One of the biggest complaints from mountain bikers is “how do I make my mountain bike seat more comfortable?” You will never be able to make it as comfortable as your couch, I will share some tips that will make your next bike ride more enjoyable.
How Do I Make My Mountain Bike Seat More Comfortable?
Before you buy a new bike seat, I recommend trying some of these easy, simple, and inexpensive tricks to help you get the relief you’re seeking. We’ll also discuss the different types of seat pain that plague female bikers below.
#1 Stand Up
When you’re sitting down, your whole weight is on your tush. Try standing up when approaching hills, or when trying to increase your speed. Sitting on the saddle for a 22 mile bike ride, means sitting at least 2 hours (11 minute mile).
That’s two hours of your butt getting numb and uncomfortable because of the reduced blood flow, reduced ventilation, and sweaty crotch parts. In addition, standing up can give while riding will make you a better rider and help you build more muscle.
#2 Adjust The Handlebars
If your handlebars are too high or low, it can cause discomfort in your neck, back, and butt. Handlebars that are too high, will misappropriate weight on your hands, which causes more pressure on your butt. Your handlebars should be as high as your seat or slightly above it so you’re able to sit upright.
When the handlebars are too low, many people will experience back pain, reduced output, and possibly even saddle sores. If the handlebars are too low, you’re forced to slouch into your handlebars, which puts more stress on your neck, back, wrists, and arms causing you discomfort.
#3 Get A Bike Fit
Speaking of adjusting the handlebars, take your bike to a professional and have them fit your bike properly. This is especially important if you purchased a second hand bike from Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
Any bike professional will be able to analyze how you ride and recommend adjustments that should be made to make your bike ride more enjoyable. They’ll likely check the following:
- Shoe adjustments and recommendations
- Saddle height
- Handlebar width
- The tilt of the saddle
- Stem length (for reach adjustments)
- Brake and lever adjustments (can you reach them comfortably)
- Crank length
- Your grip on handlebars and grip tape diameter
- New seat based on your body position and anatomy
Here’s how to adjust the height of the seat by yourself.
#4 Choose The Right Seat
Are you using the right seat for your gender? The pelvis of men and women differ and using the wrong seat can lead to discomfort. Using the wrong seat can lead to numbness to compressed nerves or reduced blood flow in the perineal area. (source)
In the cycling world, there are many items that are considered “unisex,” but the bike seat isn’t one of them. Women generally have wider sit bones, so you will need a wider seat. Some female seats have a cut-out channel to help relieve soft tissue discomfort while riding.
#5 Use Thin Padding
You can buy a seat pad from Amazon or your local bike shop to help make your seat more comfortable. Avoid the seat covers with thick padding, which usually applies more pressure to the sitting bones, rendering the cover useless.
Instead, go for one that has thinner padding that will make your seat sturdier and add more plushness to your cycling experience.
#6 Shift Your Weight
A bike saddle is not meant to accommodate your whole weight. Resting your whole body weight on your bike seat will cause discomfort. Your bodyweight should be dispersed between your hands and the handlebars, your crotch and saddle, the pedals, and your feet.
You’ll want to shift your weight until 30% of your body weight is dispersed on the handlebars and 70% on the handlebars. Learning how to sit properly on a mountain bike comes with practice.
#7 Wear The Right Shorts
When riding for any length of time, padded shorts are a must. Many new cyclists avoid buying biking shorts, because they would rather have a great set of ear buds for their bike rides. However, bike shorts are extremely important and play a huge part on whether you’ll enjoy riding or not.
Biking shorts can be found in various chamois thickness, foam pads, or gel pads. If you have a sensitive tailbone or plan on going long distances on your bike, you’ll want some shorts with plenty of padding to prevent soreness.
You also want to make sure your shorts are clean and dry before going on a bike ride.
#8 Use The Right Lube
Some saddle soreness is not only from having excess pressure being applied to the wrong parts of your crotch and tailbone but from chafing. Many cyclists who experience this issue will apply skin creams, balms, baby powder, petroleum jelly, or over the counter medicated ointments to reduce friction while riding.
There are several anti-chafing solutions on the Internet, so find out which one works for you so you can start enjoying your ride without the pain.
#9 Take Up The Whole Seat
Everyone’s butt is different and there is no one size fits all. Ask any mountain biker and they will likely recommend 10 different saddles, none which may work well for you. You want a bike seat that fits the width of your butt, so your weight is evenly distributed to your tailbone and not the soft tissue around them.
A saddle that is too narrow won’t distribute your weight evenly, leading to saddle soreness. If it’s too wide, it will cause friction in the crotch.
#10 Lose Weight
Okay, this may not be the easiest way to get relief, especially, since it’s harder to lose to lose weight the older you get. In general, thinner people tend to have less butt pain than heavier people.
Those extra pounds are putting more pressure on the saddle, which in turn cause you pain. So how do your lose weight? Easy, consume less calories and ride more.
Getting in better overall physical shape not only reduces saddle pressure but has several other benefits. Riding more often will help toughen up your butt, which will prevent saddle soreness. Losing weight will also make getting up hills much easier, improve your endurance, and help keep your tires inflated longer.
According to bicycling.com just 30 minutes of daily cycling can help you lose weight.
#11 Check The Tires
Most people neglect checking the pressure in their tires before they head out for a bike ride. If you’re constantly riding your bike with low tire pressure, you’re not only working harder, but the bumps in the road make it more painful when you’re sitting on the saddle.
Typical mountain bike pressure should range from 22psi to 35ps with more air in the back tire, as this is where most of your weight resides.
#12 Tilt The Saddle
It could be something as simple as your saddle is tilted too high or too low. An upward tilt is known to cause sores and numbness in the crotch. A saddle that is tilted too low will cause your numbness or tingling in your hands because you’re slid forward with more pressure on your hands.
Unfortunately, everyone’s soft tissues are different, so you’re going to have to play around and keep tilting your seat one to two degrees to the left, right, up, and down until you find what’s comfortable for you.
#13 Replace The Saddle
If after trying all the above steps and you’re still experiencing pain, it may be time to buy a new mountain bike seat. I recommend going to your local bike shop so someone can help you get fitted to the right saddle.
As I mentioned above, everyone’s bottom is different. What’s comfortable for me may not work for you.
Types of Bicycle Seat Pain
Before you try fixing your bicycle seat pain, you first need to know about the different types of seat pain that can plague female bikers as well as what causes it.
- Bruised feeling around your sit bones: This pain occurs when your sitting bones are taking too much weight.
- Soft tissue pain: This pain occurs when our “lady parts” (vulva, clitoris, labia) become squished between the bicycle seat and the pelvis while riding.
- Chafing and saddle sores: Occur when your legs rub against the saddle while pedaling and causes friction. In extreme cases, you may experience blood and infection, which is not good.
If you’ve never experienced pain from your bicycle seat, consider yourself lucky. Unfortunately, this is a common problem for both male and female cyclists.
Hopefully, the above tips and tricks will make your bike seat more comfortable so you can actually enjoy your next bike ride.