Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A Pain in the bum 

Well I've been riding the sleek red and white steed for a couple of weeks or so now and it feels like I'm acclimatising to cycling fairly well. I'm certainly glad that I had the first three or four months of the year building up some base fitness level, otherwise those first rides would have felt like some sort of medieval torture.

The distance covered on each outing has been increasing steadily and 17-20 miles in around 75 minutes is now fairly easy going in respect of muscular endurance and the capacity of the heart and lungs to keep pumping blood and air. However, we do have a small problem that is quite literally proving to be a "pain in the bum"

Now that the amount of time spent in the saddle is increasing beyond 60-75 minutes at a time I have started to experience quite severe discomfort in the area of my backside that supports a lot of my weight, to the point where it is painful enough to cut a ride short even though the legs and lungs are more than willing to go on. Experiencing a pain in the butt was something I expected and I am sure it is something that will go away with more time in the saddle and miles under those skinny wheels, however being the curious chap that I am, I wanted to understand exactly what was causing the pain and whether anything could be done to accelerate the process of becoming used to the presence of a an ever present "pain in the arse" (yes it's present all the time, even off of the bike doing normal things like sitting watching TV) 

It appears that I have rediscovered parts of my body that have not made their presence felt since my schoolboy days, when my parents made me cycle the seven or eight miles to school each day (no mums on school runs or taxis back then!) The parts of my body in question are my "sit bones" 

In normal modern everyday life these two fella's don't really come in for too much abuse due to the presence of the ample padding provided by everyday seating and sleeping arrangements. Subject your rear end to the instrument of torture that is the saddle of a modern endurance cycle and it is a different matter altogether. Your "sit bones" -- technically, your ischial tuberosities -- are the two protruding bones that carry most of your weight when you're sitting and as the above diagram illustrates, this is very much more pronounced on a skinny cycle saddle where much of the body weight is supported by the sit bones and .  (you didn't think you were going to get a biology lesson today did you?) 

Given that I really need to be regularly completing 4-6 hour rides a couple of times a week within the next couple of months, this is a pain in the bum that needs to be dealt with promptly. 

A quick bit of "googling" revealed that the pain is likely to go away or become much less noticeable as more time is spent in the saddle (the actual amount of time required varies from individual to individual and can be anything from a couple of weeks to several months) As well as the sit bones not being used to having to support the weight of the body, the cause of the pain can be down to a number of other things including saddle height/position, saddle design and size of saddle, as I don't want to spend an undetermined and potentially long period of time waiting for my pain in the ass to go away I will be exploring all of these options over the next week or so.

One of the cycle trade's tools for ascertaining what type/size of seat is appropriate for an individual is this device which is affectionately known as an "assometer"

Essentially this device works by leaving an impression of each bone in the soft black coloured material which is then measured. Now I could go to my local Specialized store and sit on their "assometer" or I could make my own out of a coffee table, some plasticine (modelling clay) and some grease proof baking paper - those of you that know about my tendency to let my inner engineer emerge and needlessly over complicate tasks will by now have worked out which solution I going to use! 

Once I know how large the gap is between my sit bones (essentially how big my bum is) I will be able to establish what width saddle I need and which design will be best (oh yes there are many design variations for these instruments of torture)

Googling also turned up this picture of a cyclist employing a slightly different method of measuring sit bone gap

Who needs an assometer to measure sit bone gaps?

Whilst I have been sitting here writing this, the thought has occurred to me that maybe a simpler solution would be to change my diet again and eat lots of pies in order to put some padding back onto my bum............

Thanks for reading, "pain in the bum" part two to follow in a few days


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