Why a Softer Bicycle Seat Won’t Help Your Sore Butt

If your butt or crotch is hurting you when you’re riding you bicycle, you might be surprised to learn that your seat (or saddle) is probably not the problem. That’s right! For most people experiencing butt or crotch pain when cycling, buying a new saddle is usually a last resort.

Source: My Butt Hurts When I Ride My Bicycle. What Kind of Saddle Do You Recommend?

I was really lucky – the saddle I got fit perfectly.  It was what allowed me to move to a full carbon saddle (all of it, not just the rails) without any issues.  With the measurements, I was able to shop with confidence.

Finding out about your hip bones is very important.  Once that is out of the way, adjusting the saddle is easy to do yourself – it generally requires an allen/hex key and some trial-and-error.  Saddle height for most means pain in the legs, not butt.  Just make sure it’s in line with the top tube when you tighten things down.

So You Want to Lighten Your Bicycle?

The following list runs starts at how easy it is to install yourself:

  • Seatpost
  • Saddle
  • Stem
  • Handlebar

Optimistically, all four could drop ~450 grams/1 lb.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

If you are doing this entirely on your own, be extra careful about measurements.  If you haven’t done this stuff before, know that there can be imperfections in sizing.  I’ve seen issues with seatposts because either the seatpost diameter was a millimeter too small, or the frame diameter is slightly bigger.  Stem length is something I’d discuss with a bike fitter, but it’s possible you’ll find out you’re on a poorly sized bike to begin with.

Material

Back in the day carbon failure was a more likely possibility.  Carbon failure can mean a very sharp edge, and all-or-nothing operation.  If alloy/aluminium fails, you can still ride on it to get home.  Carbon in theory should dampen shock/road noise, but it’s not really noticeable in my experience – the frame and/or fork makes a bigger difference.  Depending on your frame, some metal on metal combinations can bond together over time – ask about it if concerned.

My research based on weight suggests there’s no difference between metal and carbon – the lightest stem is still around 100 grams, lightest seatpost comes in around 150 grams.  However the lighter handlebars are typically carbon.

Saddles

A big part about saddles is your seat bones, and everyone is different.

’nuff said?

Saddle angle can be a personal preference.  I’ve ridden some setups where it felt like I was going to fall off the back.  The rational behind the angle I’ve heard from some is that nose down is more aggressive, meant for sprinting/etc while tipped back is better for climbing.  But I know some who disagree it matters at all.  One benefit of having the nose down was that my bib/cycling shorts were less likely to catch & tear.

Saddle rails – how the saddle anchors to the seatpost – can impact seatpost choice.  Some stuff is proprietary (Ritchey stuff recently), and carbon rails had clearance requirements.

Depending on the length of seatpost, you can trim it to save weight.  That said, this is not something I’d try with a carbon seatpost and more importantly –  it voids warranty, in addition to limiting resale potential.

You’ve Done All That, Now What?

Depending on what’s currently on the bike, you could consider getting a higher-end cassette (gears on the backend).  You can swap these yourself, but you need a chainwhip tool.  Just using Shimano as an example, going from a 105 cassette to a Dura-Ace one will save you ~100 grams/3.5 ounces.  That’s also wheel weight, which will help with acceleration.  The trade-off is both cost, and wearability.  Lighter things don’t tend to take abuse as well as others – it’s worth buying a chain length tool to replace worn chains ASAP to minimize cassette wear.

I ran a Dura-Ace chain for a while.  It was light, but seemed to stretch very quickly and was costly to maintain.  I’ve had less issues with an Ultegra chain.  The consensus I’ve encountered was that few could really tell the difference in chain quality – they all seemed to wear out the same.  Which reminds me – I should check my chain…

The rear derailleur?  For the hassle, I opt for a mechanic to swap these.  The weight savings is less than for a cassette – 75 grams/2.6 ounces.  I think you’d notice more if the shifters were upgraded than the shifter.

The crank can be a good place to save weight.  You have to be aware of the bolt pattern for chainrings – the BCD might only support compact (50/34 max) or the usual 53/39.  Some cranks are setup to support a wide variety of chainrings.  The next issue is bottom bracket.  There’s numerous “standards”, and some are proprietary (Cannondale?).  As for crank length, there’s no benefit from having longer cranks.  In reality, it’s more material so more weight, and can mean less clearance when cornering with the crank on the inside of the corner down (IE if you pedal while cornering).  But you can easily save 200 grams/7 ounces, and stiffer cranks means better power transfer – you’re not loosing power as the crank flex under load.

Wheels can easily be one of the most expensive means of dropping weight on a bike.  I do not recommend pre-packaged wheelsets.  Custom wheels are likely to cost less and get you a superior wheelset.  Talk to your local bike shop, but if you’re really wanting to save money – learn to build the wheel yourself.  Worst case scenario, take the wheel(s) into a bike shop to be trued/dished.  Lacing a wheel is not that difficult.  Rim brake wheels can get under 1 Kg/2.2 lbs in the ultra high-end category, to date the lightest disc brake wheelset I’ve encountered might be under 1.4 Kg/3 lbs.  It can be a very noticable difference, going to a lighter wheelset.  Less weight to power, and faster acceleration.

SRAM, Campagnolo, Electric Shifting (Di2, etc)

I haven’t ridden SRAM, but the reputation is that the offering is substantially lighter than Shimano but short-lived.  But I prefer the cranks to Shimano offerings, especially since the move to four arms.

I have ridden Campy, but not extensively.  I liked the thumb shifters.  By reputation it’s expensive, and can be difficult to source parts locally in a pinch but that’s likely to be better in more major cities than where I am.  Unlike Shimano, Campy stuff can be rebuilt – the shifters anyway.

I haven’t ridden on electric shifting, but accounts the Shimano stuff is fantastic.  Automatic trimming so you’re not adjusting either derailleur.  If the battery dies, it stays in the current gear.  I was last told that Di2 is 30 grams lighter than the mechanical alternative.  The shifter pods for triathlon/time trial (TT) are pretty awesome too.

Cycling: 8 Ways to Become a Better Climber

Climbing. Some love it, some hate it. More often than not a rider’s attitude towards climbing correlates with their bodyweight. The bottom line is that climbing is generally dictated by watts per kilo. Simply put: to climb faster, you need to put out more power, or weigh less. Or both.

There are a myriad of strategies that can be enacted with coaches, physiologists and nutritionists until you’re light and strong enough to leave all your mates behind. But bike races are not raced in a lab.

It’s a curious observation that those who test well in the lab often get smashed by their less-impressive counterparts in real-life racing. Sometimes it’s attitude, sometimes its technique, sometimes it’s pacing. But whatever is letting you down, here are a few tips to help you improve.

Source: 8 ways to become a better climber

Being at the front is a tip I’ve gotten for group rides too.  The rationale is that stronger climbers will pass you, but hopefully you won’t fall to the very back – so you’ll still crest the hill with the majority of the group.

Being in or out of the saddle, all that matters is that you are comfortable.  I was given a “tip” once that if everyone else is out of the saddle – you should be too.  I disregarded the tip, and have since found the following video:

The science says there’s no difference (same as the article), even if the standing test was done so the guy wasn’t standing the entire time.  What really dictates getting out of the saddle is how steep the climb is – you need to get out of the saddle to keep the weight distribution between the front and rear wheel.  Too much in the back, the front lifts and you could end up on the ground.  Too much in the front, and you loose traction in the rear – spin out.  Spinning out isn’t that much of an issue on pavement/asphalt, but when the terrain is loose (gravel, dirt, mud) – it’s a lot more likely, and a lot more obvious.

Listening to the breathing of the people around you is very much a thing.  In a group ride, it’s a courtesy to the person you’re paired with so you know if you should back off the pace.  But as the article points out – in a competitive setting, use that to your advantage.  Which leads into the next point…

As with any competition, knowing your opponent is key.  Know when your opponent is “riding the rivet” so you can push them beyond the breaking point.  I’ve had the experience where people misread me, because I am an unorthodox cyclist – I push big gears, low cadence.  I get a lot of sneers, and it takes a few rides before that goes away.