Audax Ride Long Top Tips and Articles

Ride Long – Saddle comfort part 3 of 4

5 minute read

Well done to anyone who has managed to get this far. At the beginning of 2021, although I didn’t realise it at the time, I had the saddle angle dialed in for riding on the aerobars which was significantly more lent forward than riding on the hoods. More painful lessons coming up :0(

Moving onto 2021, I planned to do some longer audax rides, certainly a 300k, and potentially a 400k. As it was a while since Scherritt has seen me on my audax bike and I’d been trying to strengthen my left calf to make the ankle joint more stable, I thought it worth a recheck of my fit. He had also agreed to be my coach by then, so we discussed training, events, and generally put the world to right. When I told him about the back problem he suggested that this could be due to the nose of the saddle being too high causing me to be engaging the lower back to lift the soft tissues at the front of the sit bones off the saddle. This was in effect the point Suzana made in a comment on one of my previous posts. He did say that sometimes you have to try something and see if it works. The body is very complex and sometimes the place that hurts is the victim of someother problem which you might describe as the villain. Many runners suffer from pain under their feet called plantar fasciitis. They will spend time rollering and icing underneath their feet whilst not running. When they start running again, the problem comes back because the problem is really due to tight calves. I digress, so I lowered the nose of the saddle a little.

I rode the Hailsham Venta 300 km audax in May and then the Dauntsey Dawdle 400 km in June. I finished both and whilst I was initially comforatble riding on the aerobars I soon started to feel uncomfortable at the rear of the sitbone area, as I rode on the hoods up hills, and this progressed to being quite sore. I was pleased to have completed them, but I was seriously questioning whether it was unrealistic to think about riding a 600 km audax in 2022. It would be miserable for longer.

On the 300km event I was riding with a rider who had ridden all sorts of multi day events. He featured in the recent Arrivee magazine as one of the riders who later on completed the London –  Lands End – London ride. Whilst it was encouraging that I was keeping up with experienced long distance riders, the discomfort was sucking the enjoyment from the ride. Having told him that I was sore, he suggested that my saddle was good, but riding on carbon aero wheels was not, and that he rode with pressures of 50 psi front and back.

I’m not sure whether I’m just very impressionable, or that I try to learn from other people’s experiences, but on the Monday after the event, I was in touch with a well known wheel builder from ‘Up North’. I asked him to build a set of audax wheels, which he duly did. I had visions of feeling that I was floating on air. If I remember correctly I put wider tyres on them and lowered the pressures. Surely I would feel an immediate difference. Sadly this was a dead end, I couldn’t feel any difference, and the wheels were definitely slower than my aero wheels, having a shallow box section. To make matters worse after I’d just put the bike away in the back of my car after a ride with my sister, I heard a loud pinging noise. A spoke had snapped and the wheel was way out of true. I subsequently took the wheels to Pankhurst Cycles and got Olly to check the tensions on the spokes that were still intact. His comment was that they were all over the place and he wouldn’t have ridden on them. To cut a long story short, Rikki rebuilt the wheels with different spokes and a different lacing pattern. However they are surplus to requirements and still sit in my garage.

I was a little perplexed as to why the wheels hadn’t made any difference and eventually came across this article by Cerveleo on ride comfort. What is interesting is that the wheels and frame make little contribtion to the vertical compliance as they are too stiff. The major factors on vertical compliance at the rear (of the bike) are tyre, saddle and seatpost. I was using tyres and pressures recommended by HED, but did start to lower them in the search for comfort, I had a saddle I knew could be comfortable from a brusing perspective on other bikes, so I now went in search of a suspension seatpost.

Cane Creek are well known for their Thudbuster seatposts for use on mountain bikes. They give a lot of vertical travel, but are heavy and bulky. They also make a seatpost for gravel bikes known as their eeSilk post. Their first versions of the post were well received by cycling reviewers but they were out of production as there had been issues over slopiness of the many pivot pins. They had stopped producing them whislt they developed an improved version. One evening when browsing the internet to see if anyone had one in stock I found that an american cycle store had three in stock. Moments later they had only two, and one was winging its way to my front door. When I got it I had to adapt my saddle bag mount that fits near the top of the seatpost, but eventually the seatpost was in place. I had to make some allowances for the fact that when you sit on the saddle with an eeSilk it moves back and down.

In early August I rode my Air Elite bike with a Glider in the National 12, and whilst I was sore, I wasn’t bruised. So I measured where a line from the top of the saddle was relative to the aerobars. On my Air Elite it was in line with the armpads, and on the Hybrid Pro it was 35 mm below. Finally it dawned on me that I did need to raise the nose of the saddle and over a few weeks I raised the nose so the saddle was in line with the armpads as well. The bruising was diminished or virtually eliminated. I now know that if you can feel significant weight at the back of the sitbones especially when riding on the hoods or tops, it will lead to bruising.

I rode the Morris Major 223 km audax in mid summer and I had only a little bruising at the back of my sit bones.I raised the nose of the saddle a little more before the Brace of Bramleys 200 in early august and my notes record no bruising. I did get another fitting with Scherritt to fit armpad risers so the change angle of my pelvis beween being on the hoods and aerobars is reduced, but this time I made sure that the saddle angle was unchanged.

Since then I’ve ridden the Moonrakers and Sunseekers 300 and the Bucks Winter Warmer 200 and I haven’t had a repeat of the brusing. I was still sore but I think I’ve finally worked out what was causing that problem as well. From my painfully won experience I can now tell from the feel of the pressure on my sitbones how to adjust the saddle angle.

To recap if you get bruising at the rear of the sitbones, raise the nose of the saddle. If you feel that the soft tissues at the front of the sit bone area are being compressed then lower the nose a little. If you have a bike with aerobars and you use both positions for a significant amount of time you may need to raise the aerobar armpads up so that the change in the angle of your torso and hence pelvis is reduced between the two positions so you dont more the pressure points around too much.

Anyone who hasn’t fallen into a deep sleep might note that I was still experiencing soreness, a problem I thik I’ve cracked only in the last few weeks.

Happy riding.

For more information on this article or anything Audax, please contact Adrian

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