Category Archives: Cool Gear

Avoiding saddle sores

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now, but never quite got around to it.  I’ve not been out on the bike as much in the last couple of weeks and the the area I’ll notice this the most is where you sit on your saddle.  There are really 3 things that significantly influence your ride comfort when you’re sitting in the saddle:

  1. chamois in your cycling shorts or bibs
  2. your saddle geometry
  3. your seat post

I recently wrote a review about some cycling shorts I received for Christmas.  After some time in the saddle,  I have to say I like the Performance Elite bib shorts the best, especially in colder weather.  The Hincapie shorts are pretty nice too, but they’re much lighter weight and I’m sure I’ll appreciate them more when the temperatures go above 90 here in Texas.

Your saddle is also pretty important when it comes to ride comfort.  Contrary to what seems intuitive, it’s not really about the amount of padding in the saddle.  In order to understand why you get sore on a ride, you’ll need to think about the contact points when you’re seated on the saddle.  While there’s a significant amount of weight on the top of the saddle, there’s also a fair amount of force exerted on the side of your saddle as you pedal and it’s this movement that usually causes the soreness.  If you’re riding a road bike like I do most of the time, your saddle’s up pretty high and this makes a difference too because you’re not going to want a wide, cushy saddle.  A wider saddle will put added pressure on the insides of your legs where they meet your pelvis.  Not everyone’s the same so a saddle that works for me in terms of width might not work for you.  Also, mens and women’s saddles are very different.  So how do you know what saddle will work best for you?  The best thing to do is take your bike down to your local bike shop and try a few of them.  Most bike shops have an exchange policy so if you discover your new saddle gives sores after 50 miles on longer rides, you can swap it out for another one that works best for you.  Make sure you check the flexibility of the saddle on the sides where it meets the insides of your legs near your pelvis.

Last, but not least, your seat post will have a significant influence on your ride comfort.  Last year, I upgraded my ride to a 2008 Trek Madone 5 series and I immediately noticed a huge difference in ride comfort over longer distances.  I’d been riding a Lemond Buenos Aires bike for many years and really liked the smooth ride the Reynolds 853 steel frame afforded me over longer distances.  Apparently, my raves about my new ride prompted my friend Jeff to go out and get a Madone as well and we rode together on the Wurst Ride.  While I was riding behind him I noticed something quite remarkable.  His entire seat post flexed from side-to-side while he was pedaling, and not just a little.  I asked him if mine did the same thing and he said he noticed the same thing on my bike.  I’ve not seen other bikes exhibit this degree of flexibility.  Of course, one look at the Madone’s seat post and you’ll see it’s totally different from most other bikes.  The seat post actually goes over the bike frame instead of sliding into it.  I don’t understand all the physics involved, but my observations indicate it has a big impact on my overall ride comfort.  Different bike manufacturers use different techniques to smooth out your rides and it’s important to understand what their doing before you drop some serious coin on a bike.  If you’re in the market for a new bike, do some research and ask lots of questions.  A good bike shop will know about these features and be able to explain them to you.

I managed to rack up about 4K miles on my new bike in a little over 6 months of riding.  That’s almost double what I did the previous year on my old bike.  I’ve got a Selle Italia Trans Am Flite saddle on my Lemond and the Bontrager Affinity saddle that came with my Madone.  Both are very comfortable over long distances.  Saddles have changed dramatically over the last couple of years, so if your saddle is more than 2 or 3 years old, it’s worth checking out what’s available now.

The cool gear channel

You won’t find it on the array of channels offered by your local cable company. If you’re a regular reader or follow me on twitter/facebook you know I spend a fair amount of time on my bike, much of it riding solo.  It’s not that I’m anti-social or don’t like riding with others, it just works out that way.  It’s hard to find a group of riding buddies that ride at exactly the same pace as you do and have exactly the same training needs or goals.  Even when I ride with a group, we often ride at apart for a portion of the ride.  The larger the group, the more likely it is that I’ll find someone who rides at my pace, or reasonably close to it.  That’s one of the reasons I like organized rides.   Other reasons include seeing friends I don’t get to ride with very often, meeting new friends and getting the opportunity to check out the gear other cyclists use.  The last reason is pretty important because there are many options for cyclists and limited local channels where you can find gear.  This isn’t a knock on the local bike shop (I’m a huge fan), it’s simply a matter of economics.  The shops can really only afford to stock items that most people will buy, which limits the number of specialty items they can carry.

The internet has created the channel for these specialty items.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine how a product will work on your bike by just looking at a picture.  Sure, Youtube videos have enhanced the ability of the makers of specialty items to demonstrate their wares, but there’s never a substitute for being able to see the product up close or, better yet, see  it being used on the road by a cyclist.  That’s where a large organized ride provides vendors and riders to experience these specialty products first hand.  There’s lots of time to check stuff out as you’re riding in a group for miles and miles and miles.  Sure, the scenery is nice, but after a while, your mind wanders and that’s when I use this time to see what gear others are using.  Here’s a couple of things I saw on the Austin Cycle Camp / Bicycle Sportshop Resolution Ride a few days ago.

Tim and I at the start of the Resolution Ride

It should no secret that I like unique and somewhat outlandish jerseys, after all, many of my cycling friends find me wearing a jersey that looks like something from the movie Close Encounters of the 3rd kind.  But that’s exactly the point. Unless you’re part of a team, why wear the same jersey or kit everyone else has? It’s important to me that my jersey is easily visible and that it stands out.  I ran into my twitter friend Tim and he was sporting his Test Dummy jersey.  I love this jersey.  I can also relate to the sense of humor that resulted in him getting this jersey.  We both recently experienced crashes that required a visit to the emergency room.  However, this jersey is probably more appropriate for my youngest son, who’s got preprinted forms at the local ER.

Velovie Vitesse SE

On the ride I spent a fair amount of time riding behind a bike I’d never seen before.  While many bikes look alike to most folks, I’ve come to appreciate their subtle differences and this one caught my eye.  It was a Velovie Vitesse and I’d never seen one of these before.  I asked the rider about their bike and she described it as a Cervelo competitor.  I’ve always thought Cervelo bikes were cool, but some of that probably had  to do with the fact that their designer’s name, Gerard Vroomen, just makes them sound fast.  Anyway, I checked out Velovie and found out that they only sell their bikes online.  In fact, they have a rather interesting program where you can purchase a previously owned Velovie at a discounted price to make it more reasonable to try one of their bikes.  These bikes are all less than 2 years old and are often bikes that other Velovie owners have traded in for different Velovie models.  I like this concept because it’s a smart business decision.  It allows the company to build up brand loyalty and differentiate themselves.  It works because the rider I spoke with was very passionate about how much she liked her ride.  Although it sounds French, Velovie is a US company based in Arizona.

The Italian Road Bike Mirror

On the way back from Andice, I rode with a group of riders for a few miles until they dropped me.  I like to ride fast, but this group kicked it into another gear about 5 miles in and I decided I wasn’t willing to hurt myself to hang with them. It’s always a bit unnerving to ride in a tight bunch at speed when we’re 3 or 4 abreast.  One thing I’d noticed on the way out was that the group tended to decelerate rapidly at the base of every climb.  If you’re not paying attention, this can be a disaster because invariably, someone will clip a wheel and all of a sudden it’s mass carnage.  Sure enough, this happened just after we passed FM 3405 on our way back.  Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. Shortly thereafter I passed a rider who had one of these mirrors that was apparently part of his handlebars.  I slowed to ask him about it and he told me it was The Italian Road Bike Mirror.  What’s cool about this mirror is that its barely larger than your bar end and doesn’t get in the way.  Yet it provides you critical visibility to what’s in your blind spot on that side of the bike.  This is crucial when there’s a crash in the group you’re riding with because you won’t have time to turn around to see if you have room to go left or right.  That’s why you often see a bunch of riders go down in a race after one of them falls.  The results are never pretty.  I really like this product and will probably get one.  I thought I’d wait until I need some new bar tape because you have to wrap your bar tape around the mirror to fasten it to your handlebars.  Very cool!

I think if I owned a local bike shop, I’d give riders an opportunity to suggest products they liked on a ride that I sponsored.  What a great opportunity to find out what my prospective customers would buy.

Have you found an cool gear on any of your rides that you’d like to share?  Let me know.

P.S.  Thanks Ray for that great picture you snapped of Tim & I.