Why Are Bicycle Seats So Uncomfortable – Bicycles In Motion

Why Are Bicycle Seats So Uncomfortable

Why Are Bicycle Seats So Uncomfortable

There are several types of bicycle seats, and each is made to fit a particular style of bike. If you are not comfortable on your bike seat, it probably isn’t about the saddle as much as how you use it, especially if you are riding long distances. Why are bicycle seats so uncomfortable?

A bicycle seat is not meant for sitting on with your full weight, but only intended for a biker’s sit bones. They are hard and narrow which helps distribute and bear some weight without getting in the way as you pedal and offers the least amount of resistance. Big saddles will put pressure on your sit bones causing chafing as you pedal.

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Bike Seat Hurts Sit Bones

There are multiple reasons your bike seat hurts your sit bones. First, you may be using it wrong.

It’s easy to get confused because a bike saddle is not the same as a seat. Saddles are only meant to hold some of your weight, not all of it.

Next, you may have the wrong style of saddle. There are variations between men’s and women’s versions, and there are several styles of different bike seats as well, mainly depending on what kind of bicycle you ride.

Alternatively, you may need to adjust the angle or change bike styles.

Why Are Bike Seats Shaped Like That

A bike seat is built to hold the weight of your sit bones as you cycle. The long, slender ‘nose’ helps distribute and bear some weight without getting in the way.

The narrowness allows your legs to move freely as you pedal and offers the least possible amount of resistance.

A bike seat shape is a trade-off between the need to hold up weight and not slowing a rider down.

Why Are Road Bicycle Seats So Uncomfortable

If your road bicycle seat is uncomfortable, then it’s time to consider how you’re using it.

A large percentage of the people who complain over road bike seats are sitting on them with all their body weight. That is not what they are designed for.

The hard plastic of a road bike seat is made to combine with a padded chamois in bike shorts or bibs so you can get a temporary rest for your sit bones.

If you watch professional riders, you may notice they are standing over their bike most of the time.

The position allows cyclists to maximize their energy by putting it all into the drivetrain rather than relaxing on a more leisurely bike style.

Why Are Bicycle Seats So Painful

An improperly adjusted seat is also going to cause more pain than necessary.

It’s vital to remember that your bike saddle is made to adjust vertically, so you extend your legs properly as you pedal, but it also tilts.

By leaning the seat forward or tilting it back, you can change how it feels when you ride. When in doubt, try adjusting your bike seat.

If you don’t know how or how much to adjust a bike seat, I recommend this video from Cam Nichols. In it, he explains everything you need to know to get the tilt on your saddle correct.

Why Are Bike Seats So Hard

Not all bike seats are created equal. Some styles are quite literally just a layer of hard plastic made to hold your sits bones.

However, other types of bike seats have more padding and even offer springs underneath that function as shock absorbers and make your rides much more comfortable.

If your bike seat is hard, it is either a style made for sits bones and more stand-up riding styles, or it may be that you’ve chosen the wrong size and type of seat.

Try swapping out your racing seat with a comfort seat with more padding but a similar shape.

Bike Seat Pain Female

Many things are unnecessarily gendered, but bike seats are not one of them. A female pelvic bone is typically wider than a male because women’s bodies are designed to be capable of giving birth.

A woman’s bike saddle is made to sit a little wider to accommodate this physical difference. If you are female and your bike seat is causing you pain, you may need a different saddle.

As eBicycles explains, “While some women find it more comfortable to sit on a slightly wider saddle with more pelvic support, some may actually prefer men’s saddles, particularly for racing bikes. Similarly, some men with wider hips may prefer to pick something in the women’s style that agrees with their anatomy.”

Do Bike Seats Get More Comfortable

There are several simple ways to make a bike seat more comfortable. From adjusting your stance to changing your pants, many adaptations make sitting on a bike easier.

Below are the 4 best ways to get comfortable on your bike seat:

  1. Chamois Wearing cycling shorts isn’t just a fashion statement. Whether you choose bibs or regular shorts, opt for a pair that has a good chamois. This addition, pronounced ‘shammy,’ is a padded seat that is either integrated permanently in the pants or removable. Either way, it makes a rigid bike seat feel a little less harsh.
  • Practice – Some things take time and concentrated effort of will. A new cyclist isn’t used to riding in a bent-forward, half-standing position. Fortunately, just as you can learn to take a more aerodynamic stance and tuck in your elbows, you can also practice resting your sits bones gently on a hard plastic road bike seat.
  • Cruisers – Choosing the right bike for you is essential. If your only goal is to become a professional road bike race, then swapping out for a cruiser with its broader, more padded seat won’t help. However, for many new cyclists, simply knowing there are more options and styles of bike out there can help. A cruiser or beach cruiser will still get you from point a to point b, but it’s a slower, more leisurely ride on a bike made for sitting upright on a more comfortable seat with shock absorption.
  • Recumbent – Cruisers aren’t enough for some riders. If you’re looking to take the pressure off your backside and go easier on your knees, perhaps you should check out recumbent bikes. This less-common style has a wide, comfortable, more chair-like seat and a lower profile because you are meant to lean back and relax as you pedal.

Helpful Tips To Know About Why Bicycle Seats Are So Uncomfortable

If your bicycle seat is uncomfortable, it’s probably because you are using it wrong. Don’t put all your weight on a road bike seat because you will only hurt your sit bones.

Here are a few more helpful tips to know about why bicycle seats are so uncomfortable.

  • A padded leather comfort saddle is about halfway between a hard plastic road bike saddle and a wide, comfy cruiser. These are for longer rides where you sit more often, but not all the time.
  • Sometimes the solution to your bike-seat pain isn’t the one you want to hear. We all love riding, but you can take it too far and ride beyond what your backside can tolerate. It’s best to work up to longer rides over time.
  • If you push too far, you can even develop saddle sores. According to Healthline, “Anyone can develop saddle sores, but you may be at increased risk if you take a long bike ride. This is because your skin is less likely to “breathe” if you spend an extended amount of time on the saddle without a break.”

Final Thoughts

Road bike seats aren’t designed for a comfy ride. However, they should help you relieve some pressure and shift positions while cycling.

The small, narrow, hard plastic seats are made to go with a chamois as a temporary, occasional resting place for your sit bones.

If you put your whole body weight on a saddle not designed for it, some pain and discomfort are inevitable.

Fortunately, you can upgrade to biking bibs, learn to shift your position or trade your road bike for a more comfortable style with a different seat. Whatever you choose, riding your bike should not hurt.

Brian Smith

Brian is the founder of Bicycles In Motion and an avid cyclist for 17 years. On the weekends, he enjoys exploring new bike trails and countryside roads to enjoy the outdoors.

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