How to Improve Mountain Bike Saddle Comfort
The saddle is one of three major contact points between the rider and the bike. Your saddle should be optimized for your body type and riding style so that it doesn’t cause painful pressure points and soreness. In this article we discuss how to improve mountain bike saddle comfort.
To improve mountain bike saddle comfort, buy a comfortable mountain bike seat, use padded shorts, apply chamois cream, and adjust saddle tilt and height.
How to Diagnose Mountain Bike Saddle Discomfort
Bike saddle discomfort can be a major cause of annoyance. If you begin to experience acute pain, numbness, or tingling while riding, you should seek medical attention to determine if the problem is due to saddle discomfort.
Some reasons for saddle discomfort on a mountain bike include improper saddle adjustment, poor quality cycling shorts, an improper bicycle fit, or choosing the wrong saddle type for the riding positions.
Experiencing saddle discomfort means you are putting too much pressure on the sensitive nerves and arteries that flow down your pubic rami bones which could be relieved by using a saddle like this. Pressure reduces blood flow, stifling oxygen delivery to tissues, which may lead to more severe problems. Women generally have larger greater subpubic angles than men, meaning they often experience more discomfort from saddle pressure. This article from the University of Wisconsin-Madison explains the different pressure points that men and women experience when cycling.
Symptom 1. Saddle Sores
One of the most uncomfortable issues for cyclists is saddle sores, caused by excessive pressure over time. A saddle sore is a sensitive region in your butt area that is inflamed, pink or red in color. This article from Mantel explains that saddle sores have been shown to reduce cycling performance.
Two significant factors that contribute to developing sores are weight distribution on your saddle and your position on the bike. During a ride, many of us place weight on the ischial tuberosities, sometimes known as your "sit bones," as well as on the perineum, the area between your anus and genitals. If riding practices are not altered, soreness might lead to lasting numbness. For more information about saddle soreness, see this article by Healthline.
This article published by the Journal of Sexual Medicine explains that saddle discomfort can contribute to the development of erectile dysfunction in men.
Symptom 2. Thigh Rubbing and Chafing
Saddle discomfort may be experienced as a result of your legs scraping against the saddle, causing chafing on the thighs. Chafing is a phenomenon that occurs when skin tissues scrape, or when skin rubs against clothes or other fabrics. It may cause swelling, tenderness, discomfort, itching, and redness on the afflicted spot. Contact with water may worsen symptoms.
Chafing is most likely to occur on the inner thighs, where the skin comes into contact with the padding seams, and in the groin or rear, where the bike saddle presses against the skin. Chafing can disrupt your pedaling rhythm, making your cycling more inefficient and slowing you down.
If chafing is not addressed, the microscopic cracks in the skin leave you vulnerable to fungal or bacterial infection. Properly positioning the saddle can prevent chafing, as explained by this article published by Western Michigan University.
Bike comfort saddles like this one are designed to relieve pressure on the perineum—the region between your sit bones.
Symptom 3. Folliculitis and Furuncles
Folliculitis is an infection at the base of the hair follicles, as this article from the American Journal of Dermatology explains, and is caused by bacterial or fungal overgrowth. It is occasionally accompanied by irritation and swelling. The condition often tends to go away on its own after a few weeks if the affected area is rested properly.
Folliculitis may worsen, at which point it is referred to as furuncles. Furuncles are pus-filled boils that grow around the base of a hair follicle and are generally solid and painful. Furuncles, or boils, develop when the hair follicles become infected with bacteria called Staphylococcus. The typical first sign of furuncles is a stinging pink or red lump. A group of furuncles is known as a carbuncle, as this article from the Western Journal of Medicine explains.
A medical visit may be necessary if a boil is big, unruptured, or extremely uncomfortable for more than two weeks. Within this time span, a furuncle should have emptied and begun to mend. Infections may be cleared with antibiotics as well as an incision and drainage. Do not pop the sores if you have folliculitis. Additionally, avoid using strong cleaning agents, especially ones that include alcohol. For more details about treatment, read this article by Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Items Needed to Improve Mountain Bike Seat Comfort
|A comfortable mountain bike seat||A comfortable seat should offer comfort while riding||Bike Seat||~$25|
|Padded Shorts||Good shorts help prevent friction||Men's Cycling Shorts||~$40|
|Chamois cream||Chamois cream prevents chafing and bacterial build-up by forming a protective layer on the skin||Muc off Chamois Cream||~$15|
If you want to learn more about how to fit a mountain bike saddle, be sure to check out our related article for more information. Similarly, we have an article explaining how to prevent and manage mountain bike saddle numbness, so be sure to check that out too.
Saddle Sore Treatment - How To
Most medical experts agree that saddle sores should heal within a few days. If a saddle sore has not begun to heal within a week or becomes really painful, it is best to consult a doctor. Additionally, it is recommended to avoid riding a bike until the situation clears up in order to avoid sweat and friction in the affected area.
For saddle soreness treatment, take time off the bike, keep the area dry and clean, and use a good antibacterial cream. A doctor may advise using an antibiotic or anti-acne cream with prescription strength if the sore is worsening. Oral antibiotics or even surgical removal may be required for acute sores.
Here are our tips for recovering from saddle soreness:
Tip 1. Take Time Off
Saddle sores, like any other type of injury, requires time to heal. You might need to stop cycling for a few days in order to give the affected area time to recover. If you are not willing to do so and ignore the discomfort, your skin will become even more irritated, increasing the risk of developing furuncles.
Tip 2. Keep the Area Dry and Clean
Since bacteria are a major cause of saddle sores, you should keep yourself clean while recovering. A moderate, fragrance-free, or hypoallergenic soap should be used to cleanse your perineum if it is infected. Shower at least once every day, or more frequently if you sweat a lot. When it is time to dry off, avoid vigorously rubbing the affected spot. The best way to dry off the area is to gently pat it with a clean towel like this. Make sure to keep the region dry in between showers.
Tip 3. Use a Good Antibacterial Cream
Apply a good antibacterial cream to the affected area. You also want to look for a barrier ointment like this intended to treat diaper rash and other minor skin conditions. Consult your pharmacist for an effective over-the-counter antibacterial lotion like this one. Remember to always wash your hands before applying anything to an affected area. Apply the ointment with a cotton swab or pad, avoiding the areas where the skin has broken.
Tip 4. Avoid Wearing Tight Clothes
Wearing tight clothing might cause the area to become more irritated. In addition, try to reduce the amount of pressure on the area—instead of sitting, spend more time lying down or standing in which case you can use a standing workstation, to work on your computer, like this.
Tip 5. Consult a Doctor
Saddle sores usually heal after a few days of recuperation, but it may be worthwhile to see your doctor if your saddle sores are severe enough to make it difficult to walk or sit down. Stronger medications may be prescribed to speed up the healing process and get you back to cycling as soon as possible.
Products for Saddle Sore Treatment
|Zinc cream||Used to create a barrier over the skin and heal inflamed sore areas||CareALL||~$10|
|Pain relievers||Helps to relieve headaches, fevers, and body aches||Ibuprofen||~$15|
|Antibacterial cream||Used to treat bacterial buildup||Neosporin||~$15|
|100% Cotton Bath Towels||Used to dry off the affected area after showering||Cotton Bath Towels||~$55|
|Baby Powder||Keeps the affected area dry and clean||Johnson's Baby Powder||~$10|
Furuncles begin as reddish or purple, painful lumps. The boils soon fill with pus and get bigger and more painful, eventually rupturing and draining. A furuncle's tendency to rupture can be sped up using warm treatments and antibiotics. Apply a warm, wet cloth to aid drainage. After a furuncle has ruptured, continue to apply warmth to aid both recovery and pain relief.
To treat furuncles, clean the infected area, use a washcloth to apply warm salt water, use an antibiotic cream, and consult a doctor.
Here are the steps to treat furuncles:
Step 1. Clean the Infected Area
Use antibacterial soap and warm water to wash the affected area twice daily. Ensure that you always use clean towels and wear clean underwear.
Step 2. Use Salt
Use a washcloth to apply warm saltwater to your skin by mixing one teaspoon of table salt like this with two cups of water. Alternatively, run a lukewarm bath and add half a cup of Epsom salts like this to the water. Soak the area for a few minutes and pat dry before getting dressed.
Step 3. Apply Antibiotic Creams.
Apply over-the-counter antibiotics to your skin. You can use hydrocortisone cream like this or oatmeal lotion like this if you are itching. It is also beneficial to refrain from shaving or rubbing the affected region and to wear loose 100% cotton clothing.
How to Make a Mountain Bike Saddle Comfortable
Bike saddle manufacturers offer products in various designs and sizes to accommodate a wide range of cyclists. There are several ways to optimize mountain bike saddle comfort. Different sorts of materials may provide more or less comfort. The breadth and length of the saddle, as well as its position, will also have an impact on how comfortable the seat is.
To make a mountain bike saddle comfortable, buy a seat optimized for body type and riding style, use padded shorts, use chamois cream, and get the bike correctly fitted.
Our article about how to choose the ideal MTB saddle position for your riding style and the type of terrain has helpful tips on ways to adjust your seat.
Tip 1. Buy a Comfortable Mountain Bike Seat
Consider buying an MTB bike saddle designed to be comfortable like this one. The saddle of a bicycle needs to be firm. If the saddle is too soft, your sit bones will sink into it, placing pressure on the perineum. A soft saddle is only appropriate for short rides, such as on your city bike, while a good sports saddle is sturdy. This video turial by Singletracks Mountain Biking has some great tips for choosing a comfortable mountain bike saddle.
As explained in this post by Bike-Components, it is also important to evaluate the cushioning material when purchasing a new bike saddle. For mountain biking, a gel saddle is not the best option. During cycling, your body will warm up, and that warmth will be absorbed by the gel. If this happens your body can no longer expel heat to the saddle and you will begin to perspire, potentially contributing to saddle soreness and reducing performance.
Selecting a saddle with foam cushioning is recommended if you frequently ride for longer than 30 minutes. This material does not absorb as much heat, thereby keeping your body cool. The majority of comfort saddles include extensive padding with gel inserts for further cushioning. A conventional leather Brooks saddle like this one is also an option. These saddles are built to last and will conform to the contours of your body over time.
When choosing the ideal mountain bike saddle cushion, there are a number of additional factors to take into account in addition to the hardness and cushioning of the saddle. It is also crucial that your saddle is the proper width and form. If you pick a saddle that is too thin, for example, it will not provide adequate support for your sit bones, meaning the skin will bruise and become inflamed more easily.
It is likely that you will feel your seat bones when using a new saddle. However, you should experience less discomfort after around 10 to 15 rides since you will have generated more skin tissue in those areas. If the saddle still feels uncomfortable after multiple rides, consider buying a different one. For more details on how to choose the right bike saddle, see this article by bike manufacturer Trek.
For more information, be sure to read our related article explaining how to choose the right mountain bike saddle materials for your needs.
Tip 2. Use Padded Shorts
Mountain bike saddle comfort is greatly increased by wearing padded riding shorts. It is wise to invest in a pair of cycling shorts that keep you cool and dry and that facilitate movement, like these. Good shorts are designed to reduce the risk of irritation, are stretchable, and are optimized for heat expulsion.
Some shorts have grippers located near the bottom to prevent slipping. This helps prevent chafing and irritation of the thighs. These soft cloth shorts also have a cushioned layer that prevents germs from spreading, decreases sweating, and provides cushioning for rough rides. Our article about how to choose your mountain bike armor kit has an in-depth article about choosing riding shorts.
Tip 3. Apply Chamois Cream
Chamois cream is a lotion used to keep your genital area comfortable when riding. Using cycling-specific chamois cream like this one ensures that there is no sticking or rubbing between the area of your legs and genitalia and the material of the short’s chamois pad. Chamois cream can often be applied on a chamois pad or directly to the skin. On long rides, using cream is worthwhile, as lengthy trips increase the likelihood of developing saddle soreness.
Chamois cream frequently contains antimicrobial ingredients like eucalyptus or tea tree oil to prevent bacterial buildup. Chamois creams are an extraordinarily effective barrier against chafing and have a longer average performance duration than cheaper petroleum jelly.
Anyone with broad or closely spaced thighs that chaff frequently due to pressure from the saddle or frame will also benefit from using an anti-chafing cream like this.
Tip 3. Adjust Your Saddle to the Right Height
A saddle should be adjusted to the appropriate height for the rider to ensure comfort. If the saddle is too high your balance will be suboptimal, potentially leading to friction in the crotch area as you sway from side to side. This article from the Procedia Engineering Journal explains the effects of saddle height on pedal force effectiveness, and how friction can also be caused by a saddle that is too low that is preventing the legs from supporting the rider’s weight.
A goniometer like this is one of the simplest ways to monitor your saddle height. When using one, the majority of people find that their knee should be at a 25–35 degree angle at the bottom of their pedal stroke in order to feel most comfortable.
Your hips should not rock while you cycle. An improperly positioned saddle may cause a rider to lean their hips to either side when pedaling, which increases the possibility of saddle soreness and chafing. For mountain biking, an adjustable seat post like this can be useful as it allows for quick modification of saddle height. For more details on how to determine the correct saddle height, read this article by Mantel.
Tip 4. Set the Saddle to the Right Position.
If you set the saddle at a height appropriate for you and you are still having trouble riding, make sure to check the saddle position. Some riders prefer their seats to be fully level and not slanted forward or backward, while others want the saddle to be tilted at an angle. An indication that a saddle's tilt is off is that the rider regularly moves around in an effort to find a comfortable position. Check out our suggestions for where to hold mountain bike grips to maintain proper posture so that you don’t experience upper body pain while trying to get comfortable on your saddle.
To determine if your saddle should be adjusted, try to find the position so that when you pedal everything is in sync. To put it simply, make sure your feet are flat and level when you pedal. Try using a plumb line and hold it over the kneecap to find the right angle.
Tip 5. Get a Bike Fit
It might be wise to go for a thorough bike fit at a reputable bike shop like Park Tool has to offer regardless of whether you are experiencing saddle problems. It is the best service a rider can get to optimize his or her cycling experience.
Sometimes a basic bike fit comes with the purchasing of a new bike. Make sure you check out our guide on what mountain bike you should buy if you are thinking of buying a bike. If you want a more advanced fit, you can hire a professional. A professional bike fit takes around 1.5 hours and involves a comprehensive flexibility evaluation as well as standing consultation to adjust everything to your body. Our article about how to calculate mountain bike reach to obtain the best fit for you explains what factors determine whether or not a bike will be comfortable.
You might also be interested in learning how to adjust a mountain bike seat angle. If so, be sure to read our related article for more details. Additionally, be sure to learn how to fix a mountain bike seat that keeps moving. This alone might help solve all of your comfort problems.
Why is Mountain Bike Saddle Comfort Important?
The saddle is an essential part of the bicycle. In addition to being one of the three points on the bike where your body makes contact—the other two are the pedals and the handlebars—it also bears the majority of your weight, places you over the pedals, and aids in bike control.
Mountain bike saddle comfort is important because it increases pedaling efficiency, and helps avoid saddle sores and chafing. A saddle needs to evenly distribute the rider’s weight when seated so that pressure is not exerted in one area.
If you find that your handlebars are also affecting your comfort in general, check out our simple steps for adding drop bars to a mountain bike to be more comfortable while riding.
According to this article by Giant Bicycles, choosing an appropriate saddle is critical for long-term cycling enjoyment.
Here are the main reasons why mountain bike saddle comfort is important:
Reason 1. Improves Pedaling Efficiency
A comfortable and properly adjusted saddle is crucial for maintaining a correct body position while cycling. A good saddle position ensures that the feet rest on the pedals and the rider's weight is positioned above the bottom bracket, allowing for maximum pedaling efficiency.
Reason 2. Prevents Saddle Sores
Saddle sores are one of the most painful consequences of poor riding habits. A comfortable saddle improves your riding position and relieves pressure that could lead to sores. Saddles that mold to the rider’s body and that have open vents are best because they reduce pressure and encourage good airflow.
Reason 3. Avoids Chafing
Unnecessary rubbing on the rider’s skin will cause painful chafing and rashes. To avoid chafing choose riding shorts or pants that fit properly and that have some padding in the seat area. Riding shorts that have moisture-wicking fabrics will also reduce moisture that can aggravate chafing.