"My bum hurts!" is probably the number one complaint of new cyclists, especially those who choose to get back into cycling by doing a 50 mile charity ride with no prior preparation!

Saddle sores are history

Non-cyclists look at ‘razor-thin’ cycle saddles and assume they are for Tour de France racers or masochists.

What they fail to realise is that today’s saddles have been 160 years in development. Since the earliest days of bicycling, inventors have experimented with different types of saddles. The ones fitted to bikes today are the result of that development.

They may look uncomfortable but for the great majority of people they are not (if fitted and adjusted correctly, that is).

The ‘razor thin’ shape allows the cyclist to pedal without thigh chafing. Wide, tractor saddles prevent efficient spinning.

The rear of the typical modern saddle is broad enough to support the sit-bones and padded just enough to absorb road shocks. Saddles are also supported on rails, which adds to the natural suspension. Saddles with long noses allow the cyclists to semi-steer the bike with their thighs. And traditional saddles allow cyclists to modify their seating position frequently, rather than situate the rider in one position.

Naturally, it may take some time for butts to realise the above info is applicable to them!

For most people, the soreness quickly recedes and after a few more day’s of riding, getting on a bike is no longer painful. It’s a matter of getting your bum used to sitting on a saddle, preferably an ‘anatomical’ one, and

your back and shoulders used to the new sitting position.

Of course, there are ways to minimise this initial discomfort. Check your saddle isn’t too far forward on the ‘seat post’.

‘Tractor’ cycle saddles are wide and often come fitted with gel inserts, bags of soft goo which conform to the shape of your bum.

Some tractor saddles also come with springs or elastomer bungs. These let the saddle bounce underneath you when pedalling along (which can lead to a fair amount of bobbing around and, whilst comfortable, isn’t very energy


To convert your existing saddle into a gel one you could fit a gel-filled saddle cover.

Always bear in mind, though, that too squishy a saddle won’t be supporting you properly. Over time try to wean yourself onto a harder, narrower, more supportive saddle.

However, this is a trial and error thing. If your saddle is too narrow, all your weight is concentrated on your perineum (check where this is in a medical dictionary, this is a family website!) instead of the sit-bones, the ischial tuberosities. In men the sit bones are roughly three inches apart; in women they’re four inches apart. This is why women’s saddles are wider. On a sit-up-and-beg bike you’re taking a lot of your weight on your bum; on mountain bikes and sports bikes a lot more of your weight is shared with your handlebars.

Don’t fit such a wide saddle, however, that it chafes your thighs. Find a happy medium.

If, after altering your riding position through trial and error, moving the saddle forward a touch or fitting a wide – possibly sprung – saddle or a suspension seatpost, and you’re riding in proper padded cycle shorts, you’re

still uncomfortable, maybe you might be on the wrong sort of bike altogether? Many of the mountain bikes in the shops are designed for racing and so sling you far forward into an uncomfortable position. Racers are

used to this position and it’s quite comfortable for them but for the rest of us a more ‘sit-and-beg’ position is desirable. Hybrids are normally more upright and so more comfy for beginners. Dutch roadsters are even more


But, as was made clear above, you don’t want to be so upright that hardly any of your weight is being supported by the handlebars. Again, aim for a happy medium.

If all else fails, why not try a recumbent? These are laid-back cycles with comfy, deck-chair like seats. They take a bit of getting used to but have been godsends for some riders who might otherwise have had to retire from




Saddles set too high or low can lead to knee injuries. Find the right

position by sitting on your bike and putting your heel on a pedal in its

lowest position. The saddle and seatpost are the right height when your leg

is straight (but not locked). The seatpost should not be extended above the

inscribed safety limit. Buy a longer seatpost if necessary.


Most saddles have rails by which they are attached to the seat post clamp.

Undoing a locknut or Allen key bolt will enable you to slide the saddle

forewards or backwards. With the pedals horizontal to the ground you should

be able to draw a vertical line from the front of the forward knee through

the centre of the pedal spindle.

Angle of tilt

For true comfort on a bike the tilt of the saddle is crucial but is largely

a matter of taste. Women tend to like the saddle nose pointing to the

ground slightly, to relieve pressure on the pubic area. That’s why women’s

saddles are shorter than men’s. Many women-specific saddles get round this

problem by cutting a hole out of the nose.

By making just minor adjustments to the saddle’s tilt you can radically

improve your comfort. Try your saddle at different angles and ride about

for twenty minutes or so to check which angle suits you best.



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