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Ride Long – Saddle comfort part 2 of 4

4 minute read

Welcome to part 2 of my saddle comfort journey. Think of it like another episode of the Archers, with more cycling and less farming! This time I’d like to discuss pressure and bruising.

In my last post I mentioned the SMP Nymber. I think its essentially a less paded version of the Glider. I think I must have had a Nymber fitted to a medium sized Boardman Hybrid Pro that I had got Pankhurst Cycles to convert to drop handlebars as I was now appreciating the benefits of getting lower and going faster.

Going back a few months, Scherritt had introduced me to a Cardiologist, Dr Nigel Stephens, who is a committed cyclist and is passionate about helping patients with AF to get back onto their bikes and control thier condition as best as possible. He had reviewed my medication and taken me off beta blockers. If you have ever had to take them, then the positive of them controlling the heart rate, comes with a cost of feeling very lethargic. I was now on the tablets I needed, and not taking anything I didn’t. The byproduct of coming off beta blockers was that my anxiety on the bike dissappeared, don’t know why, it just did. I could now ride for many hours without problems and drink from a bottle just as nearly every other cyclist can.

I immediately started to think about longer rides and booked onto the Fleet Flyer, a 90 miles sportive, taking place in May 2019, starting from the Hart Centre near Farnborough. I decided that my Fizik saddle wasn’t going to be comfortable for 6 hours and a couple of weeks before I got Scherritt to fit a SMP Nymber. I don’t think I suffered from numbness, but I definitely suffered from bruising at the back of my sit bones area. Riding the last few miles was definitely a matter of counting off the miles. Despite this I decided to ride the New Forest Sportive in June on one of the hottest days of the year. My fitness was good, but the discomfort was the same. I was badly bruised at the back of the sitbones. I hadn’t got used to the saddle at all, so I went back to Scherritt and he changed it to a SMP Glider. At the same time I got him to fit aerobars as I had got used to them on another (I know yet another) Boardman bike I had now aquired.

Now the Glider was a revelation. I think it has more padding than the Nymber, and for me the pressure is spread over a greater area. As I was riding mostly on the aerobars I was comfortable and the saddle felt like I was sitting in a hammock. I rode the Orro Magnificat 126 miles sportive in August and I have no particular recollection of saddle discomfort. This was definitely the saddle for me.

So my advice on saddles now  I know more is to try to find a saddle that spreads the weight on as much of the sitbone area as possible without concentration of pressure at the rear which could result in bruising, or at the front which is likely to lead to compression of the soft tissues. If you get it right, your brain will forget about the pressure on the sit bone area, as it doesn’t think anything bad is going to happen there.

You may need to get a bike fit before you can really settle on one saddle as changing how far you lean forward on the hoods or drops will alter the angle of your pelvis, moving the pressure point around. You may need to adjust the saddle angle to get the pressure optimised. If at the end of long rides you are bruised at the back of the sit bones, then try raising the nose of the saddle. If you feel you are compressing the soft tissues at the front of the sit bone area then lower the nose of the saddle. You may be lucky that your sit bones and the padding match up nicely and the saddle also accomodates you changing position without moving the pressure forward or back too much.

 Unfortunately I didn’t know all the above in 2019. I rode the Revolve 24 sportive as a solo in September 2019, using a Glider on a Boardman Aero Elite bike (what another Boardman…)  and whilst I did get some saddle soreness, I don’t remember the painful brusing the I was getting on the Nymber. I did get a painful right knee problem, but I just managed to get to the 200 mile mark, so I was happy. I also managed to ride through the night which was something I used to love doing, but was nervous of after the stroke as I wondered if the lack of visual cues would make me feel uneasy. Thankfully it didn’t. You will note that my rides are heading in one direction…getting longer.

So onto 2020. I decided to start riding audax events. I did a 150 km ride starting near Cirencester, and whilst I did start to get some twinges around my right knee the saddle felt fine. Because I was riding on my own I was on the aerobars for the bulk of the time, and no brusing was apparent. I then rode a 200 km event starting at Aylesbury which had its first control in Caversam before heading back up northwards. I was a tough day and I set out from the penultimate control just before it got dark. I joined up with a couple of other riders during the last 50 km back to Aylesbury. It was during these last few miles that the brusing came on with a vengance. I found some comfort by riding at the front of the trio and using the aerobars, but riding on one of the other guys back wheels I was putting weight onto the rear of my sitbones which were brusied and painful.

It was only a few weeks later that the first lockdown started and we were back to riding once per day for exercise, but no group riding. Somewhere during the summer I started to think more about why the same saddle on my audax bike was causing me problems, when the same saddle didn’t on other bikes. I rode the National 12 in August, again, on the same Glider saddle without problems. I think it’s now that I started to think about raising the nose of the saddle and unloading the rear of my sit bones. I rode the London Oxford London Steam Train 200 in Sept 2020 when audax had restarted and can’t remember any saddle problems. I think I made another small adjustment for the Upper Thames 200 k which started from Cholsey. All these events required staggered starts and the Upper Thames was formally cancelled but I rode it as a DIY, including riding out and back. No saddle pain, but the next day I did have considerable back discomfort. So I could ride for a long way in one go, but starting out again was going to be difficult.

To be continued….

Happy riding.

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