well as not doing long term damage to sensitive areas. It is a common misconception that the wider the saddle the more comfortable it will be…..wrong! The first thing to consider when selecting a saddle is ‘sit bone width’. This is where the majority of your weight will be placed as the surrounding muscles and tendons can adapt and cope with the pressure. The area in between your sit bones is super sensitive and needs protecting. Funnily enough the instrument for measuring the distance of your sit bones is called an ‘Assometer’, most good local bike shops will have one of these. Basically you sit on the Assometer for a few minutes and them measure the distance between the 2 deepest points. This gives you the width of your sit bones. When purchasing your saddle it’s best to add on 2 centimeters so your sit bones sit on the saddle. The reason why buying extra wide saddles is not always the answer is because the wider the saddle the wider the nose of the saddle will be and this can cause rubbing/chaffing on the inside of your quads and discomfort. There are different saddles for different disciplines, mountain bike saddles tend to have more padding to protect you from the vibration/bumps and usually have a thicker more durable cover to protect the saddle from all the knocks whilst mountain biking and therefore not ruining the saddle. Again TT and triathlon saddles are different too. There are two general shapes of regular saddles when viewed from above. They are T-shaped and pear-shaped. T-shaped saddles can be better if you have problems with chaffing and your quads rubbing on the nose of the saddle. A pear-shaped saddle can be good if you find you move around a lot from forward to back as when you slide forward, there will be more evenly dispersed support to aid in comfort. Finally having a softer saddle is not always more comfortable as the softness of the saddle absorbs your sit bones and puts pressure on your more delicate areas, whereas, a firmer saddle means the pressure points (sit bones) are in contact with your saddle and your delicate areas are not and therefore more protected!!
A good pair of cycling shorts will help prevent soreness and your undercarriage feeling and looking like a piece of raw steak. Good fitting shorts should be tight yet comfortable and have good elastic to hold them in place on your thigh and more importantly to cultivate your tan lines. In my opinion padded cycling shorts are the most important piece of kit. For extra comfort I find the ‘bib’ style cycling shorts, these have shoulder straps rather than elastic waistbands, more comfortable. The most important features of cycling shorts include a lack of seams in the crotch and extra padding to reduce chaffing and discomfort while riding. Cycling shorts are also made from flexible fabrics that move with you and don’t bind while pedaling. After the initial shock of walking around in lycra you’ll get to like and appreciate your bib shorts. Be sure to buy the correct size as over stretched lycra is see through and your fellow riders wont want to be enjoying ‘the carck’! Cycling shorts are gendre specific as we have different bits to protect, so purchase accordingly Finally, cycling shorts are meant to be worn commando style, no VPL please! Please also bear in mind colour, Black gives a standard classic look and goes with almost all colours of cycle jerseys. However, you can get cycling shorts in all colours! Think how they will look when wet, for example, white cycling shorts tend to be see through when wet or how grubby they will get if your chain comes off and you get oil all over them. Another good reason to stick with black shorts in my book!
In my opinion, for better performance and added comfort on a bike, cleated shoes are the way to go. It is a little daunting making the switch from flat pedals and trainers to cleated shoes and pedals. It’s a given that you’ll probably fall off 2 or 3 times as you come to a stop and forget you are attached to the bike. The first time I did this was in front on 1500 football fans who proceeded to chant ‘He fell over’! Beam me up Dr Spock! However, you soon get use to this, it becomes second nature to clip in and out and once you’ve made the switch you’ll never go back! The type of shoe and cleated system that you use will depend on the type of riding that you do. Mountain bikers and recreational cyclists have a resessed cleat and more flexible sole on the shoe which is more comfortable for walking as MTBer’s sometimes have to carry their bikes and recreational cyclists may want to walk around a town centre. For more competitive or performance-oriented road bikers, the shoes are much stiffer and the cleats are not recessed but instead are attached to the outsole of the shoe. These types of shoes are definitely not made for walking. In theory, the stiffer outsole of the shoe allows more efficient energy transfer to the pedal. Your cycling shoe should be as comfortable as a pair of slippers. Bear in mind that certain brands are made for standard or wider shaped feet. You’ll only really notice how good your shoes are when you do a long event. I recently brought some Sidi shoes, that seemed/were comfortable for 2-3 hour rides but on longer 5/6/7 hour rides crushed my feet, I then found out they were design for designed for skinny feet not my slabs! Sidi now do have a ‘wider fitting’ selection of shoes! For your winter shoes/boots perhaps go up a size to allow for thicker/multiple layers of socks that you’ll need to wear whilst riding.
Finally, there is a 4th ‘S’ that is critical for every cyclist.
Make sure you are on top of your sock game. Socks should be just below the calf and match you kit.
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