The truth is, your saddle is probably not the problem.
If you are experiencing butt or crotch pain as you ride your bike, the problem can usually be solved by simply adjusting the saddle, seat post, or handlebars.
That said, I don’t have one specific saddle that I recommend for bicycle touring (or any type of cycling, for that matter). 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.
In general, however, 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, and you don’t want one of those super cushy gel-type saddles either (because soft saddles usually make your butt chaff). Shopping for a saddle is just like shopping for a 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 the position of your saddle, seat post or handlebars (and not the saddle itself).
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 (before going out and purchasing a new saddle) to ensure that the pain you are experiencing is not at an excess level.
If your butt or crotch is hurting you while you ride your bike, try the following before purchasing 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.
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.
Also, remember that the full weight of your body is not meant to rest 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 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.
Finally, once you find a position for your saddle that you like, don’t move it. You might even want to put a little electrical tape around the seatpost (just above the seatpost clamp) so that if you have to remove the seatpost for any reason, you will be able to quickly and easily get your saddle back in its proper position.
Still got a question about bicycle saddles, sore butts or crotch pains? Leave a comment below and I’ll try and help you out.