Got the Bike Saddle Blues? How to Make Riding More Comfortable

If you know you want to ride to work more often or regularly ride your bike for fun on weekends, but every time you look at your saddle, you instantly wince a little bit, you’re not alone. Plenty of people experience a lot of discomfort thanks to a saddle that just doesn’t fit quite right. Here, we’re talking about a few simple tips to make any bike instantly feel a lot more comfortable. You deserve to enjoy every ride, and the more comfortable it is to sit on your bike, the more often you’ll ride.

Saddle height matters. Photo by Josh Nuttall on Unsplash

Check your saddle height

Your saddle may feel uncomfortable because it’s too high or too low. Often, new riders have their saddle set far too low for them, which makes their knees flare out with every pedal stroke—that can cause some uncomfortable chafing! If you have your saddle too high, you might be putting too much pressure on your more… sensitive areas, which can be uncomfortable as well. Your goal should be to have your leg almost straight when it hits the bottom of a pedal stroke. A slight bend is good, and your toes shouldn’t be pointed down: If you have to tiptoe to pedal, it’s too high!

Check your saddle width

You may have opted for the widest, comfiest looking saddle in the bike shop, but the irony is that sometimes, a super wide, cushy seat can be less comfortable than a narrow, unpadded option. That’s because when you pedal, your sitbones shift from one side to the other, pressing down as you use the power in your legs. Because of this, you want a saddle that is properly fit to your sitbones (not the same thing as the width of your butt! In fact, sitbone width has very little to do with body shape.). You can ask a bike shop to help measure you for a saddle that’s the right width for you.

Experiment with different saddles

If you’re a more serious road or mountain biker who spends a lot of time on the bike (or is hoping to), you may have to try a few styles of saddle before finding one that fits you well. Even within one width/size range, there are a lot of styles. Saddles can be flat, have channels, or have cutouts in the middle, and what works for your riding buddy may be super uncomfortable for you. You may prefer a bit of padding, or you may find that you actually like a stiffer saddle.

Don’t let your saddle look like this. Photo by Lance Grandahl on Unsplash

Take care of your saddle

Eventually, saddles will wear out—if you notice your saddle is becoming less comfortable, that may mean it’s time for a new one. The foam inside of it can deteriorate over time, as can seams and even the plastic or metal base and rails. Try to avoid leaving your saddle exposed outside in rain or snow to increase its lifecycle.

Don’t add a foam or gel pad

You may be tempted to think that cushier is better when it comes to a bike seat. But again, we’re talking about your sitbones: Because your sitbones are looking for something to press down into, if you add a gel cover, you’re now forcing your sitbones to press harder down to find purchase. This means a gel saddle cover can actually add more pressure to that sensitive spot!

Invest in good bike shorts

Well-fitting bike shorts can instantly make a saddle more comfortable, thanks to the thin foam pad that is sewn into them. Look for a pair that sits in a comfortable spot on your stomach when you’re leaning over (like you would on the bike), and a pair that doesn’t make your legs feel like sausages with too-tight rubber grips. It’s better to spend a bit more on a good pair of bike shorts and buy a cheaper jersey: A jersey in a color you don’t love won’t wreck your ride, while shorts that don’t fit quite right can easily make a ride miserable.

It takes a bit of trial and error to find the perfect setup for you, but once you do, your ride will feel much happier!

Of course, if you’re riding more, you may want to consider bike insurance—it doesn’t just protect your bike (and your comfy new saddle!). It can also cover medical payments if you’re injured on a ride, as well as things like replacement bike rentals if you need them. Get a quick quote here—coverage can be as low as $9/month!

Feature photo by Coen van de Broek on Unsplash

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