I have just fitted a Brooks B17 narrow saddle to my Ridgeback Panorama. This bike was perfect. It was set up like my road bike, it was like a full on grand tourismo, built for speed…. But it weighs 27lbs, 40lbs with panniers. So it is not a speed machine. It only felt comfortable because the ride position was similar to the race bike. Maybe I am feeling my age, whatever, it started to feel really uncomfortable.
29ers have taught me a thing or to about bike set up, comfort and performance. Before you even start to set up a 29er it is going to have a higher front end. My FF29 is even higher due to the 120mm fork but never once has it felt too high or that climbing would be compromised. On the contrary, for me one of its greatest asset as a design is its incredible ability to devour hills.
In the old days, I’m talking late eighties, it was de rigour to set your mountain bike up like your road racing bike. How foolish were we? These bikes were nigh on unrideable but as we all had them we raced on an even playing field even if the terrain was as gnarly as you could imagine.
My tourer is now well on the way to being a comfort, all day in the saddle machine. That
doesn’t mean that I’ll be changing the road bike, on the contrary I love being low. Sunday, I spent most of our four hour ride on the front, low, in the drops battling against the wind. I was obsessed by the fact that our average was below 30kph so spent the entire ride trying to get the speed up. Keeping as low as possible for as long as possible helped when it is that windy. Next time I won’t start the Garmin until we are about to leave. I have been riding a long time very slowly getting lower and lower and lower. I stretch my ageing body every day so getting flat is comfortable. I am not a time trialist so I wouldn’t stay in that position if I wasn’t comfortable.
My next experiment is to see if a shorter mountain bike will be better than being stretched out. I quite fancy having a go at the original South Downs Way so will want to be as comfortable as possible for the seven hours or so that I’ll be bashing myself to bits.
As for the B17, they need breaking in but it already feels more comfortable than my old racing jobbie. It can’t be that bad, after all the design is over 100 years old.
Here is the ride. I’d recommend uploading it and riding it. I think that it is more or less the Wiggle Sportive from a few weeks ago. Really pretty and the roads and hills just seem so much nicer in Hampshire – the grass is always greener…..