Pain from your bicycle seat doesn't have to come with the territory. Pain in the saddle can be an indication of many things, including an incorrectly sized seat, inadequate padding and poor positioning. Diagnosing your saddle pain and correcting it can help you enjoy your ride without worrying about potentially damaging any sensitive tissue. A correction to your saddle position could also improve your pedaling efficiency, giving you more power on those tough hills.
Sizing Up Your Seat
Eliminating saddle pain starts with a correctly sized seat that properly distributes your weight. More padding isn't the solution; you want your contact point with the saddle to be directly on your sit bones, which jut out from your pelvis underneath the flesh of your buttocks. To find your sit bones, try sitting on a table or other flat surface. The two points that contact this surface most firmly are your sit bones. Find a saddle with a width that matches these contact points. Most bike shops have an accredited bike fitter on staff that can assist you in finding the exact measurement.
Less Is More
With too much cushioning, you may be distributing your weight between your legs, where pressure and vibration can damage sensitive tissue. A good bicycle seat uses high-density foam that matches your sit bones and provides good cushioning without improperly cradling your weight. A channel down the center of some bike seats eliminates contact altogether, which can relieve saddle-related pain or numbness. Finding the right balance between cushion and support is key to eliminating your pain, so don't be afraid to ask to try a few saddles at your local bike shop.
The proper position in your bicycle seat can make a big difference in your comfort. With your bike leaned up against a wall, mount your seat and rotate the pedals so that one crank is pointed straight to the floor. While seated, your knee should be just slightly bent and you shouldn't be straining to reach the pedals. Now that your seat is correct, lean forward, grab the handlebars and adjust your stem height until the position is natural and your neck isn't craning. If you can't get your positioning right, check that your bike frame is the correct size by matching your inseam to the manufacturer's sizing chart. If it isn't correct and you do a lot of cycling, it's worth your time to try and get a properly sized bike.
Finding a Short Solution
A pair of cycling shorts is a necessity for rides further than a few miles. All professional cyclists use them, and they come in a wide variety of price ranges, styles and materials. Cycling shorts have a chamois pad built in that provides extra cushion when you're in the saddle and can relieve a lot of issues associated with cycling such as soreness, chafing and numbness. If you want to get the most out of your ride, coupling your seat with a pair of cycling shorts is the safest and most comfortable way to ride.