Friday Group Ride #233

Friday Group Ride #233

So much about cycling is personal. I try to remember that when someone asks me for advice about a piece of equipment or a great route. Too often, I express an opinion, unsolicited, that fails to consider what someone else might like, how someone might be different from me in fundamental ways.

I went for a ride with my wife this morning. She wanted to do an easy spin on the road, 20 miles. I mapped a 40 miler. Why did I do that? It came good in the end. We did 20 and had a nice time together, but she doesn’t want to ride what I want to ride.

Then there are shoes, helmets and saddles.

I sometimes get asked about these things, and I always preface my responses with something like, “Well, we’re all shaped differently, and what works well for me, might not work for you. I can tell you what I like, but you should really just try a bunch of things for yourself and figure out what’s best for you.”

I like Mavic shoes. I like Giro helmets. I like the Specialized Romin saddle. None of these would have been my first choice stylistically, probably, but these are the products that have worked the best for me, because of the shape of my feet, my head, my ass.

You can extend this line of thinking to bibs and jerseys and gloves, to bikes and to group rides. Some fit better than others, depending on how you’re constructed.

This week’s Group Ride wonders what you think is the MOST personal element of your cycling? What is the one product, shoe, helmet, saddle, glove, etc., that you find indispensable to your comfort and performance on the bike? Do you give others advice on these things? Do you take advice from friends or shop folk?

Interbike is busy putting all the new bling in front of us, and I find myself rapt, except that for every stylish jersey or shoe I see, I wonder about fit. I wonder about wear. I wonder if it’s really me.

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  1. Kimball

    For me its shoes. I have long, skinny, bony, low-volume feet (opposite of Padraig’s). Finding good fitting footwear of any kind has been a challenge my entire life. After years of adding padding, insoles, extra socks, etc. to poor fitting road shoes, about 8 years ago I tried the Sidi Genius which comes in narrow. Eureka! They fit wonderfully from the very first ride and are still going strong. This spring I bought an ‘all-road’ bike (Niner RLT9) and wanted to run mountain pedals so I just went to my local shop and ordered the Sidi Dominator in the same narrow size. My first ride with them was a long day, but the new shoes fit like I had been wearing them for months. I never thought about them. I wish they made street shoes.

  2. MarkY

    I would say two things…. saddle and bibs.

    A couple years ago, I discovered that the saddle that came with my Bianchi had torn and I began looking for a new one. I bought a Romin saddle, took it home and tried it to find it was too wide (150), I replaced it with a 143. Life was good.

    A month later, I went to Napa with my wife and went for a 70 mile ride. The problem was I forgot my bibs. I found a local shop and bought a pair of Bontrager bibs. The ride went well. The next problem I discovered my saddle was too high and got it lowered. Life was good.

    I began riding in my normal Castelli shorts and I felt uncomfortable. I went in search for another saddle and ended up getting a Specialized Avatar. Again life was good, except for those times I rode in my Bontrager bibs. After about 25 miles, I was very uncomfortable (Pinched).

    I found that I can ride Castelli bibs with Avatar saddle fine and Bontrager bibs with Romin saddle, niomixing. The problem is I want to start using the Romin again, but prefer my Castelli bibs. Actually, with the seat post I have, I could easily switch saddles before I ride! Hmmm, good idea!, thanks for the input.

    Long story short, for me bibs and saddle are the two most important pieces of riding gear.

  3. Andrew

    Saddle. I’ve got the WTB Rocket V on all my bikes, and one for rental bikes. Cheap, comfy, light enough. I kind of like the no nonsense look on a road bike too.

  4. Pat O'Brien

    It is my saddle. Terry Liberator, Italian made by Selle Italia I assume, on all my bikes. I recommend them with the same caveat you use.

    By the way, did you say your went RIDING this morning? Is the hand good to go? If so, congrats, big time!

  5. Cyril

    Assos Bibs without a doubt. I always read, chat, & observe what others say and are using. Yup, always tough to give others advice on bikes and gear, but I explain why my choices work for me.

  6. spiff

    I love the Castelli chamois and my Sidi’s in 45.5.
    I always want to try the new shoes but nothing fits better than the Sidi’s in 45.5.

  7. Spider

    I’m a 49 which limits the choices greatly, so shoes are really difficult to get. After 15 years (different pairs, but Sidi don’t seem to update the shoe model threoughout my usage) with Sidi Genius/Eliminator I changed last year to Shimano – wow, shoes have come along way in 15 years! Carbon soles, moldable shoes and innersoles, suction molding/fitting…it was amazing!

    My second pair of shorts were Assos Campionissimo…and I’ve no other brand I’ve tried has been able to top Assos (in fact I find the ‘bottom’ of the range Assos to be more comfortable than other companies top of the range shorts I’ve used).

    Merino wool socks:
    After a decade of using merino wool socks….polyester based socks feel thin, pathetic and uncomfortable. Really enjoy the USA made Swiftwick wool socks…they sent me a pair of their sythetic socks and I will only use them for commuting!

    really, it’s the contact points that are ‘each to their own’…..although I try to have that opinion on everything in our sport (except recumbents, them I just don’t get!)

  8. Aar

    Fit. For me, every component, accessory, article of clothing and worn item is exhaustively studied and obsessed over before purchase, on rides and after them. Of all those items, none matters to me more than the fit of my bike.

    From a material things perspective, it’s close between bibs, shoes, saddle, gloves and bar tape only because they so intimately affect comfort and fit.

  9. Michael

    I agree with a bunch of the above – it is the points of contact that matter most. I care much less about a jersey than about my shorts or tights. What I want are the ones I don’t ever notice – that is what tells me it is right. I like Castelli the most – shorts and tights disappear on me. Assos – I always know I am wearing them, and notice that they aren’t quite right here or there and have to adjust. Maybe it is the overly thick chamois. Shoes – I only ride Sidi (Genius and Terminator) any more, even though they aren’t as up to date. Can’t find others that fit like that on my low-volume, high-arch, long and D-width feet (yeah, who put all that together in one foot?). Had a pair of Specialized shoes for cross on which I finally broke the buckle by smacking it on a botched pass-through of a stock gate. I was never so happy to break a pair of shoes! Gloves – I use Pearl Izumi’s gel elites but am finding them to be less padded and fit more poorly and wear out more quickly each passing year. Maybe someone has a good suggestion for gloves that pad enough for >4-hour rides. Saddle – I discovered what I like for long day rides (Fisik Arione) doesn’t work for me on tours. Sitting more upright, I like the WTB Rocket V. If Robot wants only the one product, and this IS his show, I guess I’d have to say the saddle (assuming the bike fits). And Robot – Fantastic you are out riding again! And good on your wife for holding you down to 20 miles – best to ease into this.

  10. Peter Dedes

    I love my Bont Vaypor Premium shoes. My feet aren’t in any way abnormal in size and shape (actually, they’re rather beautiful) . The arch is somewhat low and tends to collapse on hard climbing efforts. Used the fit wizard. Took two tries to get them molded correctly. If I’m lazy, I don’t even have to do them up for them to be secure and comfortable on my feet.

  11. Mark

    Sidi shoes. After finding problems with shoes and replacing them every few years, I got a pair of Sidis and wore them for 12 years. I needed a buckle and no shop had one locally, so I just picked up another pair last year. I can forget about my feet in genius shoes.
    Bell helmets fit my noggin best. I always wore Oakleys but when they started to change lens/frame shape I found them less compatible with my Bell helmets. I switched to Tifosi glasses and the fit and lenses work better for me.
    My ass gets a Turbo saddle. All bikes. I try others, always return to the turbos.

  12. Rich

    When you have a head that is outside the normal shape a helmet that fits comfortably is at the top of the list. Neither helmets of heads conform.

  13. John Borstelmann

    Shimano road shoes, high end Pearl Izumi shorts, prescription sunglasses! I also love real leather gloves, like the classic Pittard’s leather gloves made by Pearl Izumi, which are hard to find these days…

  14. Bill R

    For me it is my bike. Ever since Tom Kellogg setup my Custom Spectrum bike many years ago it has been the bike I enjoy the most. Even my Spectrum Tandem is not as good. We just obtained a Seven Tandem and it is great but I can’t compare it to my favorite Spectrum bike since it was damaged in an incident in June. Tom is breathing new like into it. Boy I miss that bike. This summer’s riding has not been quite as good Nothing climbs as well or chases Tandems as well.

  15. Adam

    The MOST personal element is not a single element but a complex alloy. It is the combination of everything to make my experience uniquely mine. The only single thing would be the bike, as a whole, because it is mine. It fits & is worn in to suit my body just so.

    Advice from other riders & the shop is all helpful but without the personal experience it is just a guide, just like the advice & recommendations I give. They should all be taken with a pinch of salt.

    Nothing beats finding out for yourself.
    The infinite search for that feeling of freedom & flying without distraction.

  16. Gerb61

    For me it would be my ISM saddle. Looked at their products online. Ordered the one that looked like the best fit through my LBS.
    Most comfortable saddle I’ve ever ridden. Numbness issues, gone. It really is all about the contact points first and foremost.
    Now when the talk turns to saddles I recommend the ISM brand. Preceded of course by the ” We’re all shaped differently …” disclaimer.

    Good to know you are back on the bike. Just in time for the autumn riding season. Gotta love that.

  17. Jim P.

    The single most important element in my cycling has to be the red bucket and the bike cleaning kit it contains. My bikes wait silently, patiently on the wall for the next chance to bring me to that blissful detachment from the rigors of daily life or whatever is clouding my thoughts that, for me, only two wheels on a road or trail can bring. The ritual of washing/drying the bike and lubing the chain just so is when I give something back. It completes the circle, creating a wonderful positive feedback loop. The bike just works better, and I can feel it, which adds to the positive feelings while I ride.

  18. August Cole

    It would make sense to say saddle or shoes, but I’m going with sunglasses. You can package any debate you want in their combination of form, function and economics. The smack of a bug against a lens while descending is all you need to know they are worth wearing. That is the functional argument. The aesthetic one is where it gets really personal, usually because beauty and price go together. The best part is there is no correct choice (well, within bounds) and it’s relatively easy to get a second chance to draw the wallet again if you make a bad call. Been wearing Rudy Project for rowing (Noyz) and cycling (Genetyk) – sturdy with nice clarity. As much Euro styling as I can find, or handle, since I last had a white pair of Briko Zen in the 1990s…

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