Sunday, February 13, 2011

Back in the Saddle

“The backside of heroism is often rather sad.”
Ursula K. McGuin, ‘Sur’

I’m back on the bike once more after an annoying chest ailment that made it difficult to exercise. I should be philosophical about illnesses. I get very few of them and there is not a lot of personal choice when something does come along; you just have to go with it. We get our bodies for free - at the start anyway, not counting any cosmetic or prosthetic enhancements along the way – so we can’t really complain too much when they don’t always behave exactly as we expect. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein and the Law of Identity, a cold is a cold is a cold.

All the same I’m frustrated that I haven’t done nearly the preparation I wanted to for my upcoming century-and-a-half in Death Valley next week. However I am not above lowering my expectations, to use a somewhat bipolar metaphor. My true aim is to enjoy the day, even if it takes all day.

I am trying a new type of saddle, the ISM Adamo Racing. Actually it is my wife’s saddle – she shares my CervĂ©lo R3 with me – and because I was too lazy to swap saddles every time I wanted to work out on the trainer, I have gotten used to the ISM over the past three months. Bonded with it you might say. So although it isn’t new to me as a person, I have never used it in an actual long distance cycling event before. If I end up pedaling the last 50 miles standing up I will, as Edison put it, know one more thing that doesn’t work.

No matter how hardy or experienced a cyclist you are, you have to admit that there are many more comfortable positions for the human body than sitting astride a bicycle for hours. On end (as it were). If it were a pleasurable way to sit, then Barca Loungers would be shaped like bicycles. Some people profess not to notice any saddle discomfort after six hours in one, but these people are lying. Among online bicycling forums you will find as many discussion threads about finding a comfortable saddle as you will about any piece of equipment. Let’s face it: we are all of us – male and female – pretty vulnerable around that area of the anatomy.

What to do? Well there are a few motherhood issues such as proper bike fit and decent shorts. In addition to height, it helps to pay special attention to the way the saddle is tipped fore and aft. A little adjustment can make a big difference. I have found that my discomfort in the saddle is inversely related to the amount of time I spend out of that saddle. In other words if I am riding a very hilly course, I hardly notice my saddle at all. Therefore one of my remedies is to make sure I stand up every once in a while even if I am on a dead flat course. A little relief goes a long way because I recover quite quickly once the pressure is off; I used this technique in Ironman Florida several years ago and felt great the whole way.

So my Ideal Saddle Modification partner and I will try out the not-always-smooth road surfaces in Death Valley. Hopefully we will still be speaking to one another at the end of the ride.