My Butt Hurts – How to Choose a Bicycle Saddle That Will Be Comfortable
Bike Saddles sure have changed over the last 10 years. It used to be saddles came in a handful of styles and if it wasn’t comfortable you have to toughen up. Now we have so many designs that it’s confusing. You need a saddle that is the right width for your sit bones, has the right padding for your weight and the shape suits your backside.
In addition to the saddle itself, the position it’s in as well as what type of shorts you wear will make a difference in comfort.
Saddle Selection Criteria
When no one is looking, bend at the waist and feel the bones in your butt that bear the weight when you sit on a bike seat. Those bones are your ischial tuberosities, the points of the pelvis that we cyclists call the “sit bones.” This is wear your weight should be when you sit on a bike saddle.
You need a saddle that is wide enough so you sit on the sit bones. A saddle that is too narrow will push up on the soft tissue between the sit bones causing pain or numbness. For both men and women, if your junk falls asleep you aren’t getting enough weight on the sit bones.
On the other end, a saddle that is too wide can cause numbness of the legs as the back of the thighs are getting pressure as you pedal. Another thing to bear in mind is body position. The more upright you are the wider saddle you need and vice versa. Running a narrow race saddle on a cruiser is a sure fire way to get a sore butt.
Look at the saddle from the back at eye level. The saddle should be relatively flat across the middle. If it has a high point in the middle or slopes away sharply at the side, it may lead to too much pressure in the middle.
Now look from the side. If the the saddle dips down in the middle or is curved like a banana then you will find yourself sliding forward into the dip. As the saddle narrows towards the front you will end up with the same problem as having a saddle that is too narrow. For most people, as saddle that is relatively flat from front to back will be more comfortable.
A cutout in the middle can help with pressue from the nose of the saddle but you will need to try it to see if it works for you. Not all cutouts or grooves are created equal.
You need enough padding to cushion the sit bones but too much will cause pressure some where else, which is usually forward in the crotch area. If your sit bones sink in your will usually get more pressure up front. Once again, sitbone pressure good as the body will adapt, crotch pressure bad as you will never get used to numb cajones or lady bits.
Following these guidelines will help you understand what you are looking at when you look at bike saddles. Find a shop that has demos or will let you exchange a saddle if it doesn’t work for you. And don’t forget if you are riding any distance, bike shorts have padding for a reason.