Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable – We Will Explain

In this article, we will explain why a bicycle seat might be uncomfortable for you and what you can do about that
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Last updatedLast updated: March 26, 2022
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One of the rudest shocks for newbie cyclists is how uncomfortable bike seats are. In fact, a sore bum is to be expected for at least the first few weeks of cycling. Consequently, it’s not uncommon to hear beginner cyclists asking, “Why are bike seats so uncomfortable?” The question makes even more sense considering it’s been asked for decades. After all, the design for bike seats hasn’t changed in quite a while.

Consequently, we look into why bike seat design remains the same even with complaints from so many different people in the sections below.

Seat vs. Saddle

First, you have to realize that most bike seats are not actually seats but rather saddles, and it’s crucial that you make that distinction. Seats are designed to bear all of your weight as you sit on them. On the other hand, Saddles are designed to hold some of your weight while the rest is distributed elsewhere.

Considering the dynamics of riding a bike, your weight should be distributed between the pedals to make it easier to cycle. After all, if you don’t put your weight on the pedal, it means you’ll have to use more energy to push the pedals down. As such, you’ll get tired a lot quicker and won’t be able to ride the bike for long.

Bike saddles are designed with this in mind, which is one reason why bicycle seats are so small. As for other reasons why bike seats are so uncomfortable, keep reading to find out.

What Causes the Bike Discomfort

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable - We Will Explain

Among the most common causes of bike discomfort is sizing. If you look carefully through the manual for your bike, the recommended rider height is likely indicated. However, this is information you should pay attention to before buying the two-wheeler in the first place.

If your bike is either too small or too large, your sitting position will be affected. With that, there will be more discomfort than necessary whenever you attempt to ride it. Consequently, no matter what types of road bikes you intend to buy, check if they fit your body size beforehand.

Another reason for the discomfort is either the wrong handlebar position, wrong saddle position, or both. Since both the saddle and handlebars are adjustable, they’re designed that way so you can find the correct configuration for your needs.

If you don’t adjust these two fittings to match your body, your bum will be ill-positioned, which can cause more discomfort in the long run. The good news is if you have an appropriately-sized bike, this is correctable with just a little technical know-how.

Additionally, there’s clothing. There’s a lot of friction between your body and the bike, and clothing that moves as you ride will only make things worse. That’s why most riding shorts are designed to be tight-fitting.

Lastly, the discomfort can be caused by using a bike saddle that isn’t intended for your kind of riding, which is why we look at the different types of bike saddles available below.

Types of Bike Saddles

A standard solution that most newbies try out when they feel the bike seat is too hard or too small is replacing the bike seat. If you’ve considered this a potential solution to the discomfort you’re feeling, it’s best to know the different types of bike saddles in the market, including:

Mountain Bike Saddles

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable - We Will Explain

If you’re wondering why your bicycle seats are so small and hard, it could be because they are designed for mountain bikes. Mountain biking involves rough terrains, and users have to keep shifting their weight and body to maintain their momentum.

Their narrow design makes it easier for users to shift their weight, and they may even feature some padding to minimize the impact of bumping into obstacles. Also, the front of the saddle is especially narrow and may slope downwards to allow the rider to move forward a lot more easily when necessary.

Racing Saddles

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable - We Will Explain

For some, racing saddles are the most uncomfortable since they feature a thin, hard design. However, there’s a reason for this. The narrow design eliminates friction between your thighs and the seat as you cycle. Also, since the saddle is thin, almost all your weight is delivered to the pedals rather than the seat. Lastly, the low profile ensures almost zero wind resistance which helps you ride faster.

If you used comfort saddles for racing, the friction between your thighs and the resulting chafing would likely be very uncomfortable.

Suspension Saddles

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable - We Will Explain

Like mountain bike saddles, these are specifically designed for uneven terrain, although there are some differences. The main one is springs under the saddle that absorb the impact of a bump, so your bum doesn’t have to. Also, suspension saddles may or may not have some padding.

According to reviewers, the TONBUX Bicycle Seat is one of the most comfortable suspension saddles for men’s and women’s road bikes. In addition to the shock-absorbing springs, the saddle features extra padding and even comes with an airflow vent in the middle to help keep your buttocks cool.

Comfort Saddles

 

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable - We Will Explain

Comfort saddles feature a much thicker construction compared to alternatives like racing saddles since they’re packed with soft materials under the saddle cover. The soft materials make for a more comfortable ride, and like the springs in suspension saddles, they help absorb impacts on rough terrain. Consequently, you’ll experience less soreness on your bum after the ride.

Cruiser Saddles

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable - We Will Explain

Cruiser saddles are one of the popular comfort saddles available in the market. They feature some cushioning and are generally designed to allow the rider to put more of their weight on the seat.

Gel Saddles

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable - We Will Explain

Gel saddles are another example of a comfort saddle. As implied by the name, they feature gel cushioning which helps distribute the rider’s weight more evenly. Furthermore, they mold to the rider’s body and can reduce irritation, numbness, and chaffing. They may even be designed with support for your sit bones.

According to Healthline Trusted Source Ischial Tuberosity: Definition, Anatomy, and Pain Relief The ischial tuberosity, sometimes referred to as your sit bones, is a natural shock absorber in your pelvis. Learn more about the structure of your ischial tuberosity and what causes pain in that area. www.healthline.com , sit bones, seat bones, or the ischial tuberosity absorb your weight whenever you sit. They’re also the main points of contact between your body and the saddle, and thus the extra support provided for them by the gel saddles is an asset.

Gender-Specific Saddles

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable - We Will Explain

Gender-specific saddles are made to match the pelvic structures of the two main sexes, i.e., male and female. They’re also referred to as either men’s or women’s saddles.

For the male or men’s saddles, the general design is long and narrow. Women’s saddles, on the other hand, are typically short and wide. That said, using women’s saddles when you’re a man or vice versa isn’t against any rules.

Wide Saddles

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable - We Will Explain

With wide saddles, riders get to put all of their weight on the seat, which is why they are only meant for leisurely riding on smooth trails. They’re often paired with handlebars on the same level. Also, since they are a type of comfort saddle, they tend to be padded and may even come fitted with springs for extra shock absorption.

Leather Saddles

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable - We Will Explain

These bicycle saddles are made from various animal hides and may not be comfortable during the initial stages of use. However, they absorb heat, are nice to look at, and often adapt to the shape and size of your buttocks after the break-in period. They also feature a broad back and will cost you a pretty penny.

Cutaway Saddles

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable - We Will Explain

With cutaway saddles, it often looks like a section of the top of the saddle has been cut out. The result is fewer pressure points on your butt and a more comfortable ride.

Nose-less Saddles

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable - We Will Explain

Lastly, there are nose-less saddles which only consist of the wide part at the back. Since there is no nose, there may be less friction between your thighs and the saddle. Users recommend the Schwinn Comfort Bike Seat for anyone interested in a nose-less saddle. The saddle is weather-resistant and fits any bike with a standard seat post.

What to Do?

Although most bike saddles aren’t made with comfort in mind, there are still some ways to heighten the comfort in yours. One is to get an appropriately sized bike. As such, if you’re average height for an American man, which according to Healthline Trusted Source Average Height for Men in U.S. and internationally. How to Measure & More Humans come in a variety of shapes and sizes. See how the average height for men in the United States compares to average heights for men in 15 other countries. Also get tips for accurately measuring your own height at home. www.healthline.com is 5’9”, you should get a bike that’s designed with 5’9” men in mind.

Remember your position on the bike is a massive contributor to your comfort. As such, in addition to getting an appropriately-sized bike, you may have to adjust the handlebars and seat position to suit your body better as well. Remember to use small changes and record them as you adjust the bike, so you have a reference point if you need to reverse some of these changes.

Next, you may need to purchase the right saddle for your riding style, including accounting for parameters like the saddle cover and the filling used, if any. Notably, we’ve included a list of the different types of bike saddles in the section above and their ideal uses. It might even be necessary to try out the different types of bike saddles to get the best fit and style for you.

Also, consider getting cushioned bike shorts. They’re tight enough to reduce chafing caused by friction. Additionally, they have some cushioning in the crotch and buttocks areas, which elevates pressure points and reduces trail vibrations. Lastly, learn proper bike form to avoid unnecessary discomfort caused by your riding style.

Final Thoughts

So why are bike seats so uncomfortable? The main reason is that they’re designed to offer support for a minimal part of your backside. This makes it easier to pedal since your weight can help push down the pedals. However, the discomfort can also be caused by a myriad of other problems, including improper bike size or configuration, improper saddle design for your riding style, and even the wrong clothing. If you can solve these issues, most of the discomfort will dissipate almost immediately. As for the rest, it may seem uncomfortable in the short term, but it’s something that cyclists get used to fairly quickly.

References

1.
Ischial Tuberosity: Definition, Anatomy, and Pain Relief
The ischial tuberosity, sometimes referred to as your sit bones, is a natural shock absorber in your pelvis. Learn more about the structure of your ischial tuberosity and what causes pain in that area.
2.
Average Height for Men in U.S. and internationally. How to Measure & More
Humans come in a variety of shapes and sizes. See how the average height for men in the United States compares to average heights for men in 15 other countries. Also get tips for accurately measuring your own height at home.
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