Your saddle is a very important contact point with your bike.  It should provide the support & comfort you need to ride for as long as you like. The most common complaint when riding is sore sit bones so let’s take a look at this cycling problem.

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What Causes Sit Bone Issues?

When you return to riding, begin riding, have a new saddle or choose to ride for longer times you will experience some discomfort at the points that take weight – your sit bones.  This is a very common feeling that many people who ride a bike will have.  You must understand that rather than sitting on your saddle you are actually straddling it and your sit bones are taking the majority of the weight.  They are designed to do this but they will need time to adjust and build up their conditioning and strength.

One of the biggest issues for your sit bones is finding the support they need.  This means that these boney protuberances are seeking a good surface to be reassured that they can efficiently transfer weight.  So your saddle has to provide a “useable width”.  Your saddle must match the width of your sit bones.

Soft saddles are meant for short distances.  If you have a lot of soft cushioning or poor quality padding this will be adding to the problem.  As you ride further and are seated for longer – it usually takes around 30 to 45mins – a soft saddle allows your body too sink too far.  This means parts of your body like your sit bones make contact with the hard structures of the saddle.  It also causes compression of structures that are attached to or move across your sit bones.

 

What is Discomfort? As mentioned above, discomfort at your sit bones is a normal part of riding your bike.  It means that you are doing the right thing – bearing weight through these bones.  It will feel a little achy, bruised, slightly red.  The sensations will come on after time on the bike, on average around 30 to 45 minutes.  It usually takes a few weeks to a month to overcome (depends on how often you ride).  If discomfort is quite intense take 2-3 days off between rides.  With each ride you should feel like there is progress or improvement being made.

What is Pain? Your sit bones will experience problems beyond discomfort when they are not being supported correctly.  This will cause deep achy sensations, muscle & tendon inflammation, sores and chaffing.  These problems will not resolve over time but become worse and are more immediate when you sit on your saddle.  You will struggle to find any position that feels supported and will feel the need to be constantly shifting in your seat.

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Your sit bones are meant to take weight so if you have the correct shape saddle they will adjust to riding a bike

How to Reduce Sit Bone Problems

Saddle Set Up – how your saddle is set up effects your ability to sit on it.  Make some adjustments to see if you can help resolve your issue.  Firstly check that your saddle is level and not nose up. Then test out slight back/forward movements, to position the saddle directly under your sit bones.  Please read…  Saddle Position – Height, Tilt and Reach

Saddle Shape – having the correct width so that your sit bones are the bones that are taking weight is crucial.  You may need a womens saddle that has a wider width than a mans saddle.

Saddle Padding – soft, well padded saddles suit short distances.  If you have increased your riding time and started to experience sit bone problems this may be because you are sinking too far into your saddle, usually around 30-45 minutes into the ride.  A saddle with a flatter surface and less padding or gel padding is a better choice for endurance riding.

Adding Padding – you can choose to help relieve your discomfort by wearing padded bike underwear or pants (with a chamois sewn into them).  You can also add a gel cover to your saddle that can be removed after you have adjusted to riding for the distances you are trying to achieve.

Core Strength – the stronger your core is the better your body position will be over time on the bike. It is really important to check in with your body position and make adjustments to maintain a good ‘A’ shape.

Other Ways to Improve Comfort

To follow is a short list of suggestions that you can choose to explore or ignore.  For weight transfer issues that cause pressure, bruising or discomfort:

  • Be very mindful of your body position and shifting it regularly when riding
  • Improve the strength of your core muscles and legs
  • Lose weight; get bags or packs off your back and acknowledge that if you are over weight this will be adding to your problem
  • Let a small amount of air out of your tyres on bumpy surfaces this allows the tyre to absorb some of the impact 
  • Get up out of your saddle (stand on your pedals) when going over bumps, dips or uneven surfaces
  • Choose shorter rides and SLOWLY build up
  • Choose rides with varying terrain (include hills) which will change your bodies experience during the ride

Correct technique is a large part of being comfortable when you ride

Comfort & Contact Points

There are three key points/places where you make contact with your bike.  The seat, the handlebars and the pedals.  It is important to understand how to position your body between these points.

For more information see the following stories:

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