‘How hard can it be to find the perfect cycling pad?’
This was the question I asked myself on the quest to find ‘the one’.
As with my research into fabrics I was again led to Northern Italy. I was looking for specialists that knew what cyclists need from a pad. The pad is probably the most important element of your cycling kit as a bad pad can cause pain and will ruin a great day out. These very technical pieces of foam must be designed by cyclists, tested by cyclists and manufactured to the highest standards. With perfect test grounds on their doorstep, such as the famous Stelvio climb and the entire region of the stunning Dolomites, I knew the Italian pads had been put through their paces.
After placing an order for various samples, I was faced with ‘the pad pickle’. So many pads to choose from. How do I whittle them down to make a decision?
To begin I went with look and feel. Were they hard, soft, how thick or thin were the pads, and were they women’s specific? Women’s shorts need women specific pads. The importance being that they are constructed in a way that supports the female anatomy. I then looked at the suggested riding duration of the pad. Are we riding a sprint triathlon or are we heading out for a sunny day on the bike fuelled by coffee and cake stops?
I had experienced many days on the bike like this, on club rides and holidays with my partner Richard. So I knew my brand was more about the lifestyle of cycling. The pile reduced…
After a lots of squeezing of foam I was down to my final three. Satisfied that all of the looking, touching, squeezing and continuously reading up on their properties was done, it was time to saddle these pads up and get them out on the road.
My favoured three pads were then stitched into my bib shorts design so that I had three working prototypes to put through their paces. A few shorts rides of 20 to 30 miles in each pad didn’t split the pack. Longer rides; still no clear leader.
Then I had an idea, ‘I’ve not challenged myself for a while. Time for a challenge’. It sounded great in my mind and as I had previously ridden Coast to Coast, London to Paris, plodded up Stelvio and rolled around the Dolomites, Richard knew something big was coming…
‘How far is it from North Wales to South Wales?’ I asked, ‘I fancy a day out on the bike’. As a Welshman, I thought he would know straight away, but he needed his pal Google to help with the stats. A quick search and route plot gave him the answer. ‘About 170 miles with 10,000 foot of climbing in it’ he said with a smile on his face.
Was that a ‘you can do it’ smile, or a ‘are you bonkers’ smile? Turns out it was the first.
And so the pad test was set. This conundrum needs a proper test and that sounded like a good and proper test to me. Conway Castle in North Wales to Cardiff Castle in South Wales would get me out of this pickle, I hoped!
‘Vivid dreams involving drowning in pads….. Weird!’
After a few weeks of training, riding local loops, and taking on some lumps in North Wales and the Peak District, I felt I was ready. The pads were ready too; they had been battling for the title for weeks and had started to enter my dreams. Vivid dreams involving drowning in pads. Weird!
Moving on…May 27th 2018. Up at silly o’clock, we drove to Conwy in North Wales where my support driver, and partner Richard, set me off on my quest to find the answer to ‘the pad pickle’. A mild, clear morning with the weather forecast for the day looking good, I was off. My brother joined me to keep me company for the first part of the ride, we arrived in Bala in great spirits.
Feeling comfortable in my chosen kit and pad choice the ride to Bala was a traffic free peaceful journey with only a couple of nervous wee stops in fields along the way! (very ladylike but needs must). High in the hills above Lake Bala my friend arrived with some much welcomed egg butties and words of encouragement. Fully fuelled and ready to roll on I said my goodbyes to my brother and friend and made my way solo. Richard never too far away in the car with the odd check to make sure I was fuelling every 20 mins or so.
With the first pad still offering complete comfort and over 90 miles in I was faced with a change in the weather. Rain. Honestly would you believe it rained in the UK on a day that the weathermen forecast no rain?!
‘All by myself’ (I think there’s a song in there) Richard had left my side at around the 100 mile mark so that he could prepare to meet me in Brecon for the final 50 mile ride over the Brecon Beacons and into Cardiff. I arrived at the base of the Brecon Beacons slightly damp and dishevelled and although the pad still comfy, it was time for a kit change. A quick change, a pasta salad while sat in the boot of a car, and we were off again. The sun was shining for the final stint. Perfect!
Pad number two had a bad day at the office and put itself out of the race quite quickly. It lasted just 2 miles into a steady climb over the Brecon Beacons. There was something not quite right with pad two so pad three had its big moment. My new support crew (family members) were flagged down for a quick kit change. In yet again a very unladylike manner, I had to do a quick change of shorts in a layby beside a very busy A road. Hmmm.
Change done, and with plenty of energy in the tank we were finally on our way over the Beacons. Taking in the wonderful scenery as we chatted about our next adventures, challenges, and our ideas for Pure Velo. That was all great but my mind was slowly drifting to that well deserved G&T I was going to have when I finally made it to Cardiff.
After a long day in the saddle going through some of the most beautiful scenery Wales has to offer, we were reaching the last leg of the journey. Pad number three was bearing up but somehow didn’t give me the comfort that pad number one had. Whether that was down to the miles ridden or that pad number one was simply just the best. The order in which I was going to wear the pads was chosen at random like a blind test, so to speak.
Sunrise to near sunset, I had arrived. 178 miles and over 10,000 ft of climbing later, I was emotional, shedding tears of happiness in front of Cardiff castle. The pad pickle was over and a decision had been made. The winner was the Paris HP crossover pad which is brilliantly manufactured by Elastic Interface.
Gin and tonic please!