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Does your body adjust to long days in the saddle?

Old 04-02-14, 07:18 AM
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sirtirithon
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Does your body adjust to long days in the saddle?

I have a question for you experienced endurance/long distance cyclist. I have had the worst time finding a saddle that is comfortable. I have tried several Brooks, Selle Anatomica, and many other saddles. I finally discovered that the WTB Rocket seems to fit just right. I have used this saddle for a year now to ride about 20-30 miles a day 5 days a week and I have also done a couple of century rides without discomfort, just the usual mild soreness after 100 miles on a bike. I often wear Pearl Izumi Elite shorts as well, especially on longer rides. Now lately I have been training for the Idaho Hot Springs route in June and I have upped my daily mileage to 50 or so miles a day 5 days a week. I am experiencing some discomfort now after the 5th day or so of this level of training. Enough to bother me when I sit on the saddle first thing the next morning. Will I "break in" to this kind of riding? I am also wearing a camelback hydration pack during my training so it is not a shock when I wear it on the trip. I'm hoping to lose about 15 lbs or so of weight over the next couple of months so that should help as well. I really don't want to go back to saddle shopping again when my WTB Rocket seems to fit so well... Thanks!
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Old 04-02-14, 09:46 AM
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Old 04-02-14, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by sirtirithon View Post
I have a question for you experienced endurance/long distance cyclist. I have had the worst time finding a saddle that is comfortable. I have tried several Brooks, Selle Anatomica, and many other saddles. I finally discovered that the WTB Rocket seems to fit just right. I have used this saddle for a year now to ride about 20-30 miles a day 5 days a week and I have also done a couple of century rides without discomfort, just the usual mild soreness after 100 miles on a bike. I often wear Pearl Izumi Elite shorts as well, especially on longer rides. Now lately I have been training for the Idaho Hot Springs route in June and I have upped my daily mileage to 50 or so miles a day 5 days a week. I am experiencing some discomfort now after the 5th day or so of this level of training. Enough to bother me when I sit on the saddle first thing the next morning. Will I "break in" to this kind of riding? I am also wearing a camelback hydration pack during my training so it is not a shock when I wear it on the trip. I'm hoping to lose about 15 lbs or so of weight over the next couple of months so that should help as well. I really don't want to go back to saddle shopping again when my WTB Rocket seems to fit so well... Thanks!
There are so many variables that it is very hard to say what's going on. I've certainly had the experience of saddles that were comfortable on shorter events becoming agony on longer ones. Though I'm talking about comfortable for 300 miles and two days, agony after 400 miles and three to four days. It may well be that as you have upped your distance and frequency, that you are running into unsurmountable limitations of your saddle. But it's also possible your butt needs to (and will) get tougher. Some of the saddles you tried earlier may now be more comfortable now that your butt has gotten more used to longer rides. So if you still have the SA or Brooks, consider trying them again.

My thinking on saddles: Assuming you have the saddle height and handlebar height and reach correctly adjusted, then the next variable is saddle tilt--it should be set so that you can sit up vertically and not feel like there is any tendency to either roll forward or backwards on your sit bones. And while you are in your normal position on the handlebars and then you lift your hands an inch above the handlebars you should also have no tendency to roll forward or backward. That way you know you are balanced between your contact points of feet, butt, and hands. Next, you want to have a saddle that supports your weight on the flats of your sitbones. If the saddle is too narrow so that your sitbones straddle it, then the pressure on the insides of the sitbones becomes agonizing plus you'll tend to have weight on the soft tissues that should be non-weight-bearing and so will likely go numb. If the saddle is wide enough and saggy enough that you've got pressure on the outside of your sitbones, then it probably wouldn't even be rideable for more than bombing around the beach and back. Even if the saddle is just the right width, if it spreads your weight so that only a portion is on the sitbones and much of the rest is on soft tissue, then again at the long distances it will tend to create numbness and become agonizing. (That's what happened with me on my first 1200km, my Specialized Avatar saddle just was a little too soft.) So, for these reasons, many (not all!) randonneurs who ride 1200km's ride on leather saddles, either Selle Anatomica, Brooks, or Rivet.

Nick
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Old 04-02-14, 01:11 PM
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Good suggestions in both previous posts, I think, but before making gear or setup changes, I would suggest waiting a while longer to see if you get used to the recent change in your training regimen. You have just doubled your weekly mileage, which is a bit "violent". Give your body some time and be sure to plan some rest days. If that fails, here are a few other suggestions.

You could consider adopting a different training schedule, alternating between intensity, distance and rest days, so that you ride longer distances less often. As for me, even with what I think is proper training, gear and optimal setup, after ≈150 miles I will start feeling my saddle. From then on, it will slowly get worse with time, but my legs or mind will typically give up before my butt does.

As for the Camelback, I've seen others use it but I try to keep the extra weight I put on the saddle strictly to what I'm wearing (don't even put stuff in my pockets!). I installed a Camelback bladder in my frame to keep the weight off my back. Loosing weight could also reduce your saddle sores.

I don't know if you have them, but aerobars have helped me immensely. By periodically switching to the aeros, you change your position and the weight distribution on the saddle. This has definitely helped me ride longer and more comfortably.

Lastly, while I ride, I like to spend some of the long hours focusing on specific parts of my body. Periodically it'll be my butt's turn. I try to feel every little movement, every point of pressure, and experiment with minute shifts (a millimetre or so at a time) up and down the saddle to see what impact they have. Other times I'll sit at the absolute back of the saddle for a mile or less, just to make a change. This sort of periodic small change also helps me ride longer and more comfortably.
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Old 04-04-14, 03:42 AM
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You do adjust to your saddle and to being on the bicycle for long periods of time.

A few tips:

-- The fitter you are, the greater your saddle choice, and the longer you can ride. Keep riding, and gradually increasing your distance. But also do other activities as well.

-- The stronger your core is, the greater your saddle choice, and the longer you can ride.

-- Stretch ... ride for a while, then stop and stretch your lower back and hamstrings.

-- Make sure your bicycle is set up correctly. If your saddle is too high, you'll rock and there will be pain. If your saddle is too low, there will be extra friction. And it helps to have the rest of your bicycle set up correctly too.

-- Regarding the saddle. Make sure it is wide enough so that you are sitting on your sitbones, but not so wide that there's chafing. You might experiment with tilt too. With a Brooks saddle, for example, most people like to have the nose tilted up.

-- And of course, there's also the shorts. Make sure you've got shorts which have padding wide enough to cover the sitbones. Make sure that they are tight, but not so tight they're cutting off the circulation or painful in any way.
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Old 04-04-14, 09:28 AM
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Jumping from 20-25 mile rides to 50 mile rides five days per week is asking a lot from your body. Way too much increased load.

I'd back down the mileage and build up more slowly.

If you still have pain there after another two weeks, get a good bike fit instead of looking at a new saddle.
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Old 04-04-14, 12:10 PM
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Thanks for the advice guys!

I spent the last couple of days playing with saddle adjustment. I ended up setting the saddle perfectly level and moving it forward about a half inch. Made all the difference! Now when I get on the saddle first thing I experience mild soreness which goes away in 10-15 minutes and then its all comfort. I haven't done a ride over 40 miles since the adjustment so I'm curious to see long term how it goes.

I would really like to get a professional bike fitting sometime. I'm sure that would help.

I have been terrible when it comes to stretching during and after rides. I need to make sure I'm doing that. I have some knee issues that stretching has always cured when I do it.
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Old 04-04-14, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
-- The stronger your core is, the greater your saddle choice, and the longer you can ride.

-- Stretch ... ride for a while, then stop and stretch your lower back and hamstrings.
Machka... I love you... you're absolutely on target!

Most people (especially runners and cyclists) totally overlook core strength and flexibility. Having a strong and fit core fixes or prevents sooooo many problems. And makes you faster too.

Example:
My little brother is 47 years old, and he has always been fast on a bike. He even won the Georgia State Amateur Cyclocross title several years ago... he's fast.

But he's always had the typical cyclist's build... skinny... legs with wire bands for muscles... arms like a bird.

Then about a year ago he started doing Crossfit. They do a lot of core strength and total body type workouts. He now has muscle definition in his arms and a toned look all over instead of just "cyclist skinny". No additional aerobic workouts or extra miles on the bike... but you should see him go now. He is an absolute monster on the bike. And he chalks it all up to improved overall fitness with an emphasis on balanced workouts and core strength.

I know it's anecdotal evidence... but it's been impressive to see firsthand.
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Old 04-04-14, 12:51 PM
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Good point on core strength! I used to be a gym rat and did a lot of full body workouts. I was physically strong but lacked in cardio. When I took up cycling I quit the gym and now all of my exercise comes from cycling. So that being said, my core strength is lacking. I should start some other exercises a few times a week.

I'm really counting on this Idaho Hot Springs ride being a run down for the Tour Divide route in 2015. Id like to work out any kinks in my setup now.
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Old 04-04-14, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by sirtirithon View Post
Thanks for the advice guys!

I spent the last couple of days playing with saddle adjustment. I ended up setting the saddle perfectly level and moving it forward about a half inch. Made all the difference! Now when I get on the saddle first thing I experience mild soreness which goes away in 10-15 minutes and then its all comfort. I haven't done a ride over 40 miles since the adjustment so I'm curious to see long term how it goes.
...
Good for you, I was going to suggest you play with the saddle tilt and setback. I find that my saddle has got to be perfectly level, and when it is, it is significantly more comfortable to sit on.

Another thing to look at is shorts. You should try different brands of shorts and find the ones that don't cut you up or abrade you after eight or ten hours in the saddle. I think it's important to wear different brands of shorts each day so that the stitching doesn't rub against the same spot for too long. Try to get the shorts made of the thickest material you can find. Good shorts usually fit a bit longer, as well, and for sure they'll come high enough at the back so your back is less likely to be exposed (unless you're wearing bibs).

During the ride, it also helps to move around a bit. You don't want to be planted in one place on the saddle for most of the ride. You want to be out of the saddle for part of the climbs, and moving forward or back on the saddle as comfort dictates, just like you change hand position on the bars.

Luis
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Old 04-05-14, 05:50 PM
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I have to ask, because it hasn't been mentioned at all, what bike is the OP riding? My feeling, based on some relatively recent experience, is that freame configuration, especially seat tube angle and handlebar drop from saddle height, may have an influence on saddle comfort.

As to getting a professional fit, proceed with caution. You absolutely do not want a race fit. And most fitters don't understand the needs of a long distance rider. My suggestion is to change one thing at a time, and see how you feel.
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