How to Reduce Mountain Bike Saddle Pain
Saddle pain is a common problem in cycling. Whether you're a newbie, a seasoned pro, or an enthusiastic amateur, you will most likely experience saddle pain at some point. Saddle pain can range from minor soreness, all the way to severe cases that could result in long-time injury that requires surgery and time off from cycling which is why it is important to know how to reduce mountain bike saddle pain.
To reduce mountain bike saddle pain, wear padded bike shorts while riding and use chamois cream to help prevent chafing. Adjust the angle of the saddle to provide better support and weight distribution, or purchase a new saddle with design features such as cutouts.
The saddle is one of the three main points of contact between the rider and the bike, and due to the rough nature of mountain biking, could cause the rider to develop saddle pain or some kind of sensitivity.
Similarly, you will find loads of information among these tips and tricks to choosing a mountain bike saddle. Be sure to read that article as well.
Is it Normal to Have Sit Bone Pain as a Cycling Beginner?
You will feel some soreness, and your sit bones will ache in the beginning. The good news is that the pain will decrease as your body gets used to and adjusts to sitting on a saddle.
It is normal to have sit bone pain as a cycling beginner because cycling is new for the rider’s body and it takes some time for the body to adjust to it.
It takes time for your body to get used to cycling and every biker’s adjustment time differs according to this article by Giant Bicycles.
All novice cyclists have a sore butt after cycling. Depending on their bike, saddle, cycling shorts, and other factors, some beginners may experience it more intensely than others. However, it is often understood that everyone has butt soreness to a certain extent. Our article about how to improve mountain bike saddle comfort offers several suggestions on how to reduce soreness and make your riding experience more enjoyable.
You will begin to develop a pain tolerance as you become more and more accustomed to riding. Your body will become used to the motions and the resulting muscle soreness that comes with riding a bike. In two to three weeks, cycling will become more pleasant for you, and you will not experience as much sit-bone pain as you did in the beginning.
Why Does My Mountain Bike Seat Hurt?
A bike seat is designed to accommodate a fraction of the rider's weight and isn't supposed to hurt.
A mountain bike seat may hurt if the saddle design isn’t suited to the rider’s physiology, personal needs, or when riding for many hours. A mountain bike seat hurts if it’s the wrong size, positioned at the wrong angle, or set at the wrong height.
Occasionally simply adjusting the seat angle or height may reduce mountain bike saddle pain, and our article about adjusting the seat angle will give you tips on how to do this. But sometimes you might need to change your seat if angle adjustments don’t help.
Here are the reasons why your mountain bike seat could be hurting you:
Reason 1. The Seat is the Wrong Size
As explained in this article by PLOS Journals, mountain bike seats hurt and are usually uncomfortable because the standard issue saddles are not suitable for all users.
If your bike seat is the wrong size, you may feel mountain bike saddle pain. Different bike seat sizes are available to fit various body shapes. The size of the seat and how effectively it supports your ischial tuberosities are the two main factors in choosing a bike seat that is the proper size for your body, particularly your sit bones.
The bike seat is the wrong size for a rider if it is excessively narrow and the sit bones protrude laterally over the seat surface, creating pressure peaks and discomfort. Read this article from Shimano that explains how to determine the correct size so that the seat is wide enough for adequate support but not too wide that it rubs and chafes.
Men's and women's seats are intended to meet variances in hip breadth and position of the ischial tuberosity (sit bones) based on normal gendered body types. Choose the saddle size that best suits your physique, irrespective of whether it says it's for men or women.
To determine if a seat is the right or wrong size for you, measure the width of your sit bones and use that measurement to roughly determine what bike seat size would be best for you. One of the best methods is actually sitting on a seat to get a sense of how it feels. A measuring template like this one from Bike Components is the easiest and most cost-effective tool for sit bone measurement.
Reason 2. The Seat Is At the Wrong Angle
Bike seat pain can occur when the seat is positioned at the wrong angle. If the bike seat is reclined too far forward or backward, it will cause uncomfortable pressure points.
The bike's seat is tilted downward when the saddle's nose is lower than the back. This might lead to discomfort in the knees, wrists, and forearms. Have a look at this article from the European Journal of Applied Physiology that explains how a nose-down saddle tilt improves overall efficiency during seated-uphill cycling. With your bike seat’s nose inclined forward, your pelvis tilts, causing your hips to slip to the front of the saddle and the nose facing upwards may lead to issues such as falling off the back of your saddle.
You should be sitting in the middle of the saddle, not sliding forward onto the nose or backward off the back, and your saddle should be at a balanced angle. While some riders like their seats to be level and not lean forward or backward, others prefer them to be slightly tilted. Our guide on how to adjust the saddle angle and height explains how to properly fit your saddle for maximum comfort and safety.
If the rider frequently adjusts sitting positions when riding in an attempt to achieve a comfortable posture, this could be an indication that the saddle's tilt is incorrect. Putting the saddle perfectly horizontal first using a level like this, followed by a one-hour test ride, will allow you to figure out the ideal angle for your bike saddle. If your saddle does not sit comfortably, reduce the front angle by 1 degree, for the next test ride. Continue this procedure to get the ideal saddle angle. It's important to note that some female bikers find it more comfortable if their nose is tilted slightly downward.
Reason 3. The Seat Is At the Wrong Height
Wrong bike seat height is another cause of bike seat pain, and adjusting the seat height on your bike is critical for comfort, efficiency, performance, and avoiding injury. It also allows you to ride longer and push harder.
Your perineal region may become irritated if you ride using the wrong bike seat height since you will be forced to shift your weight from side to side. To provide comfort, the saddle should be positioned at the rider's proper height. Our article about how to prevent and manage mountain bike saddle numbness explains several methods to prevent or manage seat discomfort when riding.
This manual from Canyon explains how to set the proper saddle height for your bike. Your balance will be compromised if the saddle is too high, resulting in friction in the crotch area as you rock from side to side. If the seat is too low, friction can also be caused, preventing the legs from bearing weight.
You can measure the bike seat from the point when the crank arm is positioned parallel to the seat tube, and the pedal surface is flat. Another measurement option, which disregards crank length, is the distance from the bottom bracket's center to the saddle's highest point. Using a goniometer like this is one of the easiest methods for measuring your saddle height. When using a goniometer, most people discover that they feel most comfortable when their knee is at a 25–35 degree angle at the bottom of their pedal. It is necessary to increase the seat height slightly if you have any soreness in the front of the knee, and you must lower the saddle slightly if the ache is in your back knee.
How To Relieve Sit Bone Pain From Cycling
A rider’s sit bones may become uncomfortable, as they bear most of the rider's weight, which causes ischial bursitis, another name for sit bone pain.
To relieve sit bone pain caused by cycling, adjust the angle and height of the saddle. This will change riding posture and alleviate pressure on the sit bones. It may be necessary to purchase a new saddle that puts less pressure on the sit bones.
As explained in this article by Narayana Health, the sit bones may experience pain as a result of cycling-related tendon or hamstring damage, as well as from spending too much time cycling using the wrong bike seat.
You should seek medical assistance if you start to experience pain, stiffness, swelling or redness surrounding the pelvic area, difficulty sleeping on the afflicted side, pain when stretching the hip or buttock, or pain that gets worse when you sit down, to evaluate whether the issue is related to sit bone pain.
The pain will diminish as the sit bones become used to the high-intensity strain. You can avoid and treat sit bone pain in a variety of ways. The most crucial thing is rest. Your body won't be able to heal properly if you don't allow it enough time to rest, leaving you susceptible to more and longer suffering.
Here are our tips to relieve sit bone pain from cycling:
Tip 1. Adjust Your Sitting Position
A good sitting position is essential for relieving sit bone discomfort since no saddle will be pleasant if you sit incorrectly. When you feel sit bone pain, adjusting your sitting position can help to reduce the discomfort.
Some riders position their butts too far forward on the bike seat, causing their butts to rest on the narrower area of the seat. However, if they position their butts farther back, they will be on the squishier gel portion of the seat like this. Therefore, you should sit so that your butt occupies the entire seat, which should help ease some of the pain.
When mountain biking, you constantly adjust your riding posture because of the terrain and your riding techniques. To attain a comfortable seating position for an MTB, sit on your bike, with your heel on the pedal, and the pedal at the bottom of the revolution. Adjust your sitting posture so your weight is appropriately placed on your sit bone rather than the soft tissue surrounding it to relieve sit bone pain. For more details on bike seating positions for different types of saddles, read this article by Trek Bikes, a well-known bike manufacturer.
Tip 2. Adjust Your Bike Saddle
Improper positioning of the bike saddle will result in sit bone pain. The saddle height and angle must be adjusted while configuring the bike as explained in this video tutorial by SickBiker. The saddle height should be adjusted first. One of the reasons for bike seat pain is incorrect bike seat height, and this article from Procedia Engineering explains that changing your seat height is crucial for comfort, efficiency, performance, and preventing injury.
If you ride with an incorrect bike seat height, your perineal region may become inflamed since you will be forced to shift your weight from side to side. The saddle should be placed at the right height for the rider to feel comfortable. You could also try using a mountain bike seat dropper like this, as we discuss in our guide to mountain bike seat dropper repair, to adjust your seat height to easily change your seat height for riding on different terrain.
Alter the bike saddle angle because bike seat pain might arise when the seat is positioned incorrectly. If the bike seat is angled too far forward or too far backward, you will not be able to distribute your weight properly, putting more pressure on your sit bones and causing sit bone pain. The bike saddle should be horizontally positioned to allow an even distribution of your weight to relieve sit bone pain. For more details about saddle positions, read this article on ergonomics by Bike-Components.
Tip 3. Get a New Bike Saddle
It could be time to get a new mountain bike seat if you still experience sit bone pain despite implementing all the above measures. Bike saddles come in various styles and designs to fit every rider. The materials used to make seats range from gel to leather. To fit a woman's bigger pelvis, female-specific saddles like this are shorter and wider, while it is the opposite for male riders that would probably prefer a saddle that is longer and narrower at the back like this one.
Others feature a cutout in the center to reduce strain on sensitive tissues. Try a few to discover one that is a good fit for you. You may think about purchasing an MTB saddle like this 5-zone concept memory foam seat, to reduce pressure points. Biking requires a solid saddle. The perineum will be compressed if the saddle is overly soft because your sit bones will sink into the saddle.
Along with the saddle's firmness and cushioning, there are several other factors to consider while picking the best saddle. Your saddle must have the right size and shape. The skin will bruise and become inflamed more easily if you choose an overly thin saddle since it won't adequately support your sit bones.
When riding with a new saddle, it's possible that you'll feel your sit bones hurt. But after 10 to 15 rides, you should feel less pain since you'll have developed more protective skin tissue. After several rides, you might consider purchasing a replacement saddle if the current one is still unpleasant. For more details on choosing a bike saddle, read this article by EVO, a bike saddle manufacturer.
What Causes Saddle Sores?
Saddle sores, created by severe pressure and friction over time, are one of the most irritating issues for bikers.
Saddle sores can be caused by pressure on specific areas, friction from pedaling with a rocking motion, and moisture caused by sweating.
A saddle sore is an irritated, pink, or red area of sensitivity in the butt area, and it is a known fact that saddle sores impair cycling performance. Check out this article by the Cleveland Clinic that explains more about the causes of saddle sores.
Here are the main causes of saddle sores:
Cause 1. Pressure
As explained in this article by SQlab, when you are not using the proper bike saddle, in terms of material and size for your body, the pressure of your body on the seat may result in saddle sores. Many of us support our weight, when riding, on the ischial tuberosities, or "sit bones", and the perineum, the region between your anus and genitals. This article, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explains the different pressure that men and women experience when cycling.
When you first started cycling, you could have experienced soft tissue saddle pain, a deep, almost profound discomfort caused by pressure on the seat. Your perineum is subjected to considerable pressure due to your body weight pressing down on the bike seat. Saddle soreness results from your saddle being unable to support as much of your weight as it should on your sit bones.
If you are new to cycling and are looking to buy your first bicycle or perhaps you are wanting to upgrade the one you have, check out our tips on which mountain bike you should buy for some handy advice. Starting out with the right size bike could go a long way to ensuring your optimal comfort while riding.
Cause 2. Friction and Moisture
Many saddle sores develop from excessive moisture and skin friction. A saddle sore can develop on the skin due to irritation from clothes, clothing friction, or the bike seat. Sweat and other types of moisture can enhance friction and bring the bacteria in your pelvic region into contact with the sores. Inflammation, redness, discomfort, and a slower rate of recovery are frequently made worse by bacteria.
Saddle pain produced by friction on the soft tissue in your buttocks or thighs is known as skin abrasion. Saddle sores may happen to anyone, but your risk may be higher if you ride your bike for a long distance. This is because sitting on the saddle for a long period of time without getting up will reduce the opportunity for your skin to breathe properly.
How to Reduce Saddle Soreness
Although saddle sores are a temporary issue that may easily be addressed, they can be both aggravating and uncomfortable. With the right bike equipment, accessories, and care, there are many ways to reduce saddle soreness.
To reduce saddle sores, wear padded bike shorts while riding, use chamois cream, and try adjusting the saddle angle.
These are what we suggest you use to reduce saddle soreness:
Padded Bike Shorts
Chamois shorts, sometimes called padded shorts, incorporate cushioning for your butt while providing compression and muscular support. You can significantly improve saddle comfort on a mountain bike by using padded riding shorts.
One of the primary advantages of cycling shorts is that they add an extra layer of cushioning for more riding comfort. The padding in top-notch shorts decreases pressure and absorbs road vibrations. It makes sense to spend money on a pair of cycling shorts like these that keep you padded, dry, and cool while allowing for easy mobility. Good shorts are stretchy, heat-expulsion-optimized, and made to minimize friction.
For male bikers, it is advised to use bib shorts like these or shorts like these to ensure that your cycling shorts and chamois stay in the proper location. Female bikers who use padded shorts like these often have broader hips than men, so they may not always need braces. To keep them from slipping, some shorts feature grippers towards the bottom. This helps to reduce chafing and thigh discomfort. In addition, these comfortable fabric shorts contain a cushioned layer that reduces pressure, stops pathogens from spreading, and keeps you relatively moisture-free.
Additionally, you must ensure that you wear a fresh pair of cycling shorts every time you go for a ride. A used pair of pants will brush significantly more than a clean pair taken out of the closet. Wearing a fresh pair of shorts will help reduce friction that might cause seat or saddle aches. Finally, we cannot stress this enough: do not wear underwear with your riding shorts.
Chamois creams are lotions applied to the area that is in contact with the saddle before riding to minimize friction between your skin and your clothing. While riding, this lotion lessens skin irritation caused by friction between the cloth and the skin.
By using cycling-specific chamois cream like this, you may avoid rubbing or sticking between the material of the chamois pad on your shorts and the area of your legs and genitalia. Chamois cream can be applied directly to the skin or on a chamois pad. Using a cream on long rides is beneficial since long rides increase the likelihood of developing saddle pain.
In addition to relaxing ingredients like Aloe Vera or Shea Butter, chamois creams also contain antibacterial agents like eucalyptus or tea tree oil that stop germs from accumulating and causing problems. Additionally, the cream's viscosity reduces friction between your skin and the chamois.
The average performance time of chamois creams is longer than that of petroleum jelly, which is more affordable and provides a more effective barrier against chafing. Any biker with broad or closely spaced thighs that frequently chafe from pressing against the saddle or frame may find relief from an anti-chafing cream like this because it reduces friction and develops a silky-feeling protective layer on the skin.
MTB Saddle Angle
The saddle's angle is essential for supporting the rider and avoiding placing more pressure on the sit bones. The proper saddle angle is directly related to the saddle height and handlebar position.
The saddle area should ideally be parallel to the ground when you begin. Consider the shift in your actual seat angle caused by the negative compression damping. A somewhat lower saddle nose is advised when the seat angles are extremely steep.
When the rider's hands are on the handlebar, the saddle pressure should be evenly distributed between the sit bones, which should be correctly supported and carry 80 to 90 percent of the weight. The soft materials in the center and narrower region of the saddle-support the remaining pressure, which will be minimal. Pressure is distributed differently as a result of the saddle angle.
Adjusting the Saddle Angle
Step 1. Loosen the Bolts that Hold the Saddle
Usually, the seat post's bolts that need to be loosened are under the seat. The bolts must be rotated with a Hex wrench, from a set like this, in a counterclockwise direction. When loosening the seat post with two bolts, do it evenly and gradually. A 6 mm Allen key is often used for single-bolt designs, although twin-bolt setups use a 5 mm Allen key more frequently. Check out our ultimate list of tools needed for mountain bike maintenance so that you can repair and tweak your bike and make adjustments yourself.
Step 2. Clean and Assemble the Parts
Use a rag and some degreaser like this to clean out all the clamp heads and bolts. Place the saddle on top of the seat post after assembling it on the clamp head. The bolts should be put back in place, and hand tightened, but not too tightly. You should be able to move the saddle rails forwards or backward in the cradle to the desired position with the bolts remaining unfastened.
Step 3. Adjust the Saddle Angle
While the bolts are loose, adjust the saddle angle. It's advisable to keep your saddle horizontally flat rather than slanted up or down unless have already determined your ideal seat angle. Simply release the bolt and reposition the cradle if it has a single-bolt design. When using a twin-bolt system, tilting the saddle up or down depends on which bolt is tightened—the front or rear. You'll need to balance the two before securing them firmly.
Step 4. Tighten the Bolts
When satisfied with the saddle angle, tighten each bolt. Retighten the bolt in a clockwise direction to the proper torque on a post with a single bolt. If you have a saddle bag for your essential tools, you can attach it to the seat. Our mountain bike tool bag ideas guide has some great ways to secure your most important tools to your bike frame when out riding.
Step 5. Check the New Angle
Take a ride to check the new angle. You could find it difficult to hold yourself when riding forward on hills if the saddle is too high in the front. If the saddle is too high in the back, you could feel it in your behind, or your wrists might get sore from exerting pressure on the handlebar as you try to maintain your sitting position. We discuss upper body comfort a little more in our article that explains where to hold mountain bike grips to maintain proper posture.
Summary of Ways to Reduce Saddle Pain
|Bum bruising||Padded bike shorts||Men's cycling shorts|
|Chafed skin||Chafe cream||Chamois Cream|
|Perineal pain||Saddle angle adjustment using a Hex key||Hex key set|
How to Reduce Bike Seat Pain as a Female
Bike seat pain can be a problem for female riders who experience pressure from the saddle's outside edge or hard centerpiece but softer saddles with extra cushioning can go a long way to reduce discomfort.
To reduce bike seat pain, female bikers should utilize wider saddles that have cutouts and extra cushioning, and should always maintain good hygiene.
Here are our tips for women to reduce bike seat pain:
Tip 1. Utilize Wider Saddles That Have Cut-outs
You can use women's saddles like these, which are often broader, to accommodate wider sit bones. Saddles with cutouts should be used since they ease tension in sensitive regions and help you feel more comfortable.
Tip 2. Good Hygiene
To reduce saddle sores, stop yeast and urinary tract infections, and help avoid saddle sores, keep everything tidy and dry. After a bike ride, you should wash your clothes as quickly as possible. When your ride is over, immediately take off your riding clothes and get into the shower. Wet wipes like these are advised if your ride will last more than one day.
How to Reduce Bike Seat Pain as a Male
Bike seat pain is a fairly common complaint among bikers, and men are no exception.
To reduce bike seat pain as a man and improve your riding experience, practice standing when riding, and trimming hairs or have laser hair removal instead of shaving.
Our article about how to choose the ideal saddle position has tips for measuring your body and bike so that you can configure your bike correctly according to your body type and size.
Here are our tips for men to reduce bike seat pain:
Tip 1. Practice Standing
Bike seat pain is caused when pressure on the sit bones significantly limits blood flow. Standing for 30-60 seconds every 10-15 minutes will release strain on the sit bones and permit regular blood flow to the numb area.
Tip 2. Trim Rather Than Shave
When reducing the hairs on the lower part of your body, i.e., legs and private parts, do not completely shave off the hairs; instead, trim them as a bit of hair helps create a barrier. Alternatively, you could have the hair removed with laser treatment which will eliminate the chances of ingrown hair and inflamed hair follicles. This article from Lasers in Surgery and Medicine explains the benefits of removing hair with laser therapy if you want to reduce the chances of folliculitis, which is the term for inflamed or infected hair follicles.
How to Pick a Mountain Bike Saddle to Ease Your Pain
Currently, most bike seat manufacturers provide saddles that can accommodate any rider or riding style. The saddle you choose should help ease any pain you feel while riding.
To pick a mountain bike saddle that works for them, riders should consider what type of pain they are experiencing. Riders with perineum pain should look for a saddle that reduces this pressure, such as a cut-out saddle. Riders with pain in their sit bones should look for a seat with more padding.
There are also bike seat covers that contain gel pads and have a waterproof outer layer, like this.