I had been bothered after a ride of any length lately. I’ve always had trouble being comfortable in the saddle after an hour or so, but now I was getting low back pain. It cleared up quickly once I stopped riding, but if I was going to continue to enjoy being on the bike, I would have to take some action.
The obvious culprit was the saddle. I had been fitted to the bike way back in 2009, and the most unexpected finding there was that my seat had been too far back. The fitter moved it forward, and I enjoyed the feeling of riding in a slightly upright position, with the bars a tad closer to me than they had been.
But in the intervening years, I’ve been experimenting — making tiny adjustments in the saddle position. Over time, those tiny adjustments became substantial changes. I guessed the problem must be that the saddle needed to move forward again, because at this time, it was as far back as possible. I had even considered getting one of those seat posts with the additional back offset. But I decided first that I would try to get the bike back to the original settings the fitter had come up with.
I didn’t have a sheet with my measurements, but I did have my garage window. On the window sash, I had written in pencil that the distance from the nose of the saddle to the headset was exactly 16 inches. Now, it was about 16 1/2 inches.
I made the adjustment. We’re told not to change things drastically — more than, say an eighth of an inch — so this was a drastic change. I rationalized it by reminding myself that I’d ridden in this position before.
On my first ride with the new position, I noticed the effect of the forward saddle right away. My arms bent naturally at the elbows. There was less pressure on my hands. I did a club ride of about 30 miles, and felt fine after it was all over.
Last week, I did a few short rides in the neighborhood before work, a longer ride with hills on Saturday, and a 37-mile club ride Sunday. No lower back pain.
It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty close. And I have a hunch that any further adjustment I make will be on the saddle height rather than fore and aft — remembering that raising the saddle has the effect of moving it back, and lowering it has the effect of moving it forward.
By all means, tweak your riding position for the most comfort — but be sure you have a record of your original settings. You might need them.