The longest stage of this year's Tour comes on Stage 4; when a gruelling 232km (144 miles) will be raced along the rolling roads of central France. This is a lengthy stage, even for professionals; and many will be looking to maximise comfort for the long hours in the saddle.
Comfort is important for every type of rider. It is all well and good having the fastest bike, the most aero helmet, or a super tight skinsuit; but feeling fresh at the finish of your event, is much more important; after all, it is your legs that dictate how fast you go!
So, whether you're looking for a gold time in your local sportive, or you are entering your first road race; gearing your equipment choice towards comfort, should reap serious rewards! Endurance kit provides comfort, and speed!
Endurance cycle clothing accessories
Clothing accessories are often overlooked when it comes to endurance equipment; but a huge part of your energy expenditure comes from regulating body temperature; and accessories are a fantastic way to optimise this.
If you are too cold or hot, your body has to work harder; thus using valuable energy! So if you're riding all day, or riding in changeable conditions; then investing in quality accessories like warmers and gilets, means that you can save energy, and finish faster!
On cooler stages you will see the Movistar team donning Endura Movistar Team Arm Warmers; not only because they are warm and packable, but they are also highly water resistant!
On wet stages, or cold descents in the high mountains, keep an eye out for riders quickly putting on lightweight jackets or gilets before a long cold decent; Contador and the Tinkoff team will no doubt be carrying the Sportful Hot Pack Ultralight Jacket.
Endurance cycle shorts
Your choice of bib short is often the most important decision that you can make for endurance riding. This is because a bad set of shorts will not only damage performance, but they could potentially ruin your ride.
A great example of an endurance-specfic set of bib shorts, is the new Castelli Mondiale Bib Shorts. This incredible pair of shorts uses a single piece of fabric, which contours itself to your legs; this prevents any rubbing or chafing, which results in all-day comfort in the saddle.
A good pair of bib shorts will provide great comfort and improved performance; they will also significantly reduced the risk of nasty side-effects of long hours in the saddle, namely saddle sores. Your bib shorts are an endurance investment.
Endurance cycle components
Improvements to comfort are often seen in small marginal changes to riders' bikes; changes that don't strain your wallet strings too much, either!
A great example of a marginal change, is bar tape. On long stages, or stages with rough roads, professionals may opt for softer, thicker bar tape; to provide more grip and cushioning. Great examples are Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape 3.2mm as used by Team Dimension Data, or Fizik Performance Handlebar Tape as used by Team Cannondale.
Another good marginal comfort gain can come from your tyre choice. It has been well documented that a wider tyre can add more comfort and reduced rolling resistance; both desirable attributes!
Whereas a few years back, most professional riders were on 23mm tyres; now 25mm is the norm. Get more grip, comfort and performance from making the upgrade yourself; a clear favourite from our range, is the Continental Grand Prix 4000S II Folding Road Tyre Twin Pack.
Endurance road bikes
Your position on the bike is a primary factor in the comfort equation, as well as a real factor in your performance; and it is even more important on long rides.
The professionals at the Tour will have their bikes set up in an aggressive race position, even on the longest days; because for them, the energy saving is fundamental. However, for most amateur endurance riders, you'll get more enjoyment and comfort from a less aggressive bike geometry, and a more compliant (less stiff) frame.
A great example of endurance-focussed bikes, is the Felt Z series. For these bikes, Felt have tweaked the geometry; with a taller head-tube, longer wheelbase, and a more compliant rear triangle; the result, is a great balance between performance, stability and comfort. The Z-series will allow you to ride all day long, without finishing the day with a painful back or numb seatbones.
Endurance clothing, components and bikes, are key to having an enjoyable day in the saddle. Some of the changes made to the kit, when compared with 'normal' riding kit, are small; however they can make a world of difference to how far, and how fast, you ride!