Bicycling should be fun, not painful! Here are some of our top basic tips for dialing in your ride so that you’ll spend every mile all smiles.
First, minor adjustments can make major differences. Seat and handlebar height are great examples. When the seat’s right the pedaling’s easy. When it’s wrong (the most common mistake is too low a seat), you’ll work harder and tire faster. Likewise, the bars should be in a natural, easy-to-reach position, not too high or low. If you don’t feel right on your bike, be sure to pedal by so we can take a look and make suggestions. (If you ride more than 20 miles per day and/or are training for competition, we recommend a full session with our fitting specialists, for which you’ll want to make an appointment.)
Once your position is right here are other easy things to consider for maximum comfort (be sure to click on the photos for larger images and additional information):
1. Get a sweet seat
You’ve probably already noticed that the places you’re most likely to experience discomfort are where body meets bike. And, no place is more vulnerable than your posterior, which is why our bicycles come with quality seats. Often, if you’re getting sore on rides, especially if you’re new to regular riding, you just need to ride a few more times to get used to the seat. But, if that doesn’t help, you might like to try a different seat.
There are a myriad of shapes, designs and price levels. It’s a personal choice, though, and the best test is trying seats. Also, what works for one, may not work for another. You want one that supports your sit bones (photo, right) and doesn’t put pressure on sensitive areas. And, while it may seem counterintuitive, narrow saddles with less padding are usually more comfy than wide, heavily padded models.
Keep in mind that there are gender-specifc seats and those that feature cutouts (photo), gel etc. A good seat tip is that there are plenty of women who find men’s models more comfortable and vice versa. The key is trying it to determine if it’s right for you. We have lots of experience helping riders find the right seat so we’ll help you pick a winner.
2. Ride in real cycling shorts
Speaking of posterior comfort, let’s talk cycling shorts, another comfort secret no experienced cyclist goes without. A good pair offers ample freedom of movement, excellent breathability and wicking, some type of padding for protection (usually called a “chamois”) and sometimes pockets, vents, compression fabric and other high-tech features.
Plus, unlike cut-offs or gym shorts, cycling shorts won’t chafe, have no seams to cause numbness and even support your working muscles. We have a nice selection of cycling shorts in all styles (and no, you don’t have to wear tight, shiny spandex ones if you don’t want; we have plenty of casual ones, too). And, here’s an important cycling shorts comfort tip: most are made to be worn without underwear so that you enjoy seam-free comfort.
3. Wear good gloves for comfort and safety
Bicycle gloves seem like an extravagance until you consider how important your hands are, how much you use them when cycling (especially if you shift and brake by hand) and what would happen if you crashed. For all these reason we recommend wearing a nice pair of cycling gloves on every ride and we carry a wide selection.
They all include features to enhance your comfort and protection, including padded palms to eliminate any numbness from the nerves in your palms compressed by the handlebars, breathability and wicking to keep you dry and cool, and a snug, sweet fit. You’ll also find ergonomic designs, gel inserts and strategically placed padding. And, there are half- and full gloves, road and dirt versions and summer and winter ones, too. Most gloves include absorbant panels for wiping your face even. A great comfort tip that helps even when wearing top-notch gloves is to ride with a secure, but not too-tight grip. And, also, move your hands every 15 minutes or so to keep them relaxed.
4. Ditch the tee and enjoy the comfort of a proper cycling jersey
Cycling jerseys are made from technical fabrics that wick and breathe to keep you dry and comfortable in any temperature. And, while cotton t-shirts are nice for lounging around, they actually absorb moisture and stay wet, cling to you and chill you.
Jerseys don’t just fit and feel a lot better, either, they usually also have handy pockets in the back (out of the way while riding), include a zipper for excellent ventilation and can include advanced features like reflective panels, sun protection and more. You can choose racer-style jerseys with bright logos splashed over every inch or subdued, loose-fitting tops that look like your favorite tee, we have a wide selection of both. Tip: If you enjoy rides longer than an hour, be sure to carry energy food/snacks in your jersey pockets.
5. Have happy feet by wearing cycling shoes
Your feet power your bike and rotate literally thousands of times per ride so, unless you ride a cruiser-style bicycle with flat, rubber pedals, shoes are a big piece of the comfort puzzle. The problem with plain old sneakers is that they’re flexible, which means you lose power with every pedal stroke. And, even if you don’t care about efficiency losses, you’ll want to avoid the numbness and pain that you can get from pushing down hard on typical bicycle pedals, which can often be sharp and/or small.
Proper cycling shoes address these issues. They’re stiff for good pedal power and protection, offer a glove-like fit for comfort and support, and are relatively lightweight so you don’t have to carry any more extra weight than necessary. There are minimal road shoes (photo), and also mountain-biking and touring shoes, which have soles designed to flex enough for walking and feature tread for a good grip. Tip: There are also plenty of sneaker-type shoes that are cycling-cleat compatible that offer a happy mix of style and cycling function.
We hope these tips help you enjoy cycling more than ever—and remember that we’re always happy to help with any questions about staying comfortable, or anything else cycling. Just let us know. Thanks!