Indoor training, part 9: Increasing comfort in the pain cave

Spending a considerable amount of time cycling indoors in 2020 gave me a lot of time to think about comfort while putting my miles and watts in. After all, the more comfortable you are on the saddle, the more inclined you will be to stick to regularly cycling indoors and using that as your physical exertion. This is especially important when multiple factors conspire to make it your only practical form of exercise.


Photo credit: Retrieved November 16, 2020

Your bib shorts should be as form fitting as they can be, with minimal looseness or slack material. “Second skin” is a good indicator of just how tightly they should hew to your body. Pedal indoors in bibs that are too loose, and eventually your groin and genitals will go uncomfortably numb from the friction with the shorts, especially for men.

If you have bibs that have a baggier or looser fit, you can still adjust them for better, tighter fit as you pedal by raising the hem line of the leg sleeves, then pulling everything else up closer to your groin and smoothing things out. This way, you can keep excess shorts material over your genitals to a minimum and mitigate unwanted friction.


This next tip is especially applicable for those with shoes tightened by Boa dials, but will also work as general advice. I find that tightening the fit of the shoe to your foot helps a lot in fighting off foot pain later on. It’s normal for sprinters to twist their shoes’ ratchets tighter in preparation for a final sprint to the finish line, but I’m talking about making the shoes tighter as early as possible, especially around the forefoot.

Across multiple posts, I’ve documented my woes with forefoot pain while cycling, and I went down the rabbit hole chasing its potential root causes. Whether it be a lack of arch support for my feet with the Northwave Core Plus; insufficient outsole width with the Shimano XC5s; or simply a cleat placement that yielded a narrower pedaling stance, I got closer solving it with each observed problem. While the Specialized S-Works 6 XCs got closest, this pain has not totally gone away, and I still feel it on prolonged efforts.

As it turns out, I wasn’t looking at foot support from a large enough perspective. You can make the insole and outsole of a cycling shoe as crazily stiff as possible, but a lot of the support also comes in the shoe’s upper and how it wraps around your foot. If you approach shoe fitment with a view more toward walking or running, you will tend to leave your toes with wiggle room. Once on the bike, though, I find it’s much better to tighten the upper as much as possible at the forefoot area, so that the lateral forefoot (outside edge) is braced and supported better. This helps prevent forefoot pain on the bike, and mitigates it if it does become an issue later.


Wearing gloves? While cycling indoors? In a tropical country? Yes. Hear me out.

There are two reasons for keeping your hands gloved up indoors. First, they act as a sponge for your sweat. You can use your gloves to wipe it off your face, sure, but the main benefit is for your bike. It will help reduce the sweat buildup that leaks through your handlebar tape and eventually ends up on your handlebars and control levers. Sweat carries corrosive salts, which are bad for your bike even if your sweat isn’t as acidic as mine.

The other reason for using gloves while cycling indoors is to help mitigate hand numbness. Even without the vibrations of the road, your hands can still get numbed from the simple pressure put on them as you hold the handlebars over a prolonged period. Not only is this uncomfortable, it may also lead to “cyclist’s palsy” later on.

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