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Cycling is an amazing way to build muscle, relieve stress, and improve your overall well-being. Unfortunately, riding a bike isn’t always the most comfortable experience. Bike seats can be small and stiff, leading to discomfort during your ride.
Thankfully, there are plenty of effective ways to deal with uncomfortable bike seats. The right gear can potentially prevent issues like chafing and soreness. Adjusting your saddle angle and seat height can give you extra comfort, and you can even swap your current bike seat for something softer.
Riding your bike doesn’t have to be painful. If the saddle on your bike is hurting you, these are some of the best ways to get relief.
1. Invest in Padded Shorts
It’s always best to wear fitted clothing while cycling. Loose fabrics can rub up against your skin, causing irritation. Bike shorts are typically made from breathable materials and are designed to minimize friction as you ride.
For maximum comfort, take a look at padded cycling shorts. These shorts have layers of padding around areas where the skin comes into contact with the bike seat. The right pair of shorts will contour to the shape of your body, providing you with cushion and support where you need it the most.
2. Upgrade to a More Comfortable Bike Seat
Padded shorts can reduce soreness during bike rides, but they can only do so much. If your current bicycle seat is causing you pain, you may need to trade it in for a new one in order to get relief. Many new bikes come with stiff plastic seats that don’t breathe or provide sufficient support.
While installing a new saddle can give you a more comfortable ride, it’s important to choose the right type of bike seat. The best saddle for your bike may not be a seat that’s wide and plush. Narrow bike seats may not look pleasant to sit on, but wider saddles are actually more likely to cause soreness and chafing.
You should take your body type and your cycling habits into consideration when you’re picking out a new saddle. Flat seats that are wide at the nose are a great option for people with lean legs, while saddles that curve at the top work well for those with wider legs. Longer saddles can be great for cycling uphill, but a shorter seat might be best on flat terrain.
Some bike seats are even designed to address specific issues that people encounter while cycling. If the nose of your bike seat presses up against your perineum while you ride, look into noseless saddles. Switching to a saddle with a cutout design can improve ventilation and reduce the amount of pressure on sensitive parts of your body. The Selle SMP Unisex saddle, for example, has a patented ergonomic design that maintains blood flow and ventilates the genital area. The center channel opening eliminates pressure on the prostate and perineal regions to prevent tingling or numbness:
Don’t be afraid to try out different kinds of bike saddles to find something that works for you. Many bike shops will let you test out saddles in-store, and some will even let you take the seat home for a test ride. After you’ve found the perfect saddle, take the time to confirm that it’s correctly installed. Adjust the seat so that it’s in a comfortable position, and make sure that the set screw is fully tightened.
3. Consider a Bike Seat Cushion
If you’d like to have some extra padding but aren’t ready to replace your current saddle, bike seat cushions are another great option. These covers are designed to be placed over bike seats, giving you extra cushion. They’re economical, easy to install, and can be secured for the perfect fit.
While you might be tempted to reach for a plush seat with lots of padding, a thinner cushion is actually the best way to combat your soreness. If your saddle has too much padding, you could wind up sinking into the seat during bike rides. A thin layer of padding can diminish any discomfort caused by your bike seat without compromising stability.
Most bike seat cushions have either gel or memory foam padding. Gel padding is very soft and will naturally mold to the shape of your body. Memory foam is firmer, but it’s still plush enough to cushion a hard seat. Gel seat cushions are a great choice for recreational cyclists, while memory foam is a better option for avid cyclists that need more support.
The Zacro Gel Seat Cover is a cover that fits right over your existing seat:
4. Adjust Your Bike to Fit Your Body
Even if you have a plush, cushy bike seat, you’ll still experience pain if your bicycle isn’t properly adjusted to your body. The angle and height of your saddle are very important, as is the position of your handlebars. If the position of your handlebars is giving you improper reach, it could cause chafing, lower back pain, and sore shoulders.
How high should your handlebars be? While the ideal location for a bike’s handlebars can vary based on your height and preferred riding style, it’s generally best to make sure your handlebars are higher than the seat of your bike.
Elevating your handlebars can help you to sit up as you ride, redistributing your weight in a way that prevents soft tissue pain.
If your bike saddle is too high or too low, it can lead to all kinds of painful problems. One of the easiest ways to find a suitable saddle height is to stand next to your bicycle and have someone measure the position of your hip bone. In most cases, the height of your hip bone will be the correct height for your bike saddle.
The wrong saddle angle can lead to aches and pains, particularly if you’re riding your bike for long stretches of time. If the angle is significantly off, it can even leave you feeling numb! A flat seat is ideal for most cyclists, but if you frequently ride your bike uphill, you might find that you’re more comfortable when your seat tilts slightly downward.
5. Try Using Chafing Cream
If the main source of your discomfort is chafing, try applying a chafing cream to your body before you take your bike for a spin. You can apply the cream directly to the parts of your body that normally get irritated or inflamed. There are many chamois creams designed specifically for cyclists and for preventing bike sores.
Chamois Butt’r is one of the best-reviewed anti-chafe creams for cyclists:
Not only can the right cream provide lubrication and soothe irritated skin, but it can also ward off infections by preventing bacterial buildup. Many ingredients commonly found in chamois creams, such as peppermint oil and menthol, have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil can keep your skin in great shape during long, sweaty rides.
You don’t have to put on chafing cream every time you ride your bike, but you can greatly reduce the risk of saddle sores and irritation if you apply it to the sensitive parts of your body before long rides. The right chamois cream can prevent discomfort when used on its own, but these kinds of products can be even more effective when you combine several methods of pain relief. If you adjust your seat, get some padding, and put on chafing cream, you shouldn’t have a problem with uncomfortable bike rides.