Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable? 10 Great Tips To Prevent Discomfort

So you’ve picked up cycling again, or you’re getting a head start on next year’s fitness goals. Either way, if you’re back on the bike, you may have experienced that least favorite part of cycling: the painful rear. You have to wonder if there’s a conspiracy to make bike seats so uncomfortable, so we’ll all go back to streaming tv instead.

Bicycle seats are usually uncomfortable because the cyclist is seated in the wrong position. By finding the correct height for the seat, the correct width seat for the rider, and sitting in a position that facilitates free upper leg movement, bicycle seats should begin to feel more comfortable.

Thinking of the bicycle saddle as a seat is part of the problem. A bike saddle is not meant to carry the total weight of the rider. Most of the rider’s weight should be on the pedals, allowing the cyclist to use their full leg motion and strength to build up speed. The saddle shape is designed only to support the sit bones and allow the cyclist full range of motion in their legs.

10 Great Tips To Prevent Discomfort

If you’re new to cycling, here are ten great tips to help you get into the correct position so that you experience the minimum amount of discomfort. In the beginning, it may take practice before your body is used to sitting in the right place, but with the correct technique, those painful rears will become a thing of the past.

1. The Right Size Bike

How you sit on your bicycle will be determined by the size and height of your bike. If you end up with a bike that is too large or too small for you, you will be unable to sit in the correct position, no matter how great a bike seat you buy. Bike size is measured by the seat tube’s length, usually from the bottom bracket to the top tube.

While there are several methods to determine bike size depending on what kind of bike you are buying, a simple chart below will give you an estimate for the bike size you need.

HeightBike Size
4’11” – 5’3”13 – 15 inches
5’3” – 5’7”15 – 16 inches
5’7” – 5’11”16 – 17 inches
6’0” – 6’2”17 – 19 inches
6’2” – 6’4”19 – 21 inches
6’4”+21+ inches

2. The Right Shape Saddle

Everyone’s body is different, and a seat shape that suits one rider may be highly uncomfortable for another. Standard bike saddles can be replaced with more ergonomic designs that suit your body.

Flexibility plays a large part in choosing a seat shape. If a rider is inflexible, they are more likely to struggle to stay in place, and a rounded saddle shape is recommended. Flat saddles are better for flexible cyclists.

3. Your Preferred Sit Position

The way you prefer to sit will also play a part in choosing a more comfortable saddle. If you like to stay upright, you will put less pressure on the front part of your pelvic area. By leaning forward, you put more pressure on that area, and the wrong shape of the front part of the saddle could leave you feeling sore and numb.

4. The Right Width Saddle

Bike shops will have a special gel seat which they use to measure the distance between your sit bones. This gel seat will guide them to find the right-width saddle, but you can also do this at home. Saddle width is measured across the top, from one edge to another.

One at-home method to use if you can’t get to a bike shop is to put playdoh about 2″ thick between two pieces of clingfilm on a hard surface and take a seat on it in the position you find most comfortable to ride. An impression of your rear will be left in the dough, and the two deepest points are where your sit bones are. You will know whether you need to order a narrow, medium, or wide seat by measuring between these points.

5. Set Saddle At The Correct Height

With the right size bike and the correct shape saddle sorted out, your last step is to ensure you have your saddle set to the right height for you. The simplest way to do this is to sit on the bike with your heel on the pedal. Pedal backward until your knee has straightened. If your leg is in the six 0’clock positions, but your leg is still bent, you will need to lower the saddle.

6. Spend Time Cycling

Once you’ve ensured you have the correct setup, you’ll need to log some time on the saddle. Any new activity will be a little bit uncomfortable until you adapt, so start cycling to toughen up that rear. The more you slowly build up your cycle time, the more your body will adapt to find the technique that works. 

The more hours you get in cycling, the stronger your legs will become. When you sit in the saddle, your whole weight should not be pushed into the seat but centered over your pedals. Doing this requires excellent leg strength, and the more power you have, the less likely you will slip into the incorrect position.

7. Wear Padded Shorts

If you’re racking up long hours in the saddle, you will benefit from a bit of extra cushioning. Rather than buy a padded saddle, invest in padded cycle shorts. The newer you are to cycling, or the longer your distances, the more padding you may need. Wear foam or gel padded cycling shorts without underwear to prevent friction.

8. Stand Up

Standing up in the saddle gives your rear a break and stretches out your legs. Think about standing up for a few seconds every ten to fifteen minutes of cycle time.

9. Use Chamois Cream

Cyclists use chamois cream to prevent friction from time spent in the saddle. Apply a thin layer onto the inside padding of your shorts or directly onto your skin on the contact points of the saddle. This anti-bacterial cream is used to avoid friction, bacteria buildup, and saddle sores.

10. Clean Up

Always wash your shorts after a ride to prevent bacterial and dirt buildup. If you’re doing long multi-day rides, pack travel wash and extra bike shorts, and don’t sit around in dirty shorts after a ride. Bacterial infections could lead to abscesses and other unpleasant conditions.

Conclusion

If you have the correct bike size, saddle size, and shape, sit forward on your sit bones, you will minimize discomfort. Take hygienic and health precautions such as slowly building up stamina, keeping your gear clean, and building up your endurance and strength to adjust to your bicycle seat.

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