What to Consider For a Comfortable Ride On Your Ride

For an enjoyable ride, make sure you have a bike that fits you. 

Going to a good bike shop to make sure you have the correctly sized bike is very important.  Lower back pain sometimes can result from a bike frame that is too long (overreaching) or too short (compressed back).  Also, think about what kind of riding you want to do.  Do you want to commute around the city daily, ride long distances or ride fast, or do a lot of trails on the weekend?  The right type of bike and frame will help you achieve this.

The 5 contact points of your body to the bike are the saddle, 2 pedals, and 2 sides of the handlebar.  During your ride try to take note of how each of these contact points feel.  Do these contact points feel comfortable over time? Symmetrical?  Or do you feel there is maybe too much pressure on one part of your body?  For example, on a commuter bike, you should generally feel 70% of your weight on your saddle, and the other 30% on your hands and wrists.

Being aware of these contact points might help you know what area might need to be addressed.

Feeling comfortable on your bike starts with your shoes. 

Take the time to go and try on a cycling shoe that fits your foot well.  This is very critical for comfort, economy and performance.  In one hour of riding at 80 revolutions a min (cadence), you are pushing down on the pedal 4800 times with each foot!  For instance, metatarsalgia (forefoot pain) can result from a shoe being too tight, too stiff or too flexible.  The insole of the shoe is also important in minimizing unequal loading of the foot, so finding the right support inside will minimize your risk in foot pain and injuries.

Saddle discomfort when riding is a very common complaint.  The specific saddle that comes with your bike might not always be the best fit for you.  The many body types out there may require a different saddle make up.  For instance, the angle width, cut out vs no cut out, and shape of the saddle will all have an impact on your sitting comfort.  Some saddles are better for longer rides and some more for aerodynamics.  Again, the best way to find this fit is to go and try several saddles to see which one feels the most comfortable for you.  However, keep in mind that other factors like the saddle position, handlebar position, or biking clothing (padding) will also impact how you feel on the saddle.

Finally, most of the injuries on the bike are related to overuse injuries. 

Our bodies change over time with age, and any new activity in a season will take time for our body to adapt to.

When you want to start cycling again in the spring, start with shorter distances (eg start at 1/3 of what your longest ride might be), or minimize too many hills initially in the first few weeks.  Cycling is a repetitive, uniplanar movement and this can result in muscle imbalances.  Certain muscle groups tend to be weaker (back extensor muscles, hip gluteal muscles), and some tend to become tighter (chest pectoralis muscles, hip flexor, and adductor groin muscles).  Having a consistent strengthening and stretching program as your cycle will help your body adaptable and decrease the risk for some of these overuse injuries.  In the end, being injury-free is the key to riding comfortably and performing well!

Written By: Carman Wong