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

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.

Photo by Tuftronic10000

14 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. 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. January 11, 2013 at 4:10 pm ·

    Mike, I think you are right. Sometimes you DO need a new seat. But most of the time, that’s usually not the case. Most of the time, people simply have unrealistic expectations about how comfortable a bicycle seat should be.

  12. 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

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

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