Man or woman, have you ever said, "My bike seat hurts!" I sure did.
If you have had a similar complaint, this article is perfect for you.
Because of my painful experience, I sought help from several bicycle shop salespersons. My ignorance was apparent in that I didn't yet speak proper bicycle-ese. It's a "saddle," not a "seat!"
I was advised to try a women's bike saddle, and that I needed biking shorts with more padding. I heard the oft-mentioned sales pitch of how much their wife or girlfriend just "loves this saddle."
So, I bought a fine saddle, made just for us ladies, for a handsome price of nearly two-hundred dollars. I invested in the most expensive padded shorts in the shop.
My hopes were shattered, and my pocketbook a bit thinner, when I felt the pain during my next ride. As usual, the only relief was the eventual numbness due to a lack of circulation in the area. The pressure on my pelvic area was more intense and the blood made it apparent that things were actually worse.
If you are facing this issue, or have given up on the idea of bicycling, I want to encourage you. I now ride pain-free with no numbness, and no blood.
Here is my hard-earned advice.
Choose an appropriate
saddle for health reasons.
Irritation and inflammation in the genital area can lead to infections.
Many men are damaging their bodies because men's saddles are overwhelmingly made narrower.
Do NOT tough it out, guys, thinking it is the manly thing to do. It isn't difficult to conclude that blocking or diminishing circulation in any area of the body may have detrimental effects; and it is no surprise to hear of findings that compression and friction in the scrotum may lead to erectile dysfunction and lower sperm counts in men.
Ladies, if you are reading this, you might share this information with the men in your life.
Be sure your bike is fitted correctly.
If your saddle is too high, the rocking motion will irritate and rub the area you are seeking to protect. A reputable bike shop can help you with this. Besides, a poor fit can cause knee or lower back problems.
The price of a saddle is no indicator of comfort.
My mountain and road bikes cost a few thousand dollars; but, neither my mountain bike nor road bike saddles cost more than sixty dollars.
Find your sit bones and measure the distance between them!
Your body must be fully supported on the saddle by your sit bones.
First, you need to find them; and there are a few ways to do this.
Bike Shop In-Store Method
A small number of bike shops have a board with a foam cushion. When you sit on it, your sit bones leave indentations, which are then used to measure the width.
Take a measuring tape with you when you shop for a saddle. This will make the process easier by quickly eliminating saddles that may be pretty or pricey pains in your bottom.
Measure the widest part of the top rear section from side to side. Check the slope of the saddle between those two points. If your sit bones rest on the lower outside slopes of a saddle, then your precious parts could be pressed against the rise in the center of the sitting area, defeating the purpose of proper sit-bone support.
Online is a great place to shop for the right model. The width measurement is usually included in the saddle description.
Both men and women have 'stuff' down there.
You may have read that statement with a bit of incredulity; however, you would never know this was true by talking to the salespersons in bike shops -- especially men. They seem to be under the impression that women have nothing down there to be concerned about.
The fact is that women's labia folds vary in length and size -- sound familiar, guys? Therefore, having a saddle cutout in the center to make room for those overlapping, sensitive parts is sometimes imperative.
The saddles I use are completely cut through from top to bottom, and I love them. The cutout eliminates pressure, allows for blood circulation, and provides air flow.
I got rid of the padded bike shorts!
I'm sure this statement is blasphemy in the biking world; but, if it works for you like it does for me -- do it! As noted above, pressure on sensitive areas is agony. I ride in the same leggings I use in the gym. They are without padding, I am not sitting on a seam, and they glide well over seat parts.
You may be wondering why the lack of padding is helpful. I find that the padding can create pressure between the seat and the crotch. It defeats the release provided by the cutout in the saddle.
This is not to say that zero padding is for everyone. If you prefer some padding, you might try a thinner pad. I also do not wear underwear when cycling, just as you shouldn't if using padded bike shorts. The last thing you need is elasticized cording or bunching creating other problems.
Get a lubricant specifically for biking.
There are great creams and gels available at bike shops to alleviate irritation. I never ride without it.
The exhilaration or relaxation sought on a bike ride is difficult to appreciate when you're in pain. Comfort is an important aspect, particularly in that very sensitive area on which your body is being supported.
Besides bicycle fit, I am convinced that the pleasure of a ride boils down to three things: The seat! The seat! The seat!
Oops! Let me correct myself. The saddle! The saddle! The saddle!
Writer/attorney, Bonnie Gabaldon, is the developer of the health & fitness website, BodiesOfEvidence.com.
Bonnie graduated summa cum laude from Oregon State University with honors. She is a member of Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
She researched and authored a significant undergraduate independent study paper, The Effect of Female Hormones on Elite Female Athletes During the First Trimester of Pregnancy.
Bonnie attended the University of New Mexico School of Law and Georgetown Law Center, and has been a licensed attorney since 2003.