Finding the right saddle is an issue all riders face. While one rider will
swear by a certain saddle, the same saddle may be completely uncomfortable for
you. This is because each of us has slightly different anatomy and our
backsides come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes! An incorrect
saddle may not only be uncomfortable, but can cause, among other things, saddle sores - a crotch
infection that typically starts as a small pimple formed from irritation or
chafing of the hair follicles. Though it tends to last only a few days,
these days will be uncomfortable if not outright painful. In some cases
the sore can spread to adjacent tissue and create larger sores, boils or
cysts. Here are some pointers to help you find
the right saddle for you and how to avoid excessive saddle pain.
If you've only just recently got back on your bike, be prepared for
your first few rides to be a little uncomfortable. Even
with the perfect saddle and lots of riding experience, it takes a
little while to "re break-in" your backside at the beginning of
each riding season.
Look for a saddle that will provide support for your sit bones.
You will want to find a saddle just wide enough to support your weight on
your sit bones (sit on the curb
or the edge of a step to feel where they are). If it's too narrow, you'll
end up putting extra pressure just where you don't want it. If it's
too wide, you are much more
likely to suffer from chafing and saddle sores. Saddles designed
specifically with women in mind tend to be shorter and wider to
accommodate generally wider sit
That said, while saddles come in designs for women and men, don't limit
your testing to gender-specific designed saddles. Many women find
that the narrower "men's" saddles are right for them.
Try a saddle with cut outs.
There are many saddles, for both men and women, which come with a variety
of cut outs - all the way
through the saddle or a groove down the length of the saddle. These
cut outs are designed to
reduce the pressure on your tender parts. Many people have found
these types of saddles to be much more comfortable.
Try a firmer saddle.
a long distance ride you need plenty of support. A firm saddle may
feel uncomfortable to at first but, once you find your place on it, the
leather adapts and so do you. Very soft gel/padded seats can increase chafing
problems as more of your backside comes in contact with the saddle leading
to more friction. Another downside to a soft gel seat is that you lose
power each pedal stroke. Rather than the thrust of your leg going
totally into your pedal, it is getting absorbed by the soft gel.
Expect to try out a few saddles
before you find the right one.
It might take several tries before you find
a saddle that is right for you. Most good bike stores (and
online stores such as Performance
Bikes) have generous return policies for saddles. Usually
they will let you test out the saddle for a few days or a week. Be
sure to check with the store to make sure they have such a return policy.
Test the saddle out on at least a couple of good long rides before you
decide whether to go with the saddle or not. If it doesn't feel
right, try another saddle.
The fact is that there is no particular saddle that is perfect for
everybody. I was lucky enough to
find that the saddle which came with my bike worked perfectly for me.
My friend Steve Dannemiller has ridden on so many different saddles in the
pursuit of comfort, I've
lost count. There is one new saddle which may be worth checking out.
It's called the Trico Split Rail saddle and I mention it as, unlike the
other saddles I know out there, it is adjustable! Yes, you can
adjust the saddle to expand or contract to suit your sit bone geometry.
You can also adjust the saddle stiffness and tilt AND it has good range
for fore and aft adjustments. This basically means that the saddle
becomes something you can play about with to get the exact fit for you.
Of course you can achieve the same results by trying out a range of other
saddles but each time you try a new saddle be sure to ride on them a while
before you decide if it fits or not. If you want to find out more
about the Split Rail saddle visit the
Sports site. If you want to talk to someone about the saddle I
would suggest you contact bike fit expert and AIDRide /AIDS-LifeCycle supporter Paul Swift. Paul consulted on the design for Trico.
You never know, he also might be able to sell you the saddle at a charity-rider discount
rate. It can't hurt to ask. Go to his website
Make sure the saddle is
It really doesn't matter whether you've got a $10 stock seat or
the fanciest $100 urologist-approved model, if you saddle is not set up correctly
you're going to have
an uncomfortable ride. Your friendly local bike store can help you
check that the seat is in the correct place. Following are the main
culprits for problems. For more fitting basics go to our
Bike Fit page.
of Saddle - A relatively level saddle is the
You need to be able to distribute pressure across a wide
area, and the only way you're going to be able to do this is if the saddle is
Tilting the saddle too far up at the front focuses the pressure on exactly the wrong areas. As you slide forward on the
you're essentially driving your most delicate parts into the nose of the seat.
Tilting the saddle too far down at the front will lead you
to spend the whole ride pushing back from the
handlebars, creating a lot of tension in your arms & shoulders.
you find yourself getting sore on the "sit" bones, tilt the seat down a
little. If you find yourself getting sore in the front soft tissue area,
raise the nose a little. Try to make adjustments a little at a time.
Going from one extreme to the other leads to a greater chance of pain!
Saddle - Handlebar Level
Note the difference in height between the top of
the saddle and the top of the handlebar. Avoid having your handlebar
significantly lower than your saddle. For a smaller road bike (up to about 54cm or so)
try to keep this difference to 5cm (2 inches) or less. For a mid-sized road bike (up to
58cm) a difference of 6cm (2.5 inches) is acceptable, and for larger bikes, try to avoid
greater than an 8cm difference (3 inches). The issue here is that, as the difference
becomes too great, the rider is rotating his mid-section downward over the front of the
saddle, bringing undue pressure onto exactly the wrong areas.
This is the #1 reason for saddle-related male problems!! Another reason to
avoid such positioning is that most of us do not have a flexibility to maintain
this position over the course of a long and multi-day ride.
saddle should be positioned so that you don't reach too far forward or sit too
upright. This can be done by sliding your seat forward or aft on the rails.
As you play with this fore/aft adjustment, be sure not to move the saddle more
than a few millimeters each time. You may also require a different
handlebar stem than your bike is equipped with to achieve a comfortable
The way you ride might make all the difference in the world. Most injuries
don't occur instantly, but rather over a long period of exposure to whatever's
causing the problem. If your riding style is such that you sit endlessly
on the saddle and never stand up or stretch, you're much more likely to have
problems. The best way to combat this is to regularly take a break from the
grind and stand up for a bit, take a breather, stretch a bit, and then get back
in the saddle. If you do this on a regular basis, before you start to experience
a sore tail end, you'll go a lot further without pain than you would otherwise.
Body & Abdominals
What do your upper body and abs have to do with your butt and soft parts
feeling battered? Well the stronger your upper body and abs are, the less
pressure you put on your arse! Strong abs support your lower back and help
keep you from slouching.
Do a simple test right now in front of your computer.
1. Scoot a little forward on your chair and slouch like you're the
2. Now straighten your back, pull back those shoulders, suck
that stomach in and up. 3. Imagine there is a string attached to the top of
your head that is pulling you toward the ceiling.
Did you notice that when
you had decent posture less of your behind was in contact with your seat?
Did you also notice that the pressure on your behind was lessened too?
Chamois Butt'r / Butt Balm is your friend
Strong upper body and abs will help you maintain a decent posture on
your bike and this not only takes stress off your behind, it also takes pressure
off your hands too. And that's not all, it builds a stronger platform from which your legs
push against, leading to a more powerful pedal stroke. You don't have to
develop washboard abs - thought the picture would get your attention though! Just doing some basic crunches each morning and a few upper body weight
exercises can do wonders for your cycling form and health.
Most riders find that using Chamois Butt'r, Butt Balm or similar
products will help avoid chafing and saddle sores - making your ride
more comfortable. They work by soothing and softening your
skin in the area you need it most - inside your bike shorts. Yes,
this may sound a little icky at first, but give it a try. Before
riding, apply the balm around the area where your inner thighs meets
your crotch and any area you believe has friction issues. You should apply enough balm such that all of it is
not absorbed by your skin but not too much such that you slip and slide
about on your seat!!! As a fellow rider once said, chamois
buttr/butt balm is lubricant, not a marinade!!!
And some advice
for women. While Bag Balm is cheaper than products like Chamois Buttr, at the end of the day it is a lot ickier to clean up. The
difference is that butt balm / bag balm type products have the
consistency of petroleum jelly while products such as Chamois Buttr are
non-greasy, lanoline based and have a similar consistency to moisturizer or sun-screen.
Wear 6 or 8 panel bike shorts which have a padded chamois or synthetic
liner. Why 6 or 8 panel shorts, not the cheaper 2-4 panels?
Well the 6-8 panel designs will fit to your body better. They are
also designed such that the seams are not in areas which get a lot of
friction. Trust me, if you wear a pair of shorts with a seam up
the middle of your crotch, you're not going to be partaking in any
sexual exploits any time soon! Ouch! Bike shorts are also
supposed to to be form fitting. Wearing loose shorts will increase
friction that leads to possible saddle sores, sections of raw skin and
pain. Do not wear underwear. Try to keep the chamois soft
by applying washable lubricant on it - Chamois Butt'r is great for this.
Regularly wash your groin area with anti-bacterial soap to reduce
bacterial growth and the chance of infection. After you shower use
talcum powder or baby powder to control moisture.
Expect at least a little discomfort on long
Though we all wish it were otherwise,
on long distance rides such as you will experience on a typical
multi-day charity bike ride, your backside is going to feel some discomfort, perfect saddle
or not. If you do a long ride, you WILL also be
sore when you first get on to ride the next day. This discomfort should dissipate
within the first 5-10 miles.
- ride a recumbent!
If you really can't cope with saddle
pain, a riding a recumbent bike may be the way for you to go. A
recumbent is a long and low road bike designed around an ergonomic seating
position where the rider sits in lawn-chair like comfort and pushes pedals
located ahead of his/her body. One of the fastest growing bike categories.
Of course many of the hints and suggestions above still apply for
Pros: No butt, neck, back, hand, shoulder, or arm pain! The most
comfortable rider position of all bikes. Some are much faster downhill and
on the flats than other road bikes. Due to a long wheelbase, can have very
wide gear range meaning excellent lows for climbing hills. Gets noticed
everywhere you go.
Cons: Takes time to develop the muscles to ride a recumbent with complete
comfort. Most are slower on climbs. You get noticed everywhere you go.