The human body contacts the marvelous machine known as the bicycle in three places: hands, feet and seat. While there is much to be done to improve comfort in all three of these places, a bike will never feel like a reclining easy chair! There are also tradeoffs between comfort and performance.
The feet drive the bicycle so they inherently have pressure on them. Bicycling shoes have a stiff sole which increases efficiency but also reduce the feeling know as hot foot. It is important to have blood flowing into your feet. Shoes that are too tight can be very uncomfortable. On rides over two hours, I will usually loosen my shoes for about a half mile to let more blood flow into them. A pedal with a large surface area will distribute the pressure over a larger area, thus increasing comfort.
The hands steer the bike, and most bike positions require some of your weight to be on your hands. Your position on the bike greatly determines the percent of your weight which is supported by your hands. (See my article on bike fitting from March 2015.) Pressure on the hands can be reduced by padding on the handlebar, larger surface area on the bar and padding in riding gloves. I am very fond of the modern ergonomic grips. These have a flange to increase the useable surface upon which to rest your hands. Road bars with wings of flat spots have a similar effect.
The bicycle seat has been a topic of complaint and concern since the invention of the bicycle. It is important to understand that there no one saddle that is best for everybody. We are all different shapes, sizes and sit on our bikes differently. Your bike seat will never feel like you are sitting on a cloud, but chances are we can help you be more comfortable.
There is good news! With a devise to measure you non-intrusively we can shorten the trial and error process of trying many different saddles.
Getting the right width, shape and density can shorten the process of finding the best saddle for your body. At County Cycles we help you choose a saddle and back that up with a generous return policy. Our goal is to help you enjoy your bike more. If that means helping you try several saddles, we will be happy to!
This article has been discussing the comfort of your body’s weight on the bicycle. There are also comfort concerns coming from the bikes ability or lack thereof to absorb bumps. The first and very important point of contact with the ground is the tire. The shock absorbing effect of the pneumatic tire is often overlooked. If you want a smoother ride, try wider tires.
There are a wide variety of suspension elements built into bicycle frames, forks and seatposts which are designed to absorbs bumps and thus decreasing the jarring your body will encounter. One of the most exciting is Trek’s “IsoSpeed”.
One of the best comforts of bicycle riding is soaking in a hot bath after a long and pleasant ride.