How to make bike seat more comfortable?

Riding a bike, whether what you have is a mountain bike or a road bike, is one of the most exciting hobbies. But to enjoy a bike ride, you need to have a comfortable bike seat. Make sure that your saddle won’t give you saddle sore or saddle discomfort.

Types of Bike Seat Pains

Before we discuss how to make a bike seat more comfortable, it is important to know first what the different bike seat pains are so you’d know how to address them accordingly.

1. Pain in the Sitting Bones

Will you be surprised if I say that experiencing pain in the sitting bones is actually a pain that you’ll love? Why? Because this means that you’re practicing the right bike position.

The sitting bones pain may not be the best feeling especially if you’re new to biking, but you’ll soon get used to it after numerous bike rides. If not, you might just want to wear thinly padded bike shorts. Wearing such protection can really make you feel comfortable.

2. Saddle Sore

A saddle sore is a type of bike seat pain where the skin and the saddle rub each other. It’s important to know that small sores are normal especially if you’re new to biking. Don’t worry as this will disappear on its own, but you may use a chamois cream to expedite the healing process.

But, sad to say, for people with very sensitive skin, their saddle sores don’t get healed easily, instead, they become worse. If this is the case, there might already be an infection and you need to seek professional help.  

3. Soft Tissue Pain

Soft tissue pain is experienced particularly by women. Soft tissue refers to the neutral term for “lady parts”, which include the clitoris, labia, and all other soft parts.

These “lady parts” usually get squashed during a ride. This gives women a lot of discomforts like numbness and chafing.

Men also experience soft tissue pain. However, men can just simply adjust their “thing” so it doesn’t get squashed. For women, unluckily, they don’t have a choice.

4. Pubic Bone Pain

Leaning forward is the most common position in biking, which leads to pubic bone pain. Pubic bone, by the way, is located further forward the crotch area. It rests on the saddle’s nose bearing more weight than it should.

The pubic bone pain can be prevented by opting to use a split-nose saddle or padded bike shorts.

Two Types of Saddle Problems

There are basically 2 types of bike seat pain problems that many cyclists often go through, which are:

1. Pressure on the sitting bones or sitz bones

The sitting bones, or otherwise called as sitz bones, are located at the bottom part of the pelvis. Too much pressure on the sitting bones can cause butt pains. If not given enough attention, this can result in a bigger problem, which is a sore that is quite similar to a bed sore.

2. Irritation on the crotch area

Irritation in the crotch area is caused by friction and shear. 30% of bikers experience this.

How to Avoid Saddle Problems

1. Undergo a Bike Fit

Did you know that 70% of your weight should be on your saddle and 30% on your handlebar? A lot of bikers do not really consider getting a bike fit that is why they experience saddle discomfort.

The purpose of undergoing a bike fit is to find the best position on your bike. Once you’re done with bike fitting, you will notice a huge difference. You can now have unlimited long rides, you can pedal as fast and as hard as you want, and, most importantly, ride comfortably on any given day.

The bike fit process does not follow any standards as it really depends on the flexibility, riding position, and age of the biker. Also, the bike fit result is not applicable from one bike to another, which means that if you have a new bike, you would need to undergo another bike fit.

Here are several benefits of bike fitting:

  • Your overall riding comfort will improve.
  • Prevent stress injuries.
  • Eliminate or reduce wrist, neck, knee and back pain.
  • Reduce “hot foot”.
  • Reduce genital numbness and saddle soreness.
  • Eliminate numbness in the fingers and hands.
  • Eliminate rider fatigue.

2. Get the Right Bike Saddle

Every butt is distinct and unique. Your comfort level may either be too high or too low for others. If you ask different cyclists as to what the best bike saddle is, they would probably have different answers.

An uncomfortable bike seat may be a result of the saddle having the correct width to prevent seat pain. Uneven weight distribution may result from a saddle that is too narrow. You may experience friction in the crotch area if it is too wide.

There is a specialized tool that can measure the width of your sitting bones and can determine the right saddle for you. You may ask your favorite bike shop if they have this kind of service.

3. Have Frequent Long Rides

The longer you ride on your bike, the thicker your skin becomes. This will surely toughen your butt. This is one advantage of having long rides more often.

Have a perfect bike fit, a good bicycle saddle, and a thick butt? Believe me, you couldn’t ask for more because you have it all!

4. Strengthen Your Legs

Normally, when riding a bike, you carry your weight through your legs. But if your legs are feeble or easily wear out, your tendency is to merely sit on the bicycle seat, which leads to seat pain.

Here are some exercises that can help you strengthen your legs and prevent you from encountering saddle sores and saddle discomfort:

  • Squat jumps
  • Lunges
  • One-legged pedaling
  • Calf raises

5. Stand from Time to Time

Sitting on the bike for a long period of time can really hurt your butt. Pressure will accumulate in your sitting bones and will reduce the flow of blood, which might eventually lead to injury.

Make it a habit to stop and stand for at least 30 seconds to 1 minute for every 15 minutes of pedaling. This will allow pressure to be released from our sitting bones and normalize the flow of blood.

6. Use Seat Cushion Cautiously

The solution for a lot of bikers to saddle discomfort is the use of a saddle padding or seat cushion. If the padding is too thick, the stability of your butt on the bicycle seat will be reduced. It will likewise cause shear or irritation on your crotch.

7. Have the Right Saddle Height

To get the right saddle height is another purpose of having a bike fit. If you have a high bike seat, your hips will move from side to side that will cause friction and shear on your crotch. In cycling, the ideal way to pedal is that your hips shouldn’t be moving, only your legs.

Your cycling shorts or your bike shorts can help determine if you have the right saddle height. Here’s how:

  • Tuck in your bike jersey to make your cycling shorts or bike shorts easy to see.
  • Ask your biking partner to observe the upper portion of your shorts if it’s moving up and down.
  • If the line of your cycling shorts/bike shorts is moving, it means that your bicycle seat is too high. On the other hand, if one side your cycling shorts/bike shorts is obviously lower, this means there’s a difference in leg length.

If you think your bike seat is not set at the right height, then you might want to undergo a bike fit.  

8. Try a Cut-out Bike Seat

9. Get Hold of the Right Cycling Shorts

Again, butts are distinct, which means that your cycling shorts or bike shorts may be right for you but not for others, or vice versa. Since we’re talking about comfort, better invest in high quality shorts – they have a better fit and are very durable. Try to shy away from overly-padded cycling shorts.

10. Apply the Right Lubricant

Cyclists apply different types or brands of lubricants. The most common lubricant is petroleum jelly. Not only is it very effective in preventing saddle sores, but also cheaper than other lubes. 

Ways to Make Bike Seat More Comfortable

1. Set the Right Bike Reach

The bike reach refers to the horizontal distance between the handlebar and the bottom bracket.  

It is easy to determine the perfect size of bike for someone’s height, but the reach isn’t. It is because some have longer torso while others have shorter, or some are flexible enough to reach the handlebar while others aren’t.

Physical pains like sore shoulders and neck, lumbar ache, and even saddle sores await those who haven’t set the right reach. Pushing the saddle forward is an option but not recommended because it could change the pedaling action.  

2. Check the Height of the Handlebar

The handlebar height is as equally important as the reach. As much as possible, the handlebar must be horizontally aligned to the saddle or a bit higher.

Stooping too much can strain your hands, wrists, lumbar, hamstrings and neck. Simply make the necessary adjustments to the handlebar by way of moving the bike stem up and down the fork until you find what’s best for you.  

TIP: To make the height more accurate, you can make use of spacers.

3. Choose the Right Saddle

When it comes to choosing a saddle, you’ve got numerous options, whether you own a road bike, gravel bike or a mountain bike.  

When choosing, take into consideration the body position that you’ll be using as well as the size of your sitz bones.

4. Modify the Height of Your Saddle

Now that you have chosen a saddle, the next step is to juggle your saddle. There are 3 basic considerations when modifying the height of your saddle: your height, your riding style, and the tilt.

Having a wrong seat height will cause your hips to rock while biking, which will, sooner or later, lead to chafing or saddle soreness. It could likewise lead to knee pain, which is a common problem among several cyclists.

TIP: Stand beside your bike and position your saddle just next to your hip bone. This is one way you can modify the saddle height without computing or using any tool.  

5. Check the Angle of Your Saddle

The angle of your saddle has a big role in relieving bike seat pain. This is true most especially during long rides or when training for races. Having a wrong saddle angle can result in numbness and sores.

Getting the right angle is like trial and error. You need to find the angle that’s comfortable for you.  

6. Avoid Wide Saddle

For most cyclists, it is more comfortable to ride on a narrow saddle than on a wide saddle. Why? Mainly because wide saddles often lead to saddle sores.

7. Choose Thin Padding

A number of cyclists think that a thick bike seat cushion or padding offers more butt comfort, but actually, such padding puts more pressure on the sitz bones. For a more comfy bike ride, go for a thin seat cushion.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What offers more bike seat comfort, a gel cushion or a foam cushion?

Definitely the gel cushion. This is because it follows the mold of the butt. It is preferred by most cyclists for its excellent comfort design.

Do bike saddles make a difference?

Yes, it does. If you have a comfortable bike seat, you will surely have a better riding experience. Otherwise, you may suffer from different bike seat pains, which are elaborated above.  

Will the bike seat pain go away?

Yes. If ever you experience bike seat pains, the best thing to do is to take a rest from biking and allow them to heal. Typically, they heal just a couple of days, but for more serious sores, they may take some time.  

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By Paul P.

Paul Panha is an avid cyclist and sports performance enthusiast. Regularly on the road testing (and buying) new bikes. Paul is a co-owner of GetBike.fit and is the head resident author here.