When I visit a bike shop almost none of the bikes I see will ever fit me. I'm not the biggest Clyde, but at 6 foot tall and more than 200 lbs, most bikes were not developed for someone like me. The sport bikes and the road race bikes are not going to be comfortable and the wheels are not going to be perfectly reliable. The Cyclocross and Touring bikes are better, but I need a 59 or 60cm frame size with 32 spokes per wheel and few, if any, of the bikes seen for sale at the dozens of bike shops in Chicago will meet that requirement.
A year ago I decided I needed a reasonably capable road bike that would allow me to ride 10 hours a week. I also wanted a bike that would perform well enough to finish a Century (100 mile) ride in 6 hours. Knowing that shopping for a bike at some of the bike shops would be as fruitful as asking a blackjack dealer for investment advice, I worked with a professional fitter who supported my decision to build a Soma Double Cross. He suggested it in a size 60cm frame with a 110mm stem and a zero setback seatpost.
But building a bike was just a starting point; I would soon discover that small changes in the position of the seat and handlebars would have a big impact on riding comfort and performance. As I increased my riding from 200 miles per month to 600 miles per month, my body changed. How do I know, well... everything hurt for a while. My feet hurt from softer cycling shoes and limited pedals. My seat hurt from an overly narrow seat. My hands hurt from a stretched out reach that made using the drops a problem. Oh, and my back hurt too, especially if I tried to stay in a more aggressive riding position.
Two things happened. First my body eventually became strong enough for longer and faster rides. My core strength improved. My diaphragm opened up. I lost 30 lbs. Secondly; I reevaluated my shoes, pedals, seat and handlebars.
The shoes and pedals provided the largest improvement. Having hot spots and pain at the balls of your feet will cut short the best ride. I was also surprised that better shoes also reduced the pain I had at the saddle. I stopped putting too much weight on my seat and started to use my shoes and pedals as a platform to support much of my weight. The result, no more sore seat. The better shoes and pedals also supported faster cadence and I was soon spinning at 100 rpm with a smooth crank action. I could also stand and mash while climbing without foot pain or clipping-out. This change alone resulted in higher average speeds and improved ability to endure longer rides.
The other changes needed were minor but also worked well. A compact handlebar from FSA made it much easier to stay on the drops for as long as I wanted. I just needed a little shorter reach, and now my hands stay comfortable even without padding and my back is no longer sore. I also went from a skinny Felt seat to a wider Brooks Professional.
The result is a bike that has disappeared. No discomfort. Ever. Now I focus on developing the motor, knowing that the bike will support me.