My Butt Hurts When I Ride My Bicycle. What Kind Of Saddle Do You Recommend?

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an assortent of bicycle saddles and seats

If your butt or crotch is hurting you when you’re riding you bicycle, you might be surprised to learn that your seat (or saddle) is probably not the problem. That’s right! For most people experiencing butt or crotch pain when cycling, buying a new saddle is usually a last resort.

Before you go out and purchase a new saddle for your bicycle (something that can be both complicated and expensive), be sure to read this article in its entirely. I’ll start by giving you some suggestions on how to make your current saddle more comfortable, then tell you how to measure your body and your saddle to see if the saddle you have now is a good fit for your body-type. If you determine that you do need a new saddle, I’ll tell you what characteristics to look for in a properly fitting bike saddle, and I’ll conclude by recommending a few of the most popular bike saddles currently on the market.

Why Does My Butt Hurt When I Ride My Bicycle?

If your butt or crotch is hurting you after just a short time of riding your bicycle, the problem is usually caused by:

  • A misaligned saddle or seat post.
  • Improper handlebar positioning.
  • Poor or improper saddle design/fit.
  • A low-quality or worn out saddle.
  • Simply sitting in the wrong place on the saddle.
  • Excess fabric/body tissue between the saddle and your body.

If you are experiencing butt or crotch pain as you ride your bike, the problem can usually be solved by simply adjusting your bicycle’s saddle, seat post, or handlebars. This is the first place you want to start when trying to solve your sore butt dilemma.

If your butt or crotch is hurting you while you ride your bike, try the following before you go out and purchase a new saddle:

  • Adjust the up and down angle of your saddle.
  • Adjust the side to side angle of your saddle.
  • Adjust the height of your seat post.
  • Adjust the height of your handlebars.
  • Adjust the position of your handlebars so you don’t have to lean too far forward or too far back.

Adjusting your saddle, seat post and/or handlebars just a millimeter or two in any direction can make a huge impact on your overall comfort when riding your bike. Don’t be afraid to play around with the positioning of your saddle, seat post or handlebars. Move them around and try riding for short periods of time to see how the new positioning affects your comfort on the bike.

Remember that your saddle should be relatively level. If it is angled more than a few degrees up or down, there is probably something wrong. A saddle that is tiled too far forward will cause you to slip off the front of the seat and put excess pressure on your hands, wrists and elbows (which could cause nerve damage in your arms, fingers and hands). A saddle that is tilted too far back will have you sliding off the rear of the seat and/or putting unnecessary pressure on your nether-regions (something that is never comfortable).

Also, keep in mind that the full weight of your body is not meant to rest entirely on your saddle. Resting your full body-weight on your seat is obviously going to cause you some pain. Instead, your saddle is just one area of your bicycle on which you should be spreading out the weight of your body. As you ride, your weight should be dispersed between your crotch and your saddle, your hands and your handlebars, and your pedals and your feet.

If you are wearing loose clothing (or you have a lot of excess skin/fat) in the area between your body and your saddle, this too could be causing you pain while you ride. Any loose skin or fabric that is rubbing between your saddle and your body will begin to chafe over time, which will obviously cause some discomfort when you’re riding your bicycle.

One of the reasons Lycra bike shorts are so tight is because they are designed to reduce the impact between your body and your bicycle. The materials used in the production of tight-fitting bicycle shorts pulls in any excess body fat you might have, while at the same time providing you with a relatively flat, smooth area for your body to interact with your saddle. If you are riding in loose clothing (mountain bike shorts, jeans, etc.) try cycling in a pair of tight-fitting Lycra for a while and see if that makes any difference to your comfort on the bike.


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Finally, once you find a position for your saddle that is comfortable, don’t move a thing! Marking the position of your saddle with a permanent marker is a good idea… and you might even want to put a little electrical tape around the seat post (just above the seat post clamp) so that if you have to remove the seat post for any reason, you’ll be able to quickly and easily get your saddle back in its proper position.

What Characteristics Should I Look For In A Bike Saddle?

In general, you want a bicycle saddle that is firm, but also has a small amount of give to it. You don’t want a bicycle saddle that is as hard as a rock (because that will obviously be uncomfortable), and you don’t want one of those super cushy gel-type saddles either (because soft saddles usually make your butt chafe).

Shopping for a saddle is just like shopping for a quality mattress. You want something that is firm at its core, but soft at its surface. If your saddle fits those specifications and you are still experiencing pain as you ride, the problem is probably due to either the position of your saddle, seat post or handlebars (and not the saddle itself) or to the design and quality of the saddle.

Most (but not all) bicycles saddles are pear shaped and the width of the saddle across the widest area and how quickly it widens from the nose to the back will affect overall saddle comfort. The size of your hips or the size of your behind has very little to do with the size of the saddle that you need. Having wide hips, for example, does not mean you need a wider saddle.

The width between your “Ischial Tuberosities” (commonly referred to as your “sit bones”) is what REALLY matters! Where those sit bones connect with your saddle makes the biggest impact in overall saddle comfort. If you ride with a saddle that is either too wide or too narrow for your sit bones, the end result is going to be a lot of pain and chafing.

So, how do you figure out how wide your bicycle saddle should be?

Well, every bike saddle has “cheeks” on the wide back of the seat. Sometimes the cheeks are even domed or tilted up a bit. Your sit bones are meant to land in the high part of that dome to take advantage of the padding and the overall architecture of the saddle. Saddles without domes still have a cheek area and the widest part of the saddle is where your sit bones are meant to be resting. If you want to make sure you are using a saddle that matches your personal body type, all you have to do is measure the saddle from center of cheek to center of cheek. The saddle’s center-to-center should match the center to center measurement of your sit bones. It’s that easy!

To measure the width of your sit bones, take a gallon size Zip-lock bag and fill it with enough flour for about a two inch flour cushion when the bag is lying on a flat surface. Place this bag on a hard flat surface, such as table or a chair and then sit on the bag (preferably in bare skin) while mimicking your position on the bike.  Now stand up without disturbing the bag. The resulting two dimples/impressions that you see in the flour are from your sit bones! To measure your sit bones, take a millimeter tape measure and measure the impressions, recording your findings. You will want to measure the inside edge to inside edge, the center of one depression to the center of the other, and the outside edge to the outside edge.

  • Your center-to-center measurement should correlate with the spot on a saddle (the saddle cheeks) that bears the weight of your sit bones.
  • Outside to outside measurement is a consideration for some types of saddles, such as the Brooks that have metal rails, you do not want to have your sit bones resting on the metal rails. As a general rule – your saddle width should be about 2 centimeters wider than your outside sit bone measurement. Again, you want your sit bones resting on the “checks” of the saddle and you want some wiggle room for movement as you are riding.
  • Inside to inside may be necessary if you plan to use a saddle with a cut out (or hole in the middle), to ensure the sit bones clear any large center cutout in the saddle. If the inside bones fall into the cutout, it will cause a lot of pain in the bones surrounding the “soft tissue” area. To clear the cutout, you need about 20 mm extra space in between the inside distance of the sit bones. So, if the cutout is 60 mm, your inside distance should be 80 mm.

If you don’t have access to a bag full of flour, you can measure your sit bones by simply sitting on your hands and feeling for the two bones of your butt. They will feel a bit like like elbows poking down into your hands. Put the tip of your index fingers right under the part of the bones that is pushing hardest into the chair and squish the very tip of your fingers between the chair and your sit bones. Now lift your butt from the chair while leaving your hands on the chair, and have an assistant measure the distance between your fingertips. This is your center-to-center measurement! Then put your fingertips against the outsides of the sit bones. Push them right into the bones so they are on the outside of the bones. Now lift your butt from the chair again and have an assistant measure the distance between your fingertips. This is your outside to outside measurement! You might be surprised to learn that after taking your measurements you are riding on a bicycle saddle that is either far too wide or far too skinny for your sit bones. If that is the case, then yes, you will likely need to purchase a new saddle.

What Kind Of Bicycle Saddle Do You Recommend?

After having explained all of that, I don’t really have one specific type of saddle that I recommend. Every person is different, with a different body type and dimensions, and this means that the saddle that works well for one person might not work so wonderfully for the next. However, there are a few bicycle saddles that are constantly rated as being both comfortable and of extremely high-quality, and I recommend you purchase one of these saddles (in the correct size for your personal body measurements) if you are indeed experiencing any type of butt or crotch pain as your ride your bicycle.


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If you’ve decided you need a new bike saddle, you’ll need to narrow your choices by first determining what kind of bicycle saddle that you need. The easiest way to do this is by figuring out what kind of cycling you’ll be doing most.

Recreational bike saddles: If you sit upright while pedaling a cruiser, urban or commuter bike and prefer short rides, try a cushioning saddle. Wide with plush padding and/or springs, recreation bike saddles have a short nose and provide plenty of comfort. You can also opt for a seat post with springs, which will further cushion your ride.

Road bike saddles: Racing or clocking significant road miles? Look for a performance saddle that’s long, narrow and sports minimal padding. During a ride, very little weight rests on your sit bones, while your tucked position requires as little extraneous material between your legs as possible for maximum power transfer and minimal chafing. New to road riding? Opt for a slightly softer saddle that will keep you comfortable while your body adjusts to hours of spinning.

Mountain bike saddles: On mountain trails, you stand up on the pedals, perch way back (sometimes just hovering over or even off of your saddle) or crouch down in a tucked position. Because of these varied positions, you’ll want a mountain-specific saddle with padding for your sit bones, a durable cover and a streamlined shape that will aid your movement.

Touring saddles: Long-distance riding demands a performance saddle—or an all-leather saddle—that falls between a mountain and road saddle. You’ll want plenty of sit-bone cushioning and a fairly long, narrow nose.

Women-specific saddles: With typically wider hips, ischial bones (“perch bones”) and smaller bodies, women generally benefit from women-specific saddles designed to accommodate these anatomical differences.

While any cushioned seat will provide comfort for your sit bones, the 2 most common cushioning materials react differently under weight.

Gel cushioning molds to your body and provides the plushest comfort. Most recreational riders prefer this for its superior comfort on casual rides. Its downside is that gel tends to get compacted more quickly than the other option, foam.

Foam cushioning offers a pliable feel that springs back to shape. Road riders favor foam as it provides more support than gel while still delivering comfort. For longer rides, riders over 200 lbs., or riders with well-conditioned sit bones, firmer foam is preferred as it doesn’t compact as quickly as softer foam or gel.

A saddle pad is an optional add-on that can be placed over the saddle for additional cushioning. Though plush and comfortable, its padding is not as contained as is a saddle that’s already padded, so it may migrate where you don’t need or want it. This is not an issue for recreational rides, but it could be for fast riders or for those taking on longer distances. If that’s your riding style, a pair of padded bike shorts or underwear may be a better investment.

Many bicycle saddles are built to protect your perineum—the area between the sit bones, through which traverse a plethora of nerves and arteries. These saddles reduce or eliminate the material in the middle of the saddle, both relieving pressure on the perineum and providing airflow and comfort during long rides.

Because everyone’s anatomy is different, some riders find great relief with a perineal cutout; others use a saddle that either has a small indentation in the saddle or no accommodation at all. This kind of pressure-relieving design benefits most men and women but is truly a personal preference.

Most saddles are made entirely of synthetic materials, from the molded shell to the foam or gel padding and saddle cover. They are lightweight and require little maintenance. Others substitute a thin leather covering for a synthetic one, but they are otherwise similar in materials used. There is also, of course, the option to use a saddle made of leather.

Many riders (road, urban, touring and recreational) have come to appreciate the “earned comfort” and long life of a traditional all-leather saddle. (Mountain bikers generally stick to well-padded saddles to help cushion bumpy terrain.)

The secret to an all-leather saddle’s comfort lies in its construction. One piece of top-grain leather is stretched and suspended between the rails of a metal frame. After you ride for about 200 miles, the leather molds to your weight and shape. Like an old baseball glove or a trusty pair of leather hiking boots, the initial period of use includes some discomfort, but the end result “fits like a glove” an is super comfortable.

Leather saddles may have perineum cutouts for protection and springs for added comfort. A bonus benefit: With no synthetic padding, the saddle stays cooler—a definite advantage on long, hot rides. One downside, however, is that in addition to break-in time, a leather saddle is not waterproof, so it needs to be treated with a leather conditioner on occasion. This protects against moisture and against drying of the leather through UV exposure. Use a saddle cover to prolong the life of your leather saddle when not riding.

Summary: Should I Buy A New Saddle For My Bike?

When it comes to finding the perfect bicycle saddle, I think the Bike Snob says it best:

If you’ve ever worked in a bike shop, you’ve experienced the customer who’s got vague complaints about comfort. Usually, it involves the saddle, which they “don’t like.” But other stuff can be uncomfortable for them, too. Sometimes it’s the shoes, or the handlebars. Sometimes it’s the pedals. Sometimes they think the bike is too harsh, or their back gets sore, or there’s just something wrong that they can’t really articulate.

These complaints can be legitimate, and sometimes an adjustment or a part swap is all that’s needed. At the same time though, bicycles are not sofas, or beds, or easy chairs. They are machines, and they are minimalistic vehicles. They are not designed for comfort without compromise. They are designed to be ridden without actually hurting you as long as you use them correctly. It’s not surprising many people don’t understand this. We’ve come to expect that life can be a completely pain-free experience, provided we’re prepared to spend enough money. There are pills to soothe your body, and pills to soothe your mind. There are driver-coddling cars, first-class seating, heated floors, and ergonomic toilet brushes. Why should cycling be any different?

Well, when it comes to bikes, there is such a thing as normal discomfort. The more time you spend on a bike at a stretch, the more uncomfortable you’re going to get. You’re going to get tired. Your body is going to ache from staying in the same position. Even your bed with the down mattress cover and high-thread-count sheets will revolt against you and give you bedsores if you don’t turn over every once in a while. Obviously some of this discomfort can be dialed out of the bike by making adjustments and part changes, but at some point the only way to get more comfortable on the bike is to ride the thing more and train your body to deal with it better – and even then, eventually you’re just going to have to get off the damn thing and stop riding, just like eventually you’ve got to get out of bed. Sometimes you’re uncomfortable because of your parts or your bike fit. Sometimes you’re uncomfortable because you’re riding wrong, or you’re thinking about riding wrong.

You see, a certain amount of discomfort is normal when you ride a bicycle. And even when you are feeling discomfort, there is usually something you can do about it to ensure that the pain you are experiencing is not at an excess level.

  • Try to adjust the fit of your saddle, seat post and handlebars first.
  • Then make sure you are using a saddle that fits you personal body measurements.
  • If you find that your saddle is worn out or you need a saddle of a different shape, be sure to purchase the highest quality saddle you can afford for the type of riding you wish to conduct.


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Still have a question about bicycle saddles, sore butts and/or crotch pain? Leave a comment below and I’ll try and help you out.

About Darren Alff

Darren Alff is a world-renowned authority on bicycle touring and is the founder of BicycleTouringPro.com - the world's most popular bicycle touring website and how-to information source. He is the author of "The Bicycle Touring Blueprint" and three additional cycling books. Darren has dedicated his life to helping others conduct the bicycle tour of their dreams. His websites, books, email newsletter, products and public appearances now inspire and assist hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world.

18 Comments

  1. David

    February 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Have you ever tried recumbent bicycles? Yes, one must tolerate a little pain, but there ARE ways to ride with much greater comfort… without necessarily compromising performance!

  2. AllAboutTheTriple

    February 14, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Try one of the Brooks saddles. I got a lot of abuse for using an old-school saddle, but after a week on the bike I definitely had the least pain out of everyone. Takes a while to break in but worth it. One word of caution, they are wider than most, so even thought I’m not the smallest (230lbs) I found the standard too wide, I now have a B17 narrow, and at that if I was doing it again I’d go for a Swift for just normal road cycling.

    I know Alastair Humphries and a few others round-the-world guys swear by them too.

  3. Silas

    February 23, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    “You see, a certain amount of discomfort is normal when you ride a bicycle.”

    I can’t agree enough with the first comment! Recumbent bikes solve pretty much every problem mentioned. I rode across country, 4400+ miles, on a Vision R40 SWB USS ‘bent and never suffered from a single day of saddle, crotch, neck or back soreness. Nor did I spend one day in a padded Spandex diaper. Now., heat and headwinds were another matter entirely) : )

    I’m sad that experienced cyclists write about the bike as if it’s an instrument that has to cause pain eventually. Well, yes, a diamond frame will. It’s just not very kind to the human body. If you’re in pain, try something different!

    I hope this helps!

  4. cheryl

    February 23, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    As the comments have been shared and I can tell you that after 5 different seats over 1 year , I have come to the one that fits! no one can tell you how good it is until you TRY IT yourself! Test and test some more. And to make sure that the level of it is right is the key too. Thanks Darren for your “insight” of all the stuff you have been tried and tested , I have saved some money and time reading the stuff you write. Keep up the work that you love.

  5. Laura

    February 23, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I always wear padded cycling shorts. They are designed to be worn commando- no undies. Carry two pairs and wash the pair you used every night, if you can. I use diaper pins to pin the shorts to my rear panniers to air dry while I ride. I turn them inside out to get a bit of UV sterilization on the chamois.

    Using Chamois-butter or some other lubricant, especially at that beginning of a tour helps with chafe. If you get saddle sores, use triple antibiotic ointment with lidocane.

    Ladies, keeping your pubic hair trimmed short helps a lot with chafing.

  6. Anne Kessler

    February 23, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Great tips! I agree with the previous comments that it’s important to “break in” a new saddle before going on an extended bike tour. Also try various types of padded bike shorts to see if they help. In my case I wear padded bike shorts if riding more than an hour and I’m glad for it.

  7. Martin Fano

    February 24, 2012 at 12:57 am

    I know how you feel. I can go no more than 10 miles on a traditional bike seat before I lose all feeling in my legs and have difficulty walking when I get off. So I bought the Moonsaddle..this is a strange looking device but works wonders. It is a “nosless” bike seat. Last year I did over 2400 miles on my bike…no issues. This seat can not be bought in regular retail establisments. It was designed by doctors to avoid all the problems generated by the standard design seat. http://www.moonsaddle.com check it out..with out this seat I would not be cycling..period!

  8. Martin Fano

    February 24, 2012 at 1:01 am

    I was wrong!..the moon saddle is now available on AMAZON.!

  9. Nann Flowers

    November 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    I broke my tailbone as a child and now as I return to cycling I remember how much it HURTS. Seems like as I’ve lost weight it has removed some of the natural seat cushion and the pain is setting me back. I appreciate this post and the informative comments! I’ll look into the positioning and maybe try a moonsaddle.

  10. Mike

    January 9, 2013 at 5:41 am

    This quoted article is rediculas…

    ” We’ve come to expect that life can be a completely pain-free experience, provided we’re prepared to spend enough money. There are pills to soothe your body, and pills to soothe your mind. There are driver-coddling cars, first-class seating, heated floors, and ergonomic toilet brushes. Why should cycling be any different?”

    I dont think anyone is ever asking for a luxury arm chair experienc on a bike.. just not a sore arse or crotch… and it dosent have to be tolerated. The rock city SDG that came with my bike straigh out hurt.. even after changing seat position and bar position… a new seat that suited me was the solution.. and i can ride better and longer for it.

  11. David

    April 28, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    I just bought a great seat that helped me with the sore buttocks syndrome. :0 I got the carbon bike seat from Rideout Tech. Jeri is the owner and a great lady. She helped me pick out the right seat for me to use and it’s been a god send. You can see the seat I got at http://www.rideouttech.com/Bicycle_Seats-Products_Storm_Quest.html

  12. Steve

    January 17, 2014 at 11:47 am

    The stock saddle that comes with almost all bicycles needs to be replaced immediately. On racing bikes, the seller puts the lightest saddle on the bike, and comfort has nothing to do with it. My Cannondale came with a saddle that was so narrow, I could not sit on it. All the weight was on the base of my penis. Painful! Plus it was hard. It was metal sheathed in leather and that’s it. No cushion at all. The shop owner said I’d get used to it. Sure. A rigid aluminum frame with rigid saddle. That’s great. I ordered a proper saddle with a gel cushion immediately. After market saddles are always better. Saddles don’t cause chafing. Improper clothing causes chafing.

    As I’ve aged, my butt does not have the same natural padding. When I was younger, I could use a hard saddle and ride 80-100 miles with minimal discomfort. Now that I’m in my 40s, I feel every dip and bump in the road. Older people need more cushion.

    Changing the saddle position is not the answer. Who rides in the same position for hours on end? I can’t go more than 30 seconds without re-positioning. The road vibration alone makes you slide this way and that, not to mention the constant change of terrain, up and down, left and right. Now I’m standing to go up a hill, now I’m down in the tuck. I’m using the drops one second, then up on the brake tops the next.

    It’s not the rider, it’s the bike. #1. What kind of frame do you have? Chrome-moly is more forgiving than either carbon or alum. The cause of sore-butt is jolting vibrations from the road. Steel is flexible and absorbs a fraction of the vibration. C and Al transfer all that energy to your derriere. A smooth road = a smooth ride = comfy butt. A rough road = sore butt. If you ride on rough roads, skip the carbon and Al frames. They are lighter and faster, but that comes at a cost, especially for older riders. #2 Does the saddle fit your butt? If the saddle is not wide enough for your particular rear, then you’ll have medical problems. This is a particular concern for women because women’s butts are beautifully different. If it is uncomfortable in a ride down the block, it will be 1000 times worse on a 20 mile ride. #3 Never take advice from someone who is younger than you when it comes to anatomical comfort. Kids are to be seen and not heard.

  13. Floyd

    February 5, 2014 at 10:59 am

    I’ve been riding off and on for 60 years now and after getting back into riding in 1975, the major problem I had to deal with was pain induced by the saddle. I don’t have much flesh covering the sit bones and so need a saddle with a bit of give to it. Up until three years ago, the best saddle I’d found was a leather covered gel by Terry. But on rides of over 60 miles per day, I was still feeling discomfort. I finally bought a Brooks B17 and after a few hundred miles I knew that I had found the perfect saddle for me. Today, I have about 5,800 miles on it and I can do a one week trip of 60+ miles per day and never give the saddle a thought. I bought one of the pre-broken in B17s for my other road bike and that one took just a couple hundred miles to feel good. The combination of the Brooks, a steel frame and 700×35 tires sure smooths out the rough roads in my area.

  14. Steve's an Asshole

    July 6, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Steve,

    You’re an ass hole who thinks that being older than another person gives them complete and total credibility over said person. In other words, you’re completely mental. If I ever saw you acting like an ass hole like that in real life, I’d drop you on your ass before you even think of putting a saddle underneath it, your sorry sack of shit.

  15. JBS

    July 15, 2014 at 8:39 am

    I started biking in 1994 and tried every seat possible for traditional bikes. I made every adjustment possible from seat to handlebar posts, angles, etc. I always had neck, lower back, carpal tunnel syndrome issues, and butt pain. In 1999, I bought my first recumbent and have logged over 60,000 miles on several different models and solved all the issues mentioned above. I am an older guy, and I do not race or do pace line riding. For me, it is all about the journey. We all participate in a wonderful sport, regardless of the type of bike we ride. Enjoy and stay safe.

  16. Peter de Visser

    July 15, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Saddles?Everybody knows that we, the Dutch, are almost born on bikes.
    When I started to ride international long-distance trips 15 years ago, I thought I needed special material, a special saddle. Information about that item learned me that “Brooks” was “the Mercedes” among the bike saddles. I bought the B-17. In my eyes ridiculous expensive…To make a long story short:Since 1999 I rode some 25.000 km’s and changed regularly my saddles to find the best one that fits to my butts.The Brooks was much too hard and never fitted my butt.
    Guess what?
    The best one, that NEVER gives me any pain of problems, that is on my bike for over 10.000 km without complaints is the CHEAPEST saddle available in our Dutch shops: 19.– euro’s.(No gel,just a one piece plastic, but WIDE (!) saddle.
    Conclusion: everybody has different butts, sometimes you need a lot of money, I just bought the cheapest crap and ride the rest of my live on it to my pleasure…

  17. baskara

    August 4, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    This solution adds enlightenment for me and I want to share to all friends here … Thanks

  18. Iggy threadgood

    August 15, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    There’s slot of great suggestions but one that wasn’t mentioned was sheep skin.

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