Sore Butt

One of the biggest complaints I hear from new cyclists is that they get a sore butt from riding a bike. Unfortunately, many new cyclists give up on the joy of cycling before they overcome the pain. Here are nine common and some not so common tricks I use to eliminate the problem.

1. Padded shorts – Padded shorts have become a cycling standard because they work by reducing soreness from cycling. A little bit of padding goes a long way, so don’t overdo a good thing. Your shorts don’t need to be Lycra. There are plenty of baggy padded cycling shorts available. However, tight fitting Lycra shorts don’t bunch up into a wedgie like baggy shorts can.

2. Go Commando – Lose the underwear when wearing cycling shorts. Cycling shorts are designed to be worn without underwear. Wearing underwear only causes problems such as bunching. While Lycra shorts may have a “freeing” feeling that may take a little getting used to, they also have a modesty panel built in so the “freeing” feeling is not also revealing.

3. Get a gender specific saddle – There are saddles designed specifically for men’s and women’s anatomies. Make sure you have a saddle designed to fit your anatomy that helps to relieve pressure where it counts.

4. Get off your butt – You can greatly reduce the beating your butt takes simply by taking your weight off the saddle when riding on rough sections of road or when encountering bumps.

5. Change Positions – Luckily, touring bicycles have drop handle bars that allow you to change your position on the bike easily. In doing so, you are also reducing the pressure on the same points on your butt.

6. Keep riding – Toughen up the tissue around the sit-bones by continuing to ride. Most seasoned cyclists do not experience a sore butt except on very long rides because they have toughened up this area over time.

7. Wax the saddle – This is a secret I’ve used for years but I find many cyclists don’t believe me when I tell them. While it is a common practice for riders with an unpadded leather saddle to wax their saddle, I’ve found that it is just as useful for padded saddles as well. I use spray furniture wax on my saddle. A waxed saddle helps me to easily slide to a new position. Frequently changing my position on the seat helps prevent pain caused by remaining in one spot too long.

8. Massage – It’s always worth a laugh when I tell a new rider to get a butt massage. However, I find that massaging the sore area after my ride eases the inflammation, improves blood flow and reduces the soreness in my butt for me.

9. Reduce tire pressure – While cycling across the United States in 2015, the chip seal road surface throughout most of Texas was a jarring experience not quickly forgotten. To reduce the beating on our bodies at the contact points at the handlebars and saddle, we reduced the air pressure in our tires by several pounds per square inch (PSI). Let your tires absorb some of the beating rather than your butt.

I hope these nine tricks help to get you back in the saddle again.

Ken Whittaker


Updated April 26, 2018


Flat Fix Kit

While bicycle touring my most frequent cycling breakdown has been flat tires. Fortunately, a flat tire is one of the easiest roadside repairs to make yourself if you are prepared for it. As a result, I always carry a flat kit. My flat kit includes:

Tire levers – to get the tire off the rim.

Small knife – to remove debris such as glass that gets embedded in the tire causing the flat. This is very important. If you don’t find and remove the cause of the flat tire you will most likely find yourself with another flat tire further down the road.

Small pliers or tweezers – During my 2015 coast to coast ride most of my flats were caused by small bits of wire from steel belted radial car tires that got embedded in my tires. These fine wires were nearly impossible to remove with my fingers, so small pliers or tweezers are a necessity. I’ve also found that finger nail clippers do a great job at of grabbing on to and removing these small pieces of wire.

Tube patch kit – to fix punctured tubes. While I occasionally replace a punctured tube with another tube to save time, if a tube is repairable, I always repair it. A properly repaired tube is just as reliable as a new tube, is cost efficient and reduces unnecessary waste. If you are not having luck repairing tubes I find it is because you haven’t followed the instructions. It sounds counter intuitive, but let the glue dry before applying the patch.

Spare tube(s) – In those cases when a punctured tube cannot be repaired a spare tube is a must. An extra tube can also come in handy when it is too dark to patch a small hole in a tube or when it is raining and you just want to get rolling again as quickly as possible.

Kool-Stop Tire Bead Jack – There was a time when I could mount bicycle tires without any tools, but not anymore. However, when I use tire levers to remount the tire, I sometimes pinch the tube causing another puncture. If you struggle with mounting bicycle tires like I do, try the Kool-Stop Tire Bead Jack. If you are traveling light and find it too bulky for a seat bag, I have heard of riders shortening the handle so it would fit in their bag. You can generally find one at your local bike shop or on Amazon.

Presta valve adapter – just in case I’m fortunate enough to get a flat near an air pump, I can use the adapter to fit the air chuck to inflate the tube.

CO2 cartridge(s) – to quickly fill a tube. While I rarely use CO2 cartridges, I do carry them for those times when I want to inflate a tube as quickly as possible. If you experience air escaping from the tube when you disconnect the cartridge, you most likely aren’t giving the valve time to thaw. To avoid this problem, inflate the tube slowly and wait until the valve warms up before disconnecting the inflator. If there is frosty looking ice on the valve stem, it is too early to disconnect the inflator.

Air Pump – is a must have item. I’ve found that you can’t depend on CO2 cartridges. While touring on the C&O canal I once helped a cyclist fix a flat. He thought he had tubeless tires and was only carrying CO2 cartridges to top off his tire if he did get a puncture. Turns out his tires weren’t tubeless. We used my patch kit to repair his tire. However, after repairing his tube, when he tried to inflate the tube with his CO2 cartridges, they were duds. Luckily, I was carrying a pump. Otherwise he would have had to hike, pushing his bike about twenty miles to the nearest town to make the repair.

If you’ve never fixed a flat, it is a skill all touring cyclists must have. For more on tools and spare parts to carry while touring see Guide to 9 common roadside repair mistakes on this website.

Emergency Medical Information Card

In addition to wearing identification and emergency contact information, I also carry a laminated Emergency Medical Information Card on me. It has all the important medical information that emergency medical personnel might need to know about me in a medical emergency including:

– Identification and date of birth

– Emergency contacts

– Heath insurance provider

– Allergies

– Medical conditions

– Medications (prescriptions and over-the-counter)

– Immunizations

– And the contact information for family physician

While I have used my emergency medical information card in medical emergencies, I also find it useful for routine doctor visits where they ask me the same information.

Ken Whittaker


Updated April 21, 2018


Identification and Emergency Contact Information

One thing that I don’t leave home without, even if I’m going for a short bicycle ride around home, is my identification and emergency contact information. Let’s face it, as cyclists rocketing along with only a few square inches of rubber touching the ground we do run the risk of injury and it is important that someone else knows who to contact if we are hurt. In fact, I wear identification and emergency contact information on me 24/7.

In my case, days after completing my 3,000 miles coast to coast ride, I was struck by a car only two miles from my home. While I was conscious when they loaded me into the ambulance, I couldn’t think clearly enough to tell them my wife’s phone number. Fortunately, at the time I was wearing a hi-vis, reflective strap around my ankle with my name, year of birth, and her emergency contact information on it. I simply pointed to it and the police officer was able to use it to contact her immediately.

Whether it’s dog tags, a bracelet, ankle strap or another method, always have your identification and contact information visible on you so someone can contact your loved ones if you are hurt.

Ken Whittaker


Updated April 20, 2018


Sleeping Bag

Someone asked me before I started my bicycle trip across the United States what I thought was the most important thing I packed for my trip. Without hesitation I said – the right gear to keep me warm. However, I wasn’t only talking about staying warm on the bike. (I almost have cold weather riding down to a science. See
5 Step Guide on what Clothing to Pack on this web site.)

Staying warm at night is what worries me the most while touring, since I mostly sleep outside in a tent. The organizer of the coast to coast ride recommended that I bring a sleeping bag rated for 0°. The problem with his recommendation is that there are no standards for rating sleeping bags.

In many cases, sleeping bag manufacturers greatly inflate their ratings. The sleeping bag rating only means that you will survive at the rated temperature. It does not mean that you will be warm and comfortable. While my trusted 25° rated down sleeping bag did the trick for me, you should know how well your sleeping bag performs for you. And be prepared with additional warm dry clothing just in case your sleeping bag isn’t warm enough. In fact, there were a few nights I had to wear a wool beanie to bed to keep my head warm.

Ken Whittaker


Originally Posted February 25, 2015

Updated April 19, 2018


Sunglasses

Sunglasses are an important accessory to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. When choosing sunglasses always consider UV protection, vision and comfort before fashion.

When purchasing sunglasses, I look for the following:

UV protection – I only wear sunglasses with UV protection. Extended UV exposure can cause Cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens that can blur vision.

Polarized lenses – I prefer polarized lenses because I find that they reduce the glare on the road surface and car windows. This helps me to see the drivers inside the cars around me so I can see if the drivers are aware of me or have acknowledged my hand signals.

Brown tint – I also prefer a brown tint over a gray tint. I find that the brown tint gives me more contrast when cycling on asphalt roadways and makes it easier to spot obstacles and debris.

Comfort – I do not wear wrap around glasses because I don’t like the feel of then and it seems like they distort my peripheral vision. In addition, I use Croakies to keep my glasses in place.

Ken Whittaker


Updated April 18, 2018


Sunscreen 1st

While on the subject of cycling clothing, I should mention that the very first thing I put on even before a stitch of clothing, is a generous amount of sunscreen. Although I’m the type of person who tans easily and I rarely get a sunburn, it’s a ritual for me to apply SPF 90 sunscreen each morning before dressing while I’m cycle touring.

I make applying sunscreen the very first item of my daily agenda not only so I wouldn’t forget it, but also so I won’t miss some of the riskier spots for me getting sunburn. Since I am a balding man, I start at the top of my head and work down.

That said, my nastiest sunburn while touring was when I missed applying sunscreen to the top of my ears. Another problem area for me is when my sleeves and shorts ride up and I get a wicked sunburn line around my legs and arms on those areas normally not exposed to the sun.

The sun can be deadly, so don’t forget the sunscreen!

Ken Whittaker


Updated April 17, 2018


Clothes to Pack

With my bike waiting for me in San Diego, I focused my attention on packing the clothes I’d wear while cycling across America. When I pack, I think in terms of kits. In my case, I packed four warm weather kits that included padded shorts, three pocket short sleeve cycling jersey, cycling gloves and light weight socks. Each of my kits were packed in a large gallon sized zip lock bag to help me stay organized. Also, when I am riding self-supported, packing each change of clothes in its own bag helps to ensure that everything stays dry in my panniers. From there I supplemented my warm weather kits with a rain kit, a cold weather kit and a hot weather kit.

Before I started bike touring I was a fair-weather rider. If I looked out the window and saw rain, or there was a remote chance of rain in the forecast, I wouldn’t even consider riding my bike. Consequently, I never fully realized what I needed to ride comfortably and safely in the rain. In retrospect, I cringe to think that the only rain gear I used to carry was a plastic garbage bag to serve as an emergency rain jacket. Needless to say, I quickly learned the error of my ways. Inevitably, there will be rain and cold weather and in many cases while touring, I had to continue riding regardless of the weather conditions. So, it is important to be prepared for anything that Mother Nature might throw at you. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a deadly situation.

Read more on CycleAcrossAmerica.com in my article 5 Step Guide on What Clothing to Pack

Ken Whittaker


Original post February 23, 2015
Updated April 16, 2018


Bike Arrives in San Diego

I was happy to learn that my bicycle made it safely to Bernie’s Bike shop in San Diego. Nevertheless, after reassembling my bike, the front tire was flat and wouldn’t hold air. While I had purchased new tires and tubes for the trip, I hadn’t had time to mount them before I packed my bike. Although I always fix my own flats, I had the bike shop fix the flat. I figured it’s just one less thing I had to worry about when I arrived and it would give me more time to enjoy San Diego.

Ken Whittaker


Original post February 20, 2015
Updated April 15, 2018


Boxing & Shipping

I found shipping my bicycle to a bike shop in San Diego, and having it reassembled and ready to go when I arrived, was much less stressful and less expensive than taking it on the plane with me.

After inquiring at several of my local bike shops about having my bicycle packed for shipping, I found that the price varied significantly from shop to shop. One shop wouldn’t even box my bike for me. They did, however, give me a bike box and all the packing material that came with a new bicycle so I could do it for myself.

Let’s face it, we love our bikes and I am no exception. So I chose to pack my cherished 1998 Trek 5220 myself to ensure it had a safe journey across the country with FedEx. I also used BikeFlights to make the shipping arrangements. I don’t know why, but it was less expensive using them than making the shipping arrangement myself with FedEx. If you choose to pack your bike yourself, BikeFlights also provides packing instructions that I found very helpful. All I had left to do was to leave my boxed bike in front of my garage to be picked up.

Tip: Put small parts in a separate box so they cannot fall out of the bike box if it is damage.
Tip: Use the smallest practical box for your bicycle. I used a 56x9x31 (LxWxH) box. Had I used a standard road bike box, 54x9x29, the shipping cost would have been considerably less expensive.

Ken Whittaker


Original post February 7, 2015
Updated April 14, 2018