Unlike most of your readers, who are probably young, fit and athletic, I’m 58, 16 stone and thoroughly unfit from 30 years of deskwork! But I recently bought a GT Avalanche 1.0 Disc (21.5″ frame) and really enjoy riding it on trails like Llandegla. I’m never going to cycle competitively, but I enjoy the fresh air, scenery and exercise.
Comfort is more important than speed. However, being 6’4″ tall means having the seatpost up high to get proper leg extension, but then my bodyweight all seems to be on my wrists, which quickly becomes uncomfortable, as well as my backside taking a pounding. Is this inevitable with mountain bike geometry and tall riders, or might a different bike be the answer? I might buy a full-susser if the riding position was more upright and comfortable but am loathe to spend up to £1500 unless I’d solve the problems. Can you suggest bikes I should try. Or should I save myself £1480 and buy a suspension seatpost?
John Chambers, Wirral
Before splashing out on a new bike there may be a few things you can do to improve the position on the bike you have. Basically the problems you describe suggest that the drop between your saddle and you handle bars is too great. This is throwing too much weight on to your wrists and causing your pelvis to rotate forwards making your saddle feel uncomfortable As you identify you need a more upright position. If your bike hasn’t already got them try fitting a high-rise stem and riser bars this will reduce the drop. Ultimately though if the bike is the wrong size for you nothing will give you the correct position without severely affecting your bike handling. Don’t feel you are limited to full-sussers for getting the more upright relaxed feel you are after as plenty of hard-tails offer a similar position. It’s certainly not inevitable that you will be uncomfortable on a bike with mountain bike geometry — particulary with the wide range of bike styles available. Do get advice and try out any bike before you buy it. Don’t bother with a suspension seat-post — it will mess up your pedalling and do nothing to improve your comfort until your position is sorted.
Just worn out?
I have a 58-year-old body, which is slightly worn, and a Specialized XC, which is just fine. Recent XC rides, particularly February’s Talgarth Red in very wet, energy-sapping conditions leave me feeling particularly and worryingly exhausted. I seem to be OK with the short, hard and technical sections but interestingly found the on-road, constant output, section at the end tiring. The day after Talgarth I had a headache, which I have experienced before and I presume might be related to dehydration, and I still felt too exhausted to ride again. I had pasta the night before, ate porridge in the morning and drank energy drink during the ride. During the ride I ate a couple of banana sandwiches and 1.5 energy bars. I am weigh about 64kg, which is average for my height. I don’t ride every day but in the best weeks in the good weather months I will ride about 40 miles to & from work and have an evening group ride of perhaps 15 miles. I will ride a demanding XC ride once a month. In the summer I ride hard off-roads in the Alps. What do you think the reasons for the exhausted feeling and the headaches might be and what do you think I can do about it?
Maurice (Bart) Bartishel, Kenilworth
I think this is one best addressed to your GP. From what you say you are doing most things right, eating well, staying hydrated and having easy days between your hard days of riding. Nothing obvious stands out as a cause of your fatigue and headaches. It could simply be a case of you placing higher demands on your body than it is fit to cope with — a long tough ride in the wet leaves even the hardiest of riders feeling knackered. However as you refer to your fatigue as worrying it is obviously worse than you are used to, or expect for the type of riding you do. Sometimes riders suffer “over-training” if they ride too much with insuffient time for recovery. Feeling as you do a couple of weeks completely off the bike would be a good idea then start building back up slowly. Fatigue can have any number of factors. A quick chat with the docs should help put your mind at rest and they may be able to suggest a cause. It would be irresponsible of us to try and hazard a guess or suggest a quick fix on the information you’ve given us.
Whenever I go in my local bike shop I’m confronted by racks of energy bars and jars of powder, what I’m wondering is do I really need an energy bar that costs a quid? Does a mars bar and a bottle of squash get the same result for a fraction of the price?
N. Rice, Preston
Sports drinks and energy bars are specifically designed for getting you the right balance of fuel in a highly absorbable package that works when you are riding hard. For racers the balance of performance over cost makes them worthwhile. They definitely do have the edge over a mars bar when you are pushing to your limits. However if you are just hacking about you can get by without and for casual riding palatability is more of an issue; if you are racing you don’t give a monkey’s about the taste because your taste buds have gone into meltdown and everything tastes rank. Even so there are better alternatives to a Mars bar, which are still cheap and taste good. Malt loaf, cereal bars, banana’s, jam and peanut butter sandwiches all work well. An energy drink is probably more useful if you are tempted to part with some cash. For long rides or hot days they help with supplying energy and replacing the salts lost through sweat keeping your body in balance. This can help prevent cramps and dehydration — you will notice the difference if you are riding moderately hard for an hour or more.