Tips to Prevent & Manage Mountain Bike Saddle Numbness
Mountain biking is considered an activity with a lot of health benefits. Health experts believe cycling is a healthy, low-impact exercise that practically all demographics can participate in, regardless of age and gender. However, off-road cycling also comes with unique risks. One of the most common biking risks is “saddle numbness”. Every cyclist enthusiast has had to deal with saddle numbness at one time or the other. In this article, we shall discuss the types of saddle numbness, the causes of saddle numbness, and how to prevent or manage mountain bike saddle numbness
Mountain bike saddle numbness is caused by pressure being put on the perineum, the region between the anus and genitals of both men and women. To prevent saddle numbness, stand up regularly while biking to relieve the pressure from the saddle area, adjust positions, and wear padded bike shorts. It may be necessary to change the angle of the bike seat or even purchase a new seat that is a better fit.
We discuss comfort levels in our guide on how to fit a mountain bike saddle, adjust angle and height, and maximize comfort.
Types of Mountain Bike Saddle Numbness
Unique to riding is the consistent contact between body parts and components of the bike. Pressure is consistently applied to one of these body parts by the bike saddle. This pressure is what causes numbness.
Saddle numbness when cycling can also be called perineum numbness, numb junk, and female numbness. This numb feeling can be described as saddle numbness, which is the numbness of the perineum due to pressure from the saddle of a bike.
According to this article by the Cleveland Clinic, numbness happens when pressure is applied to an area of the body for an extended period. This pressure leads to nerve compression, blocking electrochemical signals between the brain and that part of the body, leading to numbness.
Symptom 1. Perineal Numbness While Cycling
Perineal numbness is the most frequent type of numbness experienced by most bikers. The perineum is the part of the body that is unique to males and females. For the male, it is the area between the thighs, bounded by the scrotum and anus. For females, it is also the areas between the thighs bounded by the opening of the vagina.
When you sit on a chair, the weight of your body is spread across your butt cheeks. However, when you sit on the saddle of a bike, your full weight is put on your perineum. This, in effect, leads to pressure build-up from the saddle of your on your perineum in which case you may need to adjust your mountain bike seat angle as we suggest in our article.
Consequently, the pressure on the perineum affects the nerves around that area. This pressure compresses the nerves around the perineal, blocking electrochemical signals from that area to the brain. This pressure also affects the flow of blood around the area. All these factors lead to numbness of the perineum
Symptom 2. Numb Junk While Cycling
Numb junk is a type of erectile dysfunction that occurs from cycling. As a biker, when you begin to feel numb around your penis, you are experiencing one of the effects of prolonged pressure being applied to your penile region from sitting on a bike saddle while riding.
According to this article by Harvard Health Publishing, the cause of numb junk pressure is applied to the pudendal artery of the penis and comes from pedaling while riding. This pressure over time causes damage to the nerves around the penis leading to numb junk and erectile dysfunction.
Symptom 3. Female Numbness After Cycling
Female numbness is unique to female bikers. Frequent to some female bikers after they ride their bike is the feeling of numbness around their vagina and is similar to the numb-junk that is unique to men. The cause of female numbness after cycling is also due to pressure exerted around the vagina from sitting on a bike saddle.
For a female to regain feeling around her vagina, the nerve fibers around the sacral area need to recover and there must be an easy flow of blood in and around this area. According to this article from Femina Physical Therapy, numbness is caused by the pressure of the saddle on the nerves and tissue around the vagina. This pressure either compresses the nerves or damages the nerves in the worst-case scenario, leading to the absence of feeling. A padded saddle like this could help to alleviate such numbness.
How Do I Stop Numbness When Cycling?
It has been established that the major cause of numbness while riding a bike is pressure. This pressure comes from sitting on the bike saddle while riding. While this numbness can be short-lived, it can also lead to some real damage like erectile dysfunction for men and numbness for women. Having knowledge of the cause of this numbness will assist in stopping it.
To stop numbness when cycling, stand up at regular intervals to take pressure off of the perineum. Riders can also adjust their position, wear padded bike shorts, adjust the angle of the bike seat, or purchase a new seat.
In this section, we will be discussing in detail each of the ways to limit or stop numbness when cycling. Doing one or more of these things will definitely help to prevent, stop, or reduce numbness while you ride your bike.
Tip 1. Stand Up Often
One of the major causes of saddle numbness is your body weight being centered around your perineum as you sit on your bike saddle. This causes an upward pressure from your bike seat and this pressure is directly applied to your perineal area.
So, one of the first things to do to stop numbness is to ride standing up more often. This is an alternative to sitting on your pedal throughout your journey. Every time you stand up while riding, absolutely no pressure is on your perineum. The weight of your body is instead distributed to other parts of your body, like the arms and legs in which case you may want to install drop handlebars on your mountain bike, as we discuss in our guide, as drop bars like these provide more hand positions that are suitable for standing.
When adopting a standing position while mountain biking it is important to maintain proper contact with the pedals to prevent slipping. Depending on your riding experience it might be a good idea to install clipless pedals like these on your bike. Our article about the benefits of clipless pedals will provide you with handy tips on what type to choose and how to learn dismounting techniques.
Tip 3. Adjust the Angle of Your Seat
The angle of the saddle of your bike will determine how you sit and how you ride your bike. It has been stated that most of the pressure that causes numbness comes directly from the saddle. So, by adjusting your saddle, you can limit numbness
According to this video tutorial by GMBN, there are several ways to adjust the angle of your saddle. It can be moved forward or backward on the clamp of your seat frame. It can also be tilted up or down at any angle. Adjusting your saddle to an upward angle means your perineum will come in contact with the saddle at a sharper point leading to an increase in the pressure and more numbness. Tilting the saddle at a downward angle will reduce the extent to which your perineum will be in contact with the saddle. However, this means as you ride, you would need more force to remain on your seat to prevent sliding off the saddle putting more pressure on your hands and forearms.
Adjusting your saddle would mean alternating between the upward and downward angle of your saddle till you find a convenient angle. Our article about mountain bike reach will also help you determine the ideal position and angle for your seat so that you are comfortable when riding. Similarly, you might want to learn how to fix a mountain bike seat that keeps moving, so be sure to check that out too.
Tip 4. Wear Padded Bike Shorts
Mountian biking accessories include several types of clothing and gear designed to be worn for protection like a bike helmet, glasses, knee pads, and elbow pads. Other problems like aerodynamics, riding in the rain, and pedaling are also managed through biking gear. Our step-by-step guide on how to choose your mountain bike armor kit will help you choose the right gear for your riding style and types of terrain.
Consequently, when it comes to stopping or limiting numbness when you ride your bike, one of the most important pieces of apparel to get is a pair of padded bike shorts like these. Padded bike shorts as the name suggests are bike shorts that are padded to reduce the effect of the pressure of your saddle on your butt as you ride.
Tip 5. Purchase a New Bike Saddle
There are times when the saddle of your bike isn't right for you. This is often determined by unique factors like your weight, your style of riding, and the type of bike you are using. In cases like this, it is better to purchase a new bike seat like this. When purchasing a new bike saddle, you must try out several saddles until you get the right one.
Summary of Strategies to Prevent Mountain Bike Saddle Numbness
|Symptoms||Possible Causes||Solution||Example Products That Could Help|
|Perineal numbness||Pressure from bike saddle||Stand up often and use clipless pedals to maintain pedal control||Mzyrh MTB Mountain Bike Pedals Bearing Flat Platform Compatible with SPD Dual Function Sealed Clipless Aluminum|
|Numb junk while cycling||Pressure from bike saddle||Wear Padded Bike Shorts||Padded bike shorts|
|Female numbness after cycling||Pressure from bike saddle||Adjust the angle of saddle, or purchase a saddle suited for females||Selle Royal Respiro Women's Moderate Cool Xsenium Bicycle Saddle, Black , Medium|
Similarly, our article explaining how to fix a mountain bike seat that's too hard will provide you with additional tips and tricks. You might also find interest in learning the differences between trekking seats vs. mountain bike seats or learning more about mountain bike seat dropper repair. If so, be sure to read our related articles for more details.
Tips to Choose the Best Bike Saddle to Prevent Numbness
When riding for long periods or over particularly bumpy terrain, a saddle with extra cushioning and an ergonomic design can help reduce saddle numbness.
To prevent saddle numbness, buy a saddle designed for the rider’s sex, ensure the saddle is wider than the sit bone width, and keep multiple saddles for different types of riding.
Here are the tips to choose the best saddle for preventing numbness:
Tip 1. Buy a Saddle Designed for Your Sex
The anatomy of a woman is quite different from that of a man, so naturally, the perineal region of a man differs from that of a woman. Therefore, when choosing a bike saddle, you must go for one meant for your sex.
Manufacturers of saddles take gender into consideration when designing their ergonomic saddles. Of course, unisex saddles like this one are a popular choice—however, starting with a saddle designated for your sex is often better, as this would greatly limit the possibility of saddle numbness.
Tip 2. Measure the Sit Bones and Buy a Saddle That’s Wider Than Them
Apart from sex, manufacturers of saddles also consider various sit bones while manufacturing saddles. The sit bones are the bones located at the lowest point in the pelvis, and they support the body weight. Individuals’ sit bones differ, and there is a distinct difference in sit bones between a man and a woman.
It is also important to take your weight into account when selecting your saddle’s width. A saddle with a wider seat area like this one is better suited to a rider who is heavier while a narrower saddle like this one would be fine for a person who weighs less. You could also add a saddle cover like this for more padding.
Tip 3. Buy Different Saddles for Different Kinds of Rides
The riding you intend to engage in determines the type of saddle you should get. Consequently, if you intend to be involved in multiple types of riding, then you should get a saddle for each type.
Do you intend to race with your bike, or will you ride on rocky terrains? Do you ride with your back arched forward, or do you ride with your back straightened? If the rides will be bumpy then a padded memory foam saddle like this would be a good choice. If you sit up straight when riding this means you are exerting more pressure on your sit bones so a wide saddle with an ergonomic design like this is recommended.
You might also find interest in learning how to choose a mountain bike saddle cushion for comfort and performance or how to choose the right mountain bike saddle height. If so, be sure to read our related articles for more details. Similarly, choosing the right mountain bike saddle materials for your needs may also help you avoid discomfort while riding.
How to Find the Best Cycling Shorts for Numbness
After your helmet, vest, and sunglasses, your cycling shorts are one of the most important gear items to have as a biker. Cycling shorts perform key functions like reducing saddle sores and numbness and ensuring a more enjoyable riding experience. Getting the best cycling shorts for yourself is important.
To find the best cycling shorts for numbness, consider the design of the shorts. Also, look out for the construction quality of the shorts, the seat pad, and the level of comfort they provide.
Cycling Shorts Design
Cycling shorts are designed based on the riding you will use them for. This can vary from mountain biking, road biking, speed racing, or endurance biking. You can get just about any cycling shorts, but it is better to go for the ones designed for whatever type of biking you intend to do.
The quality of your cycling shorts matters. The last thing you want is a pair of cycling shorts that tears easily. So, the quality of the material used in making the shorts matters. You want a durable pair that wouldn't lose its elasticity and durability after a short period of time. The quality of the stitching also matters as cycling is a demanding sport.
The Seat Pad
The seat pad of your cycling shorts is perhaps one of the most important parts of your cycling shorts. The seat pad is made of chamois. According to this article by Giro, the chamois is a cushioning foam sewn into your shorts' seat pad, which acts like protection for your butt. The chamois helps reduce the friction between your saddle and your body. This helps reduce both saddle sores and saddle numbness.
A pair of cycling shorts must feel supportive and comfortable. The ideal pair will feel snug but not restrictive and will allow fluid pedaling without friction or seams pressing into the skin. The additional padding needs to contour to the pressure-prone areas without restricting any leg movements, so be sure to try on several types of riding shorts so that you find ones that fit your body and riding style.