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Endurance Cycling – Road Bike Fit For Long Haul Performance

Long distance cycling is growing in popularity.Whether it’s a charity century ride or one of the long distance races that are available, people are looking to increase performance in longer events. Many factors will affect you long distance performance but bike fit and set-up is one of the easiest to make improvements quickly.

When the rides and races get longer than 5 hours, you need to look at things a little different. You want your bike to be fast but it needs to be comfortable for the full event, not just the first couple of hours. It’s often the rider who isn’t distracted by discomfort who will out perform athletes that are faster. It doesn’t matter how fast your are if you can’t go the distance. Part of this is training but equipment set-up plays a big role as well.

Many of the bike fit issues are pretty common sense but are worth going over in depth so you get it right with less trial and error.

Handle Bars

Under this heading will be bar height, stem length and bar width. If you have a position that is comfortable for a couple of hours then you may want to raise your handlebar 5-10 mm for events longer than 4-5 hours. If you are doing anything over 100 miles, a slightly more relaxed position will add to comfort without increasing aerodynamic drag too much. The same goes for handlebar width. A bar one size wider than your shoulder width will be easier on your shoulders and let you breathe better. If you experience tightness or pain in the back or between the shoulder blades on longer rides consider swapping out to a stem a size shorter.

Bar tape

Consider double wrapping your bar or adding gel pads under your bar tape. Double wrapping is wrapping a second layer of padded tape over your existing bar tape. Over the course of many hours in the saddle the hands get beaten up pretty bad on rough roads. A little more cushion will save your hands and reduce the jarring on the shoulders as well.


You want your bike to be fast but flat tires will slow you down. A fast rolling race tire with puncture protection like the Kenda C2C or Schwalbe Ultremo are great options for smoother roads. If you expect to get into rougher roads up size your tires a few millimeters. If you run 23 mm tires swap out to a set of 25 mm. The slightly wider tire will give more cushion and grip better in the corners.


The saddle that is comfortable for 2 hours can be torture for rides that are much longer. You will usually need a little more support and padding for endurance riding. If you have a shape of saddle that you like, you can often find a version of that shape that is more cushy. I like the shape of the Selle Italia SLR saddle but as I’ve gotten into endurance riding I’ve swapped to the SLR XC as it has the same shape with more padding.


A good bike fit is a good fit but depending on the distance you ride you can get a little more comfort and performance by tweaking your fit for the distances you are looking to ride and compete at. And ignore what the pros do as most of us don’t have the option of living on our bikes.

It’s in you to become a better cyclist. Helping you get there is my number one goal. Equipment, riding skills, fitness and nutrition all have to be dialed in to reach your potential. To take your next step on that journey visit http://www.cyclecambridge.com.


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