One inch is all of the distance in the world.
One inch of saddle, that is.
When riding the Madone, I have a certain riding position I’ve come to ride in, just about always. Whether on the hoods or on the drops, it’s where I find myself sitting on the saddle. But then there are times when you’re really pushing–climbing a hill (in the saddle), trying to stay on the breakaway, attempting a breakaway of your own, or maybe just trying to stay with the pack when your legs say they’re through. Sometimes, when I reach those moments, I totally change my riding position. I slide waaaaaaay back on the saddle and try to give my legs just a little more leverage. I try to lower my body just a little further into the drops, and melt away just a little more wind resistance. I bring my chin just a little closer to the top tube. I try to do all of these things with a neutral look on my face, as I’ve learned the value of being opaque on group rides. All of the little adjustments–they’re all contingent upon the massive underlying change in position on the saddle.
That massive change in position on the saddle–the massive slide aft…that’s one inch. In reality, I have about one inch of a range of motion fore and aft on the saddle that I actually use. One tiny inch. In so many contexts, an inch is meaningless. Inconsequential. But on the saddle–on the saddle an inch is huge.
I don’t see myself making a lot of changes in my bikes in the coming year. Really, there aren’t any big changes to make–things are about as perfect as they can get. Nonetheless, I love to tinker, to observe, to measure, to improve, to refine. There are so many parts of cycling that are still new to me, and that make such a huge difference. One inch of fore-aft on the saddle–so tiny in space, yet so huge in effect.
And five millimeters? That’s the amount that I raised my seat post on the Moots before the final Gravel Metric training ride. After that ride, I could barely walk for 4 days. My calves felt as if I had run them through a wood chipper. (Yes, I know better. Never make a big change before a big ride.) 5mm is about 0.19 inches. It rendered the bike unrideable (for long distances, at full exertion).
One inch can make all the difference in staying with the pack. Five millimeters can end your cycling day. The little things are big things.