11 Ways To Make Your Bike More Comfortable
Let’s be honest, long rides can get uncomfortable. And bikes don’t always fit perfectly right out of the gate. But there’s hope. With some simple parts changes, specialty components, and proven techniques, it’s possible to make your bike more comfortable for long-haul rides and bikepacking trips. In our latest video, Neil shares 11 methods, products, and ideas…
Anyone who’s gotten into bikepacking, randonneuring, or other categories of long-distance cycling has likely struggled with discomfort issues on the bike—some of us more than others. I’ve always been relatively okay with most bikes, making a few tweaks and adjusting (and resigning) to the nuances. However, I realize there are repercussions for riding an ill-fitting bike for a long journey. Virginia has had a decade-long battle with bike fit and spent several months working with an occupational therapist to improve bike fit and strengthening to help alleviate wrist issues. There are a lot of factors to consider. So, where to begin? To get started, Neil came up with 11 ways to make your bike more comfortable, and he summarizes them in this video. Watch it below and scroll down for a few suggestions and additional links.
Here is a list of recommendations, links, and resources we’ve pulled together based on several of the points Neil made in the video above.
Saddles and Saddle Width
Measuring your sit bone width is a good place to begin when choosing a saddle, as Neil points out. But we’ve also found that it’s important to try a lot of options and figure out which saddle works for you prior to a big ride. This is an expensive endeavor, however. And to make things more complicated, we’ve all tried a lot of options and have landed on a variety of favorites. Check out our Decade in Review Editor’s Favorite Saddles roundup for some suggestions.
Most of the time, comfort issues related to hands or wrists have to do with the length of your bike’s cockpit. Adjusting your stem length is one of the easiest ways to tweak the fit of your bike. I have a significant stem collection in order to be able to make these tweaks, but I realize that not everyone has that luxury. A bike fit will answer this question, as well as provide measurements for future bike purchases. As far as stems that we like, the Easton EA70 is a trusted, mid-range budget option that comes in tons of lengths and either in 0° or +-7° angles. The USA-made PAUL Boxcar is a little more flashy and comes in a variety of lengths and clamp sizes too.
Tire Volume (and Suppleness)
As Neil mentioned, increasing your tire volume can be a great benefit to your comfort level on a bike, particularly a rigid bike. Several of us here like 29 x 2.6″ tires for that very reason. However, another factor to consider is the tire’s suppleness. Some tires seem to have a good balance of durability and a comfy ride. A few that we like in that regard include the Teravail Ehline, WTB Ranger, and Rene Herse Fleecer Ridge.
Grips and bar tape are another place that makes a huge difference in comfort. As Neil pointed out, many of us here are flat-bar aficionados and like the Ergon GA3, which offers incredible hand support. However, it doesn’t jive with everyone. Virginia never got along with Ergons, and her occupational therapist—who specializes in working with cyclists—recommended foam grips. There are multiple options from ESI, and we really like Wolf Tooth’s line of foam grips, including the Fat Paw. When using the relatively thin bar tape on drop bars, I’ve also used the Fizik gel inserts and had good results.
Alt Bars and Flared Drops
There are dozens of alt bars and gravel bars available now, as you can see in our Alt Bar Index and Gravel Bar Index. If you’re relatively new to cycling, it might be a bit overwhelming. All of us here at BIKEPACKING.com have different ideal preferences. Cass likes the dramatic 45° back sweep of the Jones bars, for example, while Virginia and I prefer a more moderate ~15-25° backsweep. If you are alt bar-curious, try borrowing a pair from a friend before buying them.
Suspension Posts and Stems
While not for everyone, suspension stems and seat posts offer a little bit of cushion at the two main points of contact. You can find a wealth of seatpost options in our Suspension Seatpost Index. As for stems, we’ve used the Redshift stem and like it. I find that the movement of these stems negatively effects bike handling in more technical trail situations, which is why I prefer the off switch on Cane Creek’s new eeSilk stem.
Other Ways to Make Your Bike More Comfortable
A commentor on our YouTube channel suggested workouts that involve strength training and mobility. This is a great suggestion as having a strong core plays a major role in alleviating pressure on your hands, something that Virginia was taught after needing carpal tunnel surgery a couple years ago. Have any other tips or suggestions for making your bike more comfortable? Please leave them in the conversation below!
Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.