Bicycle seats were clearly created by some kind of masochist. Affixing narrow, barely padded saddles to two-wheeled steeds and then asking us to sit there uncomfortably for hours on end is … not ideal. Fortunately, you can do something about it.
Below are six trusty ways to prevent and alleviate bike seat pain, whether you’re an experienced cyclist or just starting out. Employ them all — or at least a few — and then sit back and enjoy the ride.
If your seat is too high or too low, your legs won’t properly support your weight on the pedals, and the seat will step in to make up the difference. This means extra pressure where it hurts. Also, if you are sitting too far forward or too far back, the angle at which your body connects with the seat will be awkward. You can avoid all this by getting properly fitted for your bike at a reputable bike shop.
Saddles vary in shape and size, just like we do. So there’s no one-size-fits-all option for riders. Try a variety at the store, and don’t be fooled into thinking something wide and cushy is necessarily better than something more streamlined. It all depends on your body and where your sit bones naturally settle onto the saddle. It’s a trial-and-error game, so don’t feel pressured into hopping on whichever seat comes standard with your bike.
If you’ll be riding for any length of time, padded shorts are vital. There are lots of options out there, including plenty of budget picks, but shorts aren’t something you want to skimp on. They’re your number 1 protector from discomfort. Cycling shorts vary in chamois thickness and material, with most using foam pads, while others rely on gel. Newer cyclists, and those embarking on long-distance rides, will want plenty of padding to prevent soreness. More experienced riders — or triathletes who wear the same item for running, biking and swimming — might prefer thinner padding.
Either way, remember: Cycling shorts are meant to be worn without underwear, as the extra layer causes friction and irritates your skin.
This one’s easy. Standing up on your rides alleviates pain and helps to get the blood flowing again. So aim to stand up every 10–15 minutes for a few seconds to give your backside a break.
It might feel strange to apply a thin layer of cream directly onto your undercarriage or the inside padding of your shorts. But the cream reduces friction between your seat and your body, helping stop discomfort before it starts. This isn’t something you need for 25-mile rides, but if you’re out all day, or especially if you’re embarking on a multi-day tour, chamois cream can work miracles.
The amount of time you spend in the saddle has a major impact on your level of discomfort. If you’re a new rider or just got a new seat, you probably shouldn’t embark on a long ride right out of the gate. Instead, build tolerance slowly. Start with shorter duration rides, increasing distance over several weeks or months. Eventually, assuming you’re wearing good shorts and employing a few of the tactics above, your body will adapt and the pain will subside.