5 Ways to Avoid that Bicycle Saddle Sore Feeling – Get Out And Ride!
How you can get rid of that bicycle saddle sore feeling with five easy steps
I get it. Cycling can be a pain in the butt. Literally.
A professional tour rider can race in their saddle for over a hundred miles a day for three weeks straight. And you are just trying to make it through a single 10 mile ride without tears of pain. Can I tell you about the time I first rode 60 miles to Carter Lake on beautiful Boulder County roads? Brutal!
I know it does not help you when I say that riders get used to a certain level of saddle discomfort. That does not get you excited for another grueling ride. You need solutions now so you can get back on the bike. Ride longer doesn’t help you when all your butt wants to do is quit.
So here are five helpful beginner cycling tips to keep you more comfortable in your seat and get rid of that bicycle saddle sore sensation.
- A Good Pair of Bike Shorts
One of the first pieces of bike gear you are going to want to purchase, after a helmet and a water bottle, is a pair of bike shorts.
Nowadays, bike shorts come in all different styles to suit your specific needs and occasion. There are baggy ones for mountain biking. Stylish ones for pedaling to your favorite barista. And of course road shorts for the beginner cyclist to the most experienced grand fondo participant.
If you have had the displeasure of riding in your gym shorts and boxers for a ride or two, I’m sure you can be found at your nearest local bike shop with your wallet wide open and staring at a lot of choices. Once you have found a style that works best for you, the sky’s the limit. And so is the price.
Is there really a difference between a $50 pair of shorts and a $400 pair of shorts? Come on, they are both black, so what’s the big deal? Won’t they both handle my bicycle saddle sore sadness?
Yes and no.
If you are just starting out, any pair of cycling shorts are better than no shorts. Even a thin chamois (pronounced shammy) will take some of the sting out of your ride. It not only provides padding, it also allows you to move on your saddle easily. See tip 3. For one great review check out Chris and his site that compares several shorts in several price points.
As you go up in price, you get shorts that belong to an entire kit. That means that the shorts match the jersey that match the socks, that may even match the vest. These shorts are always of a higher quality. They are going to have more panels made from various materials for a better fit. They are also going to have a better chamois.
What makes a chamois better? A better chamois will last longer than a couple of thousand miles. It will be thicker and more durable. But not too thick. This will let you ride longer in more comfort. If you participate in century rides or one of those grand fondo rides I was talking about, you are going to want the best shorts money can buy.
There are certain brands of shorts that bill themselves as the highest quality. Since I am not reviewing any particular short in this guide, I’m not going to name names. That may or may not be true. And it may or may not be your style. If you have ever splurged on a designer pair of jeans or been fitted for a bespoke suit, you may appreciate the materials, construction, and quality of these premium shorts.
- A properly Fitting Saddle
Did you know that saddles come in men’s and women’s styles? Did you know that saddles come in different sizes?
You may think those springs and wide surface areas would be comfortable. As you increase your mileage, you are going to favor support and functionality over a luxo-barge seat. That big seat may be the biggest contributor to your bicycle saddle sore.
We come in contact with our bikes in three areas. Our feet (shoes obviously come in different sizes), our hands (handlebars come in different sizes) and our butts. Specifically, your saddle supports you under your ischial bones of your pelvis. As you can imagine, people come in all different shapes and sizes, too.
Some manufacturers have a measuring device for your ischial bones, similar to the way there are devices to measure your feet. This device will give you your seat size in millimeters width.
If you do not have access to such a device, you should be able to get a loaner saddle to see if a particular shape or size suits you. What may feel fine on a five minute ride around your local bike shop may not be so after three or four rides. Here is one manufacturer who seems to have endless choices when it comes to saddles.
Try a short nosed saddle, or a saddle with a relief channel. If you have tried a few and are not successful, you may need to consult a bike shop that emphasizes fitting saddles. There may not be one near you, but they may be able to give you some advice that will help you in the long run.
- Changing Your Position On The Saddle
Yes, there is one sweet spot when you sit perfectly on your bike. This is what a professional bike fitting is all about. And we are not meant to stay in that one static position for a hundred miles. That’s the best way to give yourself a bicycle saddle sore. You have to move around.
There are basically two other positions I use on the saddle other than the perfect sweet spot.
The first position is what many people call a time trial position. You ride a little further on the nose of the saddle. This does two things. It allows you to use your hamstrings and glutes during your pedal stroke. On a side note, this will allow you to round out your pedal stroke by utilizing one muscle group over another.
The second position is what’s called on the rivet. Back in the day, bicycle saddle was tacked together with rivets at the rear. Some saddle manufacturers still pay homage to that tradition. Think Brooks.
Sitting on the rear of your saddle will give you a little more leverage. You will primarily use your quadriceps and most likely have a pronounced downward pushing motion. It is very difficult to have a smooth round pedal stroke in this position.
Sitting on the rivet will take the pressure off your ischial bones and utilize more of the padding in that part of the saddle. It is also at this point on the saddle that it begins to flare. This flare will develop additional friction on your inner thighs. It will change the alignment of your pedal stroke, too.
Many riders use this part of the saddle while climbing, as well as change their hand position to keep the body more upright and conserve energy.
- Standing Up In The Saddle
For parts of some climbs, I find myself standing up on my pedals to use different muscles. It also relieves that building pressure in your taint and ischial bones. A great way to get rid of that bicycle saddle sore feeling.
Standing allows you to use your quadriceps and body weight to turn over each pedal stroke. It increases the leverage you put on the pedal to give you more power.
Some cyclists look really labored while climbing in this position. An experienced climber will look almost effortless and as slight as a feather.
Some other cyclists look uncoordinated while sprinting. The bike just being thrown side to side. An experienced sprinter will produce massive bursts of acceleration almost immediately while the bike moves under him/her in a perfectly synchronized and choreographed motion.
With this increased power can come a lot of wasted energy. Your body is not nearly as efficient while standing as opposed to sitting in the saddle.
Incredibly steep hills and all out sprints will require you to develop an efficient pedal stroke out of the saddle. Here is a great place to learn more about how to improve your technique while standing.
- More Miles
Yeah, I promised I would not tell you this, but the more miles you ride, the better your saddle feels, the less bicycle saddle sore you get. I don’t want to say that you get used to it or that you build up callouses down there. But you get used to it.
The same way you get used to your ski boots those first few days, or get your runner’s legs back after your first 50 miles.
The more you ride, the more confident you will feel. The less you will get that bicycle saddle sore sensation.
I still feel like throwing my bike in the ditch after riding 70 or 80 miles. For me, at this point in my training, I feel great at mile 50. The more often I ride 80 or 100 miles, the more confident I will feel and the less sore I will be.
Try each of these tips. You do not have to accept bicycle saddle sores. There are options to keep you comfy longer on any ride.
What makes the biggest difference for you? Have you found a magic pair of shorts? What has been your experience trying different saddles? How do you manage your position on the bike? Let me know in the comments below. Hearing from you about what works is the best way for all of us to learn and improve. Here’s to a happy bottom.