Ride Long – Saddle comfort part 4 of 4
4 minute read
This is the point in a long ride where you either feel comforatble and start to press on with the strength in your legs you have managed to preserve, or sadly you count off the miles trying to put to oneside the discomfort that has been growing over the previous hours.
Despite my best efforts in chosing the saddle and getting its angle dialed in, and minimising the movement between riding on the aerobars, and the hoods, I was still suffering from saddle soreness. Almost regardless of the changes I had made I would stop around the 6 hour mark to find somewhere discreet to apply saddle creme, and gingerly get back on the bike. It usually provided some relief. It couldn’t do anything for the bruising, but now that was minimised I was still searching for a missing piece in the jigsaw.
In discussion with Scherritt on saddle soreness he suggested that when I initailly put my shorts on, I then draw each leg up to my chest, as though I was on the bike with the leg at the top of the pedal stroke. This would leave just the right amount of slack in the shorts when you were on the bike so that the pad in the shorts shouldn’t pull on the the groin area. I religously did this but something was still causing the pad to be tight on my skin, always pulling it tight, leading to soreness.
Then I remembered a conversation with one of the RCC’s renowned long distance riders who had told me they tucked the straps of their bib shorts down the sides of the shorts and that eliminated the pulling. I have a relatively long torso compared to my height so all straps on bib shorts and tights are relatively tight. There was absolutely no risk of my shorts slipping off my hips!!
I hadn’t done much with this nugget until the Moonrakers and Sunseekers 300 km ride. It was relatively mild and as I was wearing bib tights over my bib shorts, I just tucked the straps of my shorts down the sides. Guess what, no relief. I relubed near Ringwood and just as it got light. I was back to my customary relubing every 100km. With around 40 km to go I was getting into the normal pedal a few times, then freewheel routine, that comes with saddle soreness. I pulled up at the side of the road and decided that I would remove the straps of my bib tights off my shoulders.
As I was taking off my RCC top whilst stationary on the entrance to a house in the middle of nowhere, the owner of the house appeared in a car. I managed to scoot a few metres to the side when she wound the window down. I got my apologies in quickly for blocking her drive. I shouldn’t have worried as she was only enquiring whether I was ok. I explained I was on an overnight cycle ride and heading for Bristol. As I was in the process of taking the straps of my bib tights off, I explained a little about my predicament. She was now the first person to hear about my tight strap theory.
I pedalled off into the distance and the effect was immediately apparent. I don’t think I freewheeled again from soreness for the rest of the ride. If I remember rightly the last control was at Yatton, only 29km from the finish. I met Anisa Aubin and Emily Chappell who I now realise is a real cycling hero, and in fact they are both heros (or probably heroines) of mine having done extraordinary multi day rides. They were kind enough to wait for me to finish eating before leaving at the same time. I rode on their back wheels for a few km before sliding backwards as the road sloped slightly upwards.
I finished the ride missing turnings and sliding off my bike, but no longer being in discomfort.
In the days after I pondered whether I should get the straps on my shorts and tights extended, but in the end I cut the straps off an old pair of Nopinz shorts that had worn through where the saddle rubs when I’m standing astride the bike at traffic lights and junctions. The straps on some Pearl Izumi bib tights suffered the same fate, as they were an eBay purchase and didn’t really owe me anything.
Over the past few days Ive been riding what I call my winter bike using my strapless shorts and tights and I haven’t had any ‘wardrobe malfunctions’. They stay up just fine. So If your shorts or tights are being pulled tight by the straps then it might just be that the pad in the shorts is being pulled tight and causing soreness. When I was at the Xmas dinner I was sitting next to Cindy and Chris Goslar. I think Cindy went to have a chat with Fred Hale and another RCC member ( sadly I didnt know his name) came and had a chat with Chris about the repair or replacement of the frame that was damaged by crashing into a deer. I did notice his bib tights had adjustable straps. I’ve searched on the web for the manufacturer without success, but this may be the answer to my problem, or maybe I will just attack all my bib shorts with my scissors.
There is one other thing you can do during long rides to prevent pressure which I forgot to mention, ( and was reminded by Diego Olerni) that every now and then, getting out of the saddle whilst pulling away from junctions or when climbing. 20 or 30 pedal rotations is probably enough to allow blood to flow in the areas which you are sitting on and I think it does help.
I really put all my theories about saddle soreness to the test on the South Bucks Willy Warmer 200 in late Jan 2022. I put a small amout of saddle creme on my skin as I got dressed before the event. I rode the first 160 km with a few minimal stops, before stopping for food and drink at the final Winnersh control. I then rode the last section to finish around the 10 hour mark. I hadnt needed to relube during the event. I was a little bruised at the back of my sitbones, but not to the extent of events during summer 2021, and I hadnt relubed once. I can now finesse the saddle angle a little but the tight straps theory was certainly correct.
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