I was talking to a customer the other day and he told me that he had always wanted a Specialized Rockhopper mountain bike and had recently bought a second hand one of an auction site. He then told me that he was most disappointed in it and that it was the most uncomfortable bike he had ever ridden.Now, the Specialized Rockhopper is one of our best selling mountain bikes and once we have helped make the basic adjustments complaints about comfort are rare. I told him that there were many things that we could do to help him make the bike more comfortable and suggested that he brought his bike down to the shop.
The Rockhopper, like many of the bikes we sell, comes in six sizes from Small to XXL. The gentleman concerned was approx. 5’ 8” and was clearly in need of a medium frame. The bike he brought in was an XL, two sizes too big for him. This meant that he was over stretching to reach the handlebars, his positioning relative to the pedals was all wrong and when he stood over the crossbar he couldn’t put his feet flat on the floor. I asked him why he had bought such a big bike and he explained that it had been the only one for sale in his price range.
Those of you that know me will know I have many annoying mantras. One is buy in haste and repent at your leisure. There was nothing we could do to make the customer comfortable without putting him on a rack and stretching him.
My first recommendation is;
1) Buy a bike in the right size
However amazing a bike is, if it’s not the right size for you, then you can’t ride it.
We will spend time listening to your requirements and allowing you to try several bikes before making a recommendation. The geometry of bikes will change from manufacturer to manufacturer. A 17” framed Raleigh bike may be the perfect size for you. However a 17” model from another manufacturer may not be suitable at all.
2) Consider making changes to the comfort points
Comfort point are the areas of your bike that you make contact with whilst riding. The saddle, the handle bar grips and the pedals.
Of the three, the saddle is the one which people consider the most important and when you do find one that works, it will transform your ride.
It isn’t always a good idea to fit a wide saddle as they can place pressure in the wrong places and cause chaffing.
If you’re choosing a saddle for longer rides (for example: the forthcoming Wetherby to Filey ride) don’t choose a saddle with lots of padding. Saddles that absorb your weight, instead of supporting your weight, are counterproductive on longer rides.
3) Make adjustments to the bike to suit you
Some simple adjustments can make big improvements to your comfort:
Getting the saddle to the correct height is vital, many people feel safe if they can get their feet flat on the floor but this puts you in a poor position for cycling. Aim to have just the tips of your toes touching the floor.
Adjust your handlebar height. Again, raising or lowering your handlebars can dramatically change your riding position and, amongst other things, reduce back pain.
On Many bikes the handlebar stem can be “flipped” allowing you to raise or lower the handlebar stem by 10 degrees or more. This can shorten or lengthen the reach whilst raising or lowering the bar height. Alternatively, an adjustable handlebar stem can be added to improve comfort.
4) Wear appropriate clothing
Well-fitting shorts with a cushioned seat pad will make a massive difference to your comfort.
Mitts and full-finger gloves can help a lot too. Padded palms help to absorb vibrations from the handlebar (and they’ll also save your hands if you’re unlucky enough to come off).
5) Fit Mudguards
While fitting mudguards might not keep you free from pain, it will still help with your comfort on the bike, keeping your bum and back warm and dry when riding on wet roads.
The above is a brief summary of 5 regular recommendations that that we make. There are numerous others and, if you visit us at The Bike Shop, we will be happy to advise on the most suitable adjustments for you. We have access to sophisticated measuring equipment and computer software to help if required. We also have a huge range of accessories and clothing.