Three contact points for comfort

Elite cyclists might think pain is part of the sport. For mere mortals, getting on your bike should not be a painful experience. Your body makes contact with the bike in three places: hands, feet and buttocks. Get them right and you’ll have much more fun.

Shoes can cause problems. Soft-soled shoes like runners don’t support your arches. Each time you push down on the pedals, your foot bends. That can cause pain in your arches. The simple fix is to wear stiff-soled shoes.

Specialist cycling shoes have stiff soles to provide support and many look just like an ordinary walking shoe. But if you don’t want buy dedicated cycling shoes, choose your footwear with support in mind.

A common hand problem is numb fingers caused by pressure on the nerve in your palms. Make sure your seat height, and fore and aft position are right. This reduces the pressure you place on your hands. Generally, your saddle should be level, but sometimes tilting it back slightly can force you to sit on your “sit bones” and relieve pressure on your hands.

Cycling gloves also help. These are designed to prevent chafing and blistering and they usually come with padded palms which help protect from bumps and vibrations.

If you’re just starting, you’re using muscles you didn’t know you had. Get your bike set up correctly and don’t overdo it in the beginning. Those muscles soon get the idea and cease to bother you.

Saddles put pressure on soft tissue and the wrong saddle can be very painful. See if you can test ride some different saddles. And beware the super-soft gel seat cover. Sinking into them can put just as much pressure on parts you’d rather it didn’t. The right saddle is usually a better solution.

You may cringe at the thought of lycra. But cycling shorts (or knicks) are so popular because they are so comfortable. They’re designed to be worn without underwear and incorporate a bit of that extra padding you might need. They’re tight-fitting to eliminate chaffing. If you’re shy about pulling them on, you can buy so-called shy shorts. These combine a pair of knicks inside a pair of ordinary-looking shorts.

Once you’re comfortable, you’ll find your riding much more enjoyable and you’ll get out there much more often.

See you on the road soon, God willing. Eddie Barkla

First published in the Bendigo Weekly Friday 18 August 2006

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