Following on from my previous post about my cycling torture (you can catch up below) my joy at seeing some improvement in both my riding ability and most importantly, my saddle comfort, was dashed in a 50-yard ride from my drive to the end of the road.
I’d decided it was time to put the gravel bike to bed for a well-earned rest and release the road bike from its winter coat of dust and cobwebs. Full of renewed optimism, I’d jumped aboard the road bike for a steady 25 miler but instead, cranked a slow 5o yards and turned for home. I was devastated, devastated and confused! How could everything, after so much improvement over the winter, have gone right back at square one?!
Grabbing a tape measure, I began comparing the distances and angles of every part of the two bikes. There were some differences but they were literally millimeters. Plus, the bikes were different types for different jobs so you would expect some slight differences, wouldn’t you? Having exhausted the tape measure, I turned to the spirit level. Mmmm, the gravel bike on which, I had comfortably ridden all winter, had the saddle tipped, ever so slightly, nose up from the horizontal while the road bike, by about the same degree, was tipped nose down. Surely this couldn’t be the defining difference, could it?
When the husband came home we spent ages tilting saddles this way and that trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ but although it improved, it wasn’t great. There was still no way I could see me getting past the 30-mile pain barrier and definitely not to Paris.
I had invested in a bike fit when I first bought the bike so went back to the shop and told them of my discomfort and the realisation that the saddles on the two bikes, were placed at different angles. The guy in the shop was, as always, great and took my bike away to recheck the measurements and adjust it accordingly. I rode home feeling a bit happier as it definitely felt marginally better. Needless to say, I had been told to ride more and get used to the new riding position and so began another period of riding yet more painful miles.
By now, approximately 8 months after taking up cycling, I had spent a fortune! First, of course, there was a bike, then a bike fit, four different brands of cycle shorts, three saddles, two different brands of chamois cream and oh yes, another bike! SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE!
During my endless hours of searching the internet for an answer, I had come across the Retúl Bike fit. It sounded great but expensive. Ever the cynic I thought “Of course, it sounds good, they’re trying to sell it to me! But now I had reached a stage of such desperation, I would have accepted help from a witch doctor if they said they could transform my lady garden hell, into paradise.
My faffing in the garage with the tape measure and level had made me see how the tiniest degree of an adjustment on any and all parts of the bike, can make a massive difference to your comfort, balance, speed, and confidence, all of which I needed sorting and all of which, the Retul promised to do. And so it was booked.
Another enlightening article I had come across was about how different lady gardens can be and how this can affect comfort. There’s a link at the bottom (no pun intended) that may help you understand your personal physic and help you find the right saddle. Be warned, it’s a little graphic!
While we are talking of differences in lady gardens, it might be worth mentioning that I have, on occasion, wondered if the menopause might be a factor for those of us who are starting cycling later in life. I’ve never had any of the hot flushes or other menopausal side effects (touch wood that I never do!) but having chemotherapy and then ditching the ovaries, I was thrown into the menopause and despite no classic symptoms, I do wonder if my skin down there is more sensitive – just a thought.
So, the Retúl was booked and away I went, hopeful it was going to solve all my problems but also worried it was just another way of getting rid of more money.
Thankfully, I had no need to worry. Tim, at SpeedHub, where I had the fit, was brilliant. Friendly and helpful, it was easy to discuss my problems without embarrassment. My bike was put onto a roller while I was connected to a computer via a variety of wires and sensors. I was then asked to cycle as I would on the open road while the computer logged and filmed my every move. The whole thing took about three hours or more and as I sweated away the virtual miles, the husband somehow managed to get himself a sports massage with the resident sports therapist!
There were so many changes made to my bike it began to feel like a custom build. Once the bike was sorted, I sat on the digital seat and bum measured, the saddle suggested for my (apparently larger than I thought!) physic, was the Cobb plus2. With everything put back into place and the new saddle fitted, I took a short ride around the car park and left the shop a very happy bunny.
May 29th 2018 was my Retul bike fit day and it is now marked in the diary as an annual event for celebration. From that day to this, around 2,000 miles and a three day ride to Paris, I have not had a single sore, bruise or slight chaffing. I have been 100% pain free and when I arrived at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, my only regret was that I wasn’t allowed to ride all the way home again! All hail Tim at Speedhub, my Over-ripe Tomato is now a precious Peach.
Now, I’m not saying that Retul is the fix to end to all your discomfort because you still have to consider all those other factors that the nice man in the bike shop suggested. So here’s that list again with a few notes.
- Get a bike fit – Get the best fit that you can afford. It will be money very well spent and will save you money in the long run when you’re not forking out for yet another saddle.
- A good bike fit will include a digital sit bone measurement giving you a guide to the best size and type of saddle for you.
- Chamois – Whether you prefer thin or thick gel pads is a personal choice but whichever you opt for, quality is important. Take the time to look at different makes and pay particular attention to how the pads are fitted, they should be higher at the front than the back. Inspect the stitching which, should be neatly overlock stitched around the edge, avoid unfinished edges or seams that could rub. Keep in mind those days when you feel like you have a rock in your shoe only to shake it out and find it’s the teeniest bit of grit. The tiniest of bad stitching or rooked seam can give you horrendously painful sores! If you look at a few different clothing brands you will soon spot the differences in quality.
- Bibs vs shorts are a personal preference but again, quality is key, you definitely get what you pay for.
- Though I now find that I can manage without chamois cream,I still use it, just in case. My personal preference (and I’ve tried a few) is for Hoo Ha Ride Glide developed especially for women’s precious bits.
- Core strength develops as you ride more but a pilates class can help.
- Ride more. With all this in place, I could now happily ride for miles and miles pain free!
I wish I had done all this at the start of my cycling journey and saved my self from so much pain, both in my lady garden and my wallet! Eighteen months ago I didn’t even like my bike, now I fiercely protect it as if it were my own child! Quite a change from a few months earlier when my plan had been to throw that bloody instrument of torture into a french ditch and never ride a bike again!
Whether you are struggling with a bit of friction rub or more painful split tomatoes, I hope this helps. I can honestly say that the money spent on the Retul bike fit was the best money I have ever spent on bikes and cycling and as much as I love a bargain, I never skimp on my shorts.
There’s a couple of things I need to stress here
1. This is what has worked for me and I cannot recommend it highly enough but this is my own personal experience so I can’t promise miracles for everyone
2. I am in no way affiliated to any of the companies or products mentioned here and I am not paid for any of these endorsements.
3. If you look on the Retul website, don’t be put off and think it’s for professional cyclists. The website does look a bit scary but trust me, they do little old ladies like me too,
Links you may find interesting or useful-
Warning, this contains some graphic pictures Innie or Outie?
An article on female cyclist problems
Hoo Ha Ride Glide chamois cream
My favorite cycle shorts