Marcelo Florentino Soares and Pierre Bischoff perform during Trans-Siberian
© Denis Klero/Red Bull Content Pool
Cycling

7 things endurance cyclists should do to stay comfortable

If you're sitting in the saddle for a long time, you'll need to follow these tips in order to stay comfortable for longer.
Written by Phil Burt
6 min readPublished on
Long distance rides are challenging, both mentally and physically. Positional expert and bike fit guru Phil Burt, share his tips on how to make endurance rides more comfortable.

Pre-ride

1. Physical and mental preparation in training.
Comfort starts with your training and preparation. Regular cycling, with long rides that build in duration as you get closer to your goal event, train your body and build your endurance. An ability to comfortably cope with long distance is really only gained by time in the saddle. Training your body to use fuel effectively, strengthening your cardio-vascular system and conditioning your body to hold and maintain your cycling position throughout the ride is something to build up progressively. While working on your physiology your mind is also developing skills to manage the long hours in the saddle.
2. Position right for the task
Your riding position on the bike needs to be right for the task at hand. One rider might have multiple riding positions; the way they sit on the bike will be very different for a 10-mile time trial versus a 100-mile sportive. When it comes to position for a long-distance ride, comfort is paramount. You may be used to seeing riders with ultra-low aerodynamic positions and think this will make you faster, but if you are uncomfortable – your back and neck are aching, for example – then this will have a more detrimental effect on your finishing time than whether or not you have slammed your stem.
3. Your equipment is right for the task
Position relates to bike fit and to the bike you have chosen to ride. Some bikes will simply not allow you to achieve a position that is comfortable and sustainable for endurance events, so your first task is making sure the geometry and your bike fit is up to the task. The contact points on your bike also need consideration; saddle shape and density can have an impact on both your position and your bottom comfort.
Vibration is one of the big bugbears of endurance riders, so anything that dampens it down – from inserts in your frame and frame design, to gel handle bar wrap and padded gloves – will help. You may even opt to leave your super-stiff carbon soled shoes at home for ultra-endurance rides and choose something with a little more give and space, especially in the toe-box as feet can swell up.
4. Chamois cream and saddle comfort
Make sure you have the chamois cream on-hand

Make sure you have the chamois cream on-hand

© Muc Off

In endurance riding it’s often your undercarriage and lower back that takes a beating. Your choice of shorts for endurance rides is super critical – the depth of padding and position of the chamois needs to work for your riding style. If you are in a more upright, endurance position you need more padding at the back of the short than when you are in a lower, more aero position, which rotates your pelvis forward. Some riders prefer thin pads, so they can ‘feel’ the saddle more, whereas others look for thicker padding, choose what works for you and try them out in long training rides before committing to them on an event day. Don’t opt for doubling up on your shorts, they are designed to be warn next to skin, the extra movement and seams in multiple layers causes more problems than it solves.
Before you start your ride prepare the skin of your undercarriage, make sure it is hygienically clean and completely dry before applying chamois cream to both your skin and to the pad of your shorts. Skin that is unwashed, sweaty and damp even before you start riding is asking for trouble! Use a chamois cream that is a rich emollient and long-lasting, be sure to cover all of the areas where chaffing or pressure may occur.

During the ride

5. Frequent changing of positions
Change your position every so often to stretch muscles

Change your position every so often to stretch muscles

© Pavel Sukhorukov / Red Bull Content Pool

During your ride don’t be afraid to move around in the saddle, your riding position should be dynamic not fixed and moving around rests different muscles and relieves pressure. If you are on a drop handle bar road bike switch frequently between the hoods, tops and drops as this will relieve hand pressure and give some relief to your back and shoulders.
Riding out of the saddle for short stretches relieves the pressure on your backside and allows blood-flow to return. It also stretches the muscles of your calves, quads, hamstrings and hip-flexors as well as your shoulders and lower back. When free-wheeling, dropping your heel helps stretch your calves and hamstrings. Regular position changes will make a huge difference to your muscular comfort.
6. Re-application of chamois creams and kit changes
Freshen up your kit for extra comfort

Freshen up your kit for extra comfort

© Masha Berliner / Red Bull Content Pool

On ultra-distance events there is nothing to say you need to start and finish in the same kit. Five minutes spend changing your shorts and reapplying chamois cream can easily be pulled back as a comfortable rider is a faster rider. Fresh, dry shorts, and a soothing new layer of lubricating cream can make a huge difference to your saddle comfort midway through a long ride. If you can make your change quick and efficient with a pre-planned stop, have your kit and cream laid out ready. Psychologically this quick change can help with chunking up the ride into manageable portions so the second part, with your new shorts on, feels like a fresh start.

Post-ride

7. Recovery after for the next event/next day.
Your recovery from one ride is your preparation for the next, particularly if you are involved in a multi-day event such as the Haute Route. It is tempting, once you have stopped, to put that ride behind you – but don’t forget problems and niggles you may have had the minute you get off the bike. Use the information from this ride to prepare better next time. If something worked well, or didn’t work at all, make a note and find a way to change it.
Vladimir Gusev at the 6th stage at the Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme

Vladimir Gusev at the 6th stage at the Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme

© Masha Berliner / Red Bull Content Pool

As far as comfort for your next ride goes, tackle your hygiene first. Get in the shower and wash off the chamois cream and dry yourself thoroughly – ideally let your undercarriage air-dry! Don’t get straight back into tight-fitting underwear or shorts. Assess any sores or chafing you have. You may need to apply more cream after the skin is dry to help with the healing process.
As well as all the usual good advice on recovery food and drink make sure you allow your body some time to rest and stretch areas of your body, especially your lower back, that need it.
Phil Burt Innovation is a new way of approaching bike fit, innovation, cycling performance and comfort. Based in Manchester and soon in London, Phil Burt Innovation helps cyclists of all abilities tap into the same technology.

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