Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

Well, after a two week break I’m back on my road bike and glad to be riding again. I can’t believe I spent two weeks not riding - it was a struggle because I missed biking so much. Some of the break was vacation related but the other part of my break was self-imposed to get some healing time for some bike-related bruising. I realized the smart thing to do was to take some time off, heal and then start over again and see if I can figure out why I had troubles.
Here are the theories of what might have happened to cause my discomfort gathered by bicyclists, my doctor, the people at my bike shop and my own intuition: 
1. I’ve been slightly misaligned on my bike all along and over time irritation and bruising built up. Perhaps the saddle is the wrong size for my bum.
2. My bike got bumped of adjustment therefore I am sitting the bike differently.
3. As I’ve gotten to be a better rider (faster, more aggressive on hills etc.) I’ve changed my position on the bike (ie: leaning more forward etc.).
4. I hit a bad bump on one of my rides and injured myself. Subsequent rides aggravated the injury.
5.I switched from riding mostly trails to some long road rides of 15 miles and more. Road riding is a little different than riding flat bike trails and though my bike was working for trail riding it’s not set up quite right for longer road rides.
6. A combination of all or some of the above
Before I left for vacation Owen and I came up with a plan of what to do to deal with my bike situation. First, I would have my sit bones measured to see if I’m riding the correct size saddle. If so, I would take my bike back to Valley Bike and Ski (my shop - love them) to verify that my bike is still set up the way it is supposed to be. If so I would ask them for recommendations of how to move ahead. Then I would get back into riding slowly going on short rides and build up to longer ones and see what happens.
Before I left for our trip I had my sit bones measured by a Specialized bike fitter person at Erik’s Bike Shop, the local chain of shops that carry Specialized bikes and gear. My sit bones are average so my saddle size is likely correct. This information somewhat rules out #1 as the reason I’ve had trouble but not completely as there are so many saddles out there to fit the wide variety of butts.
Selle Royale saddle that I've been riding. Surprisingly comfortable even though it's small.
This saddle hasn't given me any sit bone pain. It does not have a groove or cutaway in front, though, and may be contributing to my bruising.
On Saturday, the day after we got home from vacation, I hauled my Giant Avail into the shop and explained to John, the assistant manager, what’s been going on. John said he’d check my bike over and suggested I try a saddle, the Curva, that a lot of their female customers like. It’s somewhat padded and though it does not have a physical cutaway that many recommend it has an “anatomical groove (which) properly distributes weight and eliminates hot spots.” I told John to go ahead and put the saddle on my bike and I’d be back on Monday to pick it up. John figures, by the way, that I’m riding somewhat differently now that I’m on the road and mentioned that many bikers do well with under 30 mile rides but start to notice comfort problems once they start longer rides, especially road rides. Knowing this I don’t feel so alone.

The Serfas Curva saddle I'm trying. Much more padded all over, it also has a groove in the front.
It's also wider in the back and shaped quite differently than my Selle Royale.

Monday afternoon I picked up my road bike. John verified that the bike was still set up correctly and I rode 4.6 miles on a flat bike trail with Owen that evening. I pedaled at a good speed (averaged 12.4 mph), felt the wind flow over me, smelled the lovely, fresh, country air and was surprised that I was still strong enough to pedal up a gentle hill out of my saddle the whole way. It felt so good to be on my bike at last!
As for the new saddle, I can feel that more pressure rides on my sit bones with this saddle. I’m not 100% sure this saddle is going to fix things for me as I had a little soreness, perhaps chafing, in the front. I can deal with chafing, I think, but not the bruising I had. Also a few hours after the ride I still had a little discomfort in my sit bones. It’s hard to tell if I was sore because I haven’t ridden or because of the saddle. Today my bum and other bits feel fine and I’m taking the day off from riding. Wednesday or Thursday I’ll hop back on for a short ride of 5 or 6 miles. I plan to gradually increase my distance with each ride and take a day off between them to rest.

I’ll take this a day at a time and see what happens. There are many options out there and though I’ve been really discouraged about this whole bruised bum and bits thing I’m determined to figure this out and be back in the saddle again. 

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