Question: My race bike has a stiff aluminum frame. After a hard ride, my legs feel much more tired than they do on my steel-frame training bike. Is a stiff frame harder on the legs? — Douglas A.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I think you’re on to something. We all subconsciously soften the shock of bumps by using our legs to rise slightly from the saddle, even while pedaling. This additional work of lifting body weight adds up during long rides.
But remember that frame stiffness isn’t the most important factor in how a bike feels on bumps. A bigger issue is tire size and inflation pressure.
A tire will deform a lot quicker than any frame material, so the easiest way to make a stiff bike more comfortable and compliant is to mount a pair of 25-mm or 28-mm tires, inflated to no more than 95 psi.
If your steel training bike has wider tires than your aluminum racing bike, and you don’t pump your training tires as hard, this may account for much of the difference you’re feeling.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.