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Old 06-18-06, 07:32 AM   #1
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Comfort - what is it, what is it not?

I have read threads about guys shopping for "comfort" bikes. There are ample discussions about saddle comfort/discomfort - and lots of advice about position, cadence, seat height, and crank length that mention avoidance of knee problems, etc - how one frame is going to be more comfortable or give a more comfortable ride than another.

I'm no maven and no Lance by a far shot. I am a musician, not an athlete. But I ride plenty - have experience on two vastly different bikes - one a steel framed Schwinn, the other an aluminum framed Cannondale.

I've tried padded saddles, non-padded ones - fairly "normal” road saddles, and just put on a long, sleek Fizik - very narrow - no padding that I notice. Did my first long ride with it, no discomfort whatsoever. My riding style used to be 100% in the saddle. Recently, I've fitted my bike with clipless pedals and find myself out of the saddle on long climbs - it certainly adds another dimension to my riding and is certainly less taxing for me on long steep climbs. But I didn't experience any saddle soreness either way.

I have done a couple of 75 mile days - I was plenty spent from riding. Came home, sat down to relax, and didn't wake up until the next morning. But there was no soreness - no pain.

I'm working my way through a book by Ed Pavelka - the "Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills"

There is a section in the book about medical concerns that covers topics like saddle sores, numbness, knees, and a "men's only" chapter about what pressure on that region can do to our "personality."

I don't have aero bars (my LBS guy is trying to talk me in to getting them - he's talked me into everything else, so one day I'll try them as well), so it doesn't really surprise me that I don't experience "urological" problems as a result of my riding.

But I do ride daily and put on some moderate mileage. When I returned to cycling five years ago after a 20 year hiatus, I just basically hopped on my bike and started riding again without concern for fit or fitness - with no worry about knee pain or saddle pain, or any of that stuff.

I'm just curious - have most of us been fortunate to be free of these pesky problems, or is it more generally the rule to experience some pain as a result of riding. The book gives examples of pro riders who have problems - these guys are working with trainers, have the best equipment, are in top shape, and are gifted athletes - so it can't be that I've anything over on them. I know that they are riding at a totally different level than an old guy like me - but it strikes me odd as I read through this book and peruse this BBS that I've really never had any problems.

As for bikes, what characteristics do different frame types lend to the ride that a rider would truly notice as contributing to or detracting from comfort?

Just curious.


Last edited by Carusoswi; 06-18-06 at 09:23 AM.
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Old 06-18-06, 07:51 AM   #2
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I've had some pain with getting used to some saddles a bit of knee pain for one year, but most has gone away..... to me a "comfort" bike could be anything as long as 1) The bike fits. 2) the handlebars are higher than the seat.
Carpe who?
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Old 06-18-06, 08:28 AM   #3
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Great question!

Last year I succumbed and bought a custom made steel bike. When talking with the frame builder, my instructions were to get something that would be as comfortable as possible for the long charity rides that I do (typical is 500 miles over 5 days). I had done these rides on a touring bike which had worked, but it is also my commuter, and I knew that I could get away with a lot less weight.

Here are the ways that the resulting bike differs from the average 'road bike':

The wheelbase is longer - almost as long as my touring bike.
The seat is set back further behind the crank than most road bikes, both from having a steeper seat tube angle, and by using a set-back seatpost.
The frame is larger than my other frames, and the handlebars (drop bars) are about the same height as the seat.
Despite all this, the bike came in really light (half the weight of my commuter)

On past charity rides, I have always finished, and the endorphins that you have surging through your body at the end of a ride like that make you feel good, but - I also had misc pains: neck and shoulder pain, saddle sores, lower back discomfort. I believe that my touring bike was set up to fit me as well as possible - the frame builder who did my custom frame checked the fit, fiddled with it, and after 2 hrs essentially had it back the way it was when I came in.

As far as saddles, I have not found anything that comes close to the comfort of a Brooks B-17 for long rides.

On the new custom frame, I rode from Montreal to Boston, and on arrival in Boston, I felt as though I could have turned around and ridden back - which I am sure would be easier since going from Montreal to Boston, I can say for certain that the two days in Vermont were ALL uphill!

If interested in seeing the touring/commuter bike - go to
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Old 06-18-06, 08:41 AM   #4
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I ride pretty standard geometry road bikes and while I can now ride long distances with no discomfort, I've had my share of pains the last few years getting to this point. I've had shoulder pains, knee pains and some numbness in the hands. I also had some numbness in the Mr Happy area but ergo saddles solved that for me.

In fact, I think I've just fine tuned my new Trek 5900 so I don't have any knee discomfort. It's a different size (58) than my Madone (62) but I thought I had the "fittings" with reach, saddle position, etc the same. I never have had any pains or discomfort with the Madone.

I began having patella pains in one of my knees and tried different remedies of slightly changing the positions of the saddle. What I wound up doing is moving the shoe cleat on the foot forward a few MM's and apparently that has solved the issue. I have not measured my legs but I suspect I have one leg longer than the other as I was not having any pains in the other leg. I know one foot is a half size larger.

My shoulder pain got so bad several years ago I had to get a cortisone shot. I changed the reach and also changed from chromoly to carbon and that has solved those pains.

Muscles are going to get sore and you're going to feel tired after long or very strenuous rides but your joints should not ache.......

A saddle that winds up being unnoticeable to you is a keeper. That's one area I certainly don't worry about style.
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Old 06-18-06, 11:21 AM   #5
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To me, Comfort on a bike is when you can ride with no level of effort that
is truely uncomfortable while not being aware that you are riding a bike.
Everything about the bike is so in tune with both your body,and your abilities,
that you seem to float along.

Much luck or effort (and some expense) will be expended on this state of comfort
but the results are almost a state of narvana and peace when done correctly.

It took me a year to dial my bike in and 8 months to dial my trike in but they are
supreme in the comfort that they afford when I ride.

Last edited by Nightshade; 06-19-06 at 09:59 AM.
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Old 06-18-06, 12:00 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Carusoswi
...I'm just curious - have most of us been fortunate to be free of these pesky problems, or is it more generally the rule to experience some pain as a result of riding...
Hi Carusoswi!

I can't answer for everyone, but I can say that since I began my "second childhood" on a bicycle (at the beginning of 2002), I've been limited by saddle pains. My Electra Townie was only usable for about 30 minutes before I had to get off and let the bottom recover. My Kona Dew Deluxe was the same way. My road-bike style bikes have all been the same. Every saddle I've ever tried has made no significant difference.

I've currently got a recumbent bike that I haven't ridden yet. I'm hoping that the recumbent will allow me to ride without being limited by bottom pains. From what I gather in these online forums, my experience is more common than not.
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Old 06-18-06, 02:38 PM   #7
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I've experienced should pain that has been serious enough to keep me off the bike at times. It is a case or bursitis (in both shoulders. It took me several months to get "comfortable" by moving to a wider set of handlebars. Which is fortunate, given I was ready to give up riding and try something else. For me general comfort is being able to ride longer times (4+ hours) without discomfort above a level 3 on a 1 to 10 scale, and without discomfort the next day that would limit my ability to function fully. I expect my legs to burn on long climbs, my tush to get tender after 75 miles, and my hands to get tired at about 60 to 65 miles. But, if I was doing any other activity for the same amount of time, I would expect similar kinds of minor discomfort.

I sometimes think that many cyclist are also equipment junkies and just like to try new stuff to get their ride closer to perfect, however, perfect is not a realistic goal, IMHO. I know that I'm already starting to develop a condition that will require the purchase of something new within the next few months. What that condition is, I don't have a clue. But I'm explain it to my wife in such a way that not getting the new stuff would just not be the right thing to do.
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