Whatever type cycling you’re into, you’ll enjoy it more – and probably ride faster and more efficiently – if you’re comfortable. Here’s a roundup of articles on road.cc that’ll help you get there.
Get a bike fit
If you’re not comfortable on your bike, it could be a fundamental issue with your setup.
Say your saddle position is too low or your cleat position is incorrect and you’re putting unnecessary pressure on your knees with every pedal stroke; in a two hour ride you might repeat the movement over 10,000 times on each leg and that could eventually lead to damage.
Getting a bike fit might turn out to be the best money you ever spend on your cycling comfort.
We’ve covered a few different bike fits here on road.cc. Check them out here.
We’ll say it again: get a bike fit!
You should also check out our 9 top tips for setting up your new road bike.
Select your saddle
Loads of people aren’t comfortable on the stock saddle that came with their bike. That’s not surprising because one size does not fit all – far from it, we’re all built differently. Some people like a slim and firm saddle, others get on best with something that’s wide and soft, some like a cutaway centre and some don't
The best advice is to try as many saddles as you can before you buy. Many shops allow you to do this, and you can also ask friends if you can borrow theirs.
Another option is to go to a bike fitter (see above) who offers saddle pressure mapping. They’ll sit you on your bike with a pressure-sensing cover over the saddle. Software shows how your pressure is distributed as you pedal, including any hotspots, and the fitter can both alter your position and make saddle recommendations based on this information.
Replace your shorts
As with saddles, you’ll find that some shorts work better for you than others and it’s not necessarily related to price. The most important factor dictating comfort is the seatpad (or ‘chamois’) and these come in a million and one different designs so the choice can be bewildering.
A great place to start is with our feature: Cycling shorts — everything you need to know.
You should also check out 18 of the best cycling bib shorts.
Here are all of our shorts and 3/4s reviews.
Bear in mind that the pad can show a drop off in performance after extended use, with a reduction in depth or uneven compression. Here’s how to tell when it’s time to replace your shorts.
Oh, and you might want to use chamois cream to reduce friction and the chance of skin infections. Here are six of the best.
Switch your seatpost
Most seatposts essentially comprise a rigid metal or carbon tube with a clamp on top, but some are designed specifically to flex and add comfort and there are even suspension options out there.
Handlebar and stem
Handlebar and stem dimensions/angles have a major effect on your riding position and, consequently, the feel of your bike. Swap from a 44cm wide bar to 42cm, for example, and from a 130mm stem to 120cm, and your bike will feel completely different. If you think you could be using the wrong handlebar and/or stem, we’d strongly suggest a bike fit (see above) to get the option that’s best for you.
Some handlebars are designed especially with comfort in mind, such as Bontrager’s Pro IsoCore VR-CF Road Bar which comes with foam pad inserts.
Go to our stem reviews.
Change your handlebar tape
Like the other contact points, handlebar tape and grips play a big part in determining the comfort of your bike.
You can even double wrap your handlebar tape. Sticking a second layer of tape on top of the first doubles the amount of cushioning and increases the contact area in your palm, reducing the pressure.
Check out our tech tips for riding cobbles (and rubbish British roads).
Get fatter tyres
Tyres make a massive difference to the feel of your bike. Fatter tyres put a larger cushion of air between you and the ground and, run at the right pressures, they can improve the quality of the ride.
Don’t just go out and buy the biggest tyres you can find because your bike won’t necessarily be able to take them. First, you need to consider your brake clearance. Dual pivot brakes from all of Shimano’s current groupsets take tyres up to 28mm wide, for example, but older models might not, so always check. You need to consider frame and fork clearance too.
One of the advantages of tubeless tyres is that with no inner tube you can run them at low pressures without the danger of pinch flats.
The prevalence of endurance bikes with 28mm and wider tyres, and gravel and adventure bikes with even wider tyres, make a strong argument for tubeless.
Get the right tyre pressure
Speaking of tyres, we have a whole article explaining how to balance speed, comfort and grip when deciding on pressure.
Choose your shoes
There’s no reason for your feet to cause you any discomfort as you ride. There’s a vast selection of shoes out there for all types of riding, some of which can be shaped to your feet.
Liam had his Lake CX402 shoes heated up and moulded to his feet last year, for example.
You should definitely read our Beginner's guide to cycling shoes — the secrets of comfy feet.
A bikefit expert will be able to recommend things like wedges in your shoes to reduce foot, knee and hip pain
Pick your pedals
Your pedals play an important part in determining your comfort because your foot position has a huge effect on your knees.
Some people like a pedal/cleat system with very little float (cleat movement before you become unclipped) while others prefer the oodles you get with Speedplay, for example. Many people swear by Speedplay to avoid achy knees.
You don’t necessarily need to use road pedals just because you’re riding on the road. Check out our feature: SPD-SL vs SPD: which clipless pedal system is better for the riding you do?
Upgrade your gloves
Gloves can both prevent road rash if you come off and add an extra layer of cushioning between you and the road to prevent things like tingling fingers and numbness – Cyclist's Palsy..
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.