Mountain biking needs a lot of patience, diligence, and power.
It sure is fun. But also throw in these things coupled with sheer passion to make the most out of the sport.
And one of the most common questions beginners ask is how to make a bike seat more comfortable.
Comfort isn’t your chief priority if you become a cyclist. It comes naturally once you get used to it. It’s hard at first. But it becomes easier once you ride your bike more often.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to make your saddle more comfortable. This is what we’ll talk about in this article. We’ll also show you the different tips and techniques you can follow to have a better cycling experience.
How to Make a Bike Seat More Comfortable
Adjust the saddle height
The first thing to do is to adjust your saddle height. This is one of the easiest and most important techniques to improve saddle comfort. You might think you have the best saddle. But that’s useless if you didn’t properly position it.
The biggest downside of a saddle that’s too high is that you can have IT band syndrome. This is a serious problem because it’s in charge for 15 percent of cyclists’ knee pain. Meanwhile, a saddle too low can also cause knee and hip injuries. It can even decrease your pedaling efficiency. This means that you’ll find it harder to pedal and you also become slower.
The best way to ensure the right saddle height is to stretch out your legs. Sit on your saddle and pedal backward. You then look at your legs if it’s stretched straight once the pedal reaches the furthest point.
But make sure that your legs aren’t stretched too much because this will hurt. It should just be stretched enough to straighten it.
Adjust the saddle angle
Another thing you can do is to adjust the saddle angle. Ensure that your saddle tilt is correct to avoid groin numbness. This is very important, especially if you always ride in a low and aggressive position.
You can lower your saddle nose by a few degrees to relieve pressure on your groin. This is nice. But it also compromises your upper body comfort. It happens because your groin area doesn’t anymore absorb the pressure. This instead goes to your upper arms.
This is common if you go too far and put it on an extreme downward tilt. You just push yourself backward so you won’t fall out of your bike. And doing this means that your arms get all the pressure. Just find the right balance and start with a level saddle. You can then adjust from there.
Adjust your pedals
The connection between your feet and pedals is vital to ensure saddle comfort. Note that you pedal hundreds, if not thousands of times every minute. This means that you’ll get body pains if your feet aren’t properly attached to your pedals.
This is common for bikes that have flat pedals because your feet can easily slip off the right position. We recommend you choose clipless pedals so your feet stay in place.
But also make sure that your cleats are aligned to your foot’s ball. Also, angle it straight and adjust it once you feel any discomfort. It also helps if you let your feet move through the pedal. This gives a small setup margin for error.
Lower tire pressure
Run in lower tire pressure to decrease the amount of vibration your bike gets. We recommend you maintain a PSI of 25 to 30 if you ride cross-country. Meanwhile, you can bring it lower to 20 to 25 PSI for enduro trails.
You can even go to the extreme side and run 15 to 20 PSI for wet downhill tracks. This makes your ride more comfortable because the tires act like additional suspension. Just remember that this compromises speed because of the higher absorption rate.
You can particularly use this trick when using wider tyres, especially on wider rims, which lets greater volume of air in the tyre meaning even better ride quality.
But you don’t want to go too low, as this could put you at risk of pinch flats. And there’s nothing comfortable about having to stand at the side of the road fixing a puncture…
Make sure that you have wide rims if you always ride with low pressure tires. This avoids tire punctures and flats. You can also put tire inserts to protect your tires against slices. Cushcore and Nukeproof ARD are two of the best tire insert brands to choose from.
Related: What PSI for Mountain Bike Tires?
Install mud guards
Mud guards can’t protect you from groin or knee pain. But it can keep your back and groin area warm and dry. This is important, especially if you always ride on wet roads or muddy trails. It helps a lot because you feel warm. And you’re less likely to stop your ride just because you’re cold.
Pictured above: All Mountain Style AMS Front Mudguard. Click on it for more information.
There are many mudguard choices out there. Most of them can be directly installed on your seat tube or lower rear triangle.
They might ruin the look and style of your bike a bit. But that’s totally worth it because it can keep you clean and warm throughout the ride! It’s all a matter of weighing the pros and cons. And it’s going to be more about comfort this time.
Adjust your reach
Reach is important because this determines your distance from the handlebar. The reach is the horizontal distance from your cockpit to your bottom bracket. This is below your frame.
This is important if you have a short torso because you should extend too much. But you can avoid this over-extension with an adjusted reach. Just bring it nearer you and you’ll find your ride more comfortable. You’ll also notice reduced pain on your shoulders, neck, and back.
Decrease the reach and become more comfortable on your bike. You can do this with a shorter stem. There are many stem brands out there that are durable and aesthetic. A few good examples are Renthal Apex and RaceFace Aeffect.
These are two of the most popular stem brands out there that give you a good grip and maneuverability. Just be prepared to spend more money on these because they are priced at around $100 to $150. You can also just slide your saddle forward if you don’t have the budget.
Adjust handlebar height
Adjust your handlebar height to become more comfortable on your bike. This is important because you don’t have to slouch too much. You might get used to it, but it’s best if you just increase the height.
What usually happens if you just bought a new mountain bike is you get rid of all spacers. You simply just slam the stem directly even if you still haven’t checked the height. This means you get a big drop from the bar to your saddle. And this makes your ride more uncomfortable.
It might look cool. But it just gives you more issues. First is you’ll have back pain because you slouch too much. Your groin area also absorbs too much pressure because of your aggressive position.
This can also lead to pain on your lower back and hamstrings if you’re not very flexible. It can even put increased pressure on your wrists and arms.
You can avoid this if you put spacers under your steam. This raises the handlebar height by a few centimeters. You might think it’s just small. But it goes a long way and makes you more comfortable on long rides.
Wear padded cycling shorts
Wear cycling shorts that have moderately thick paddings. Padded cycling shorts are a must-have because they make these to go against your skin.
Example of a mountain bike padded shortsfrom EZRUN Men. Click on the image above for more info.
Don’t put any layer of underwear underneath your shorts. It sounds awkward and weird. But this can lead to added friction and skin irritation.
It sure is strange at first. But you’ll get used to it eventually. It also feels very good because this can cushion your skin. You’ll also feel light and more free.
Increase suspension PSI
Add air to your suspension to improve your ride comfort. This is very effective because your suspension system will absorb more vibrations from the ground. But take note that this only works if you have an air suspension.
This includes your fork and rear shock. The recommended PSI sag for the fork is 20% to 30%. Meanwhile, we recommend a PSI sag of 10% to 20% at the rear shock. Sag is the amount of travel your shock moves once you sit on your bike.
Your ride becomes more comfortable if you have lower PSI sag. But this compromises speed because your bike becomes more bouncy.
You also need to consider your riding style. It’s best you lower the sag if you ride on flow trails. Increase your sag if you ride technical rocky trails or if you are fond of jumps.
Get a new saddle
Get a new saddle if the tips mentioned above didn’t help you. The problem might lie on your saddle’s construction, design, and geometry. There are many saddle brands out there that provide comfort.
Ergon is a well-known bike saddle brand that prioritizes comfort. Another thing that’s nice about Ergon saddles is their design.
They do a magnificent job with their aesthetics because they look cool. This is the reason why their brand name is Ergon. This comes from the word ergonomic, which means designed for comfort.
It sure sounds simple. But sitting properly can do a lot of wonders to your ride comfort. Don’t slouch too much. This can compromise aerodynamics a bit. But it’s worth it because you can ride longer hours without back pains.
You also need to stretch your arms properly. Don’t overstretch it and have straight arms. Your arms should be folded slightly with your elbows out. Position yourself at the center of the saddle to evenly distribute the weight.
How to treat saddle uncomfort?
Get a break
Get a break if you think your groin area is already numb. Saddle sores are common for cyclists. But you can avoid them with just a simple break.
Saddle sores are also just like a normal injury. They need some time to rest so they can heal and fully recover. Don’t ride your bike for a few days and just rest at your home. Take some days off to rest and recover.
Also, don’t wear overly tight clothing because this adds friction to the area. Don’t sit too much and stand and walk every once in a while. You can also just lie down or sit in a reclined position. Just take the pressure off your area.
Keep it dry and clean
Bacterial growth is one of the leading causes of discomfort on your ride. Bacteria is also a common source of saddle sore.
You can avoid this with a dry and clean groin area. Don’t wear dirty or used underwear. Do your best to take care of it so it won’t attract germs. And keep the area dry after you bath. A clean and dry groin area avoids friction and makes you more comfortable on your ride.
Use antibacterial cream
Antibacterial cream helps a lot because this kills germs and bacteria in your groin area. This also provides lubrication which absorbs vibration from your saddle.
There are a lot of antibacterial creams sold in pharmacies. Just don’t overdo it and put too much so it won’t feel awkward.
Don’t force yourself
Don’t force yourself to continue your ride if you don’t feel it. Forcing yourself only puts pressure on your mental, emotional, and physical self. This makes you feel uncomfortable. It also defeats the purpose of mountain biking, which is to have fun.
After all, you ride your bike for convenience, right? Just skip your ride schedule and postpone it to a later date. This is important, especially if you’re in a recovery period.
Never force yourself so you don’t feel bored and overwhelmed with your bike. There are already many cyclists who quit the sport just because they were addicted too much to it. Just keep calm and balance things properly to get the best of both worlds.
Bike more often
Bike more often to strengthen your muscles. Regular cycling makes your glutes more used to the shock absorption and vibration it gets from your saddle. This makes them more solid. And these will be harder and more compact through time.
Expect to experience soars at first. But just deal with it and accept that it’s a part of mountain biking. Rest for a few days if you think you need to recover. Then get back on the saddle and cycle your way through the roads or trails.
You need proper hydration to make you more comfortable on your bike. It’s not just about the saddle. But it’s more about your complete body. Strengthen yourself and become more accustomed to the pressure of the outdoor world.
Hydrate and drink plenty of water to revitalize your muscles. You can also hydrate with energy drinks like Gatorade. Or Red Bull if you want something stronger. Just make sure you don’t have any heart conditions if you drink the latter. This will make you palpitate.
Stop your ride, put your bike on the side, and just stretch. Stretching helps a lot because this releases tension from your muscles and joints.
Do jumping jacks, stretch your arms, and rotate your hips. This puts your body momentum back in recovery mode. It also puts you back at the starting position and freshens yourself.
Shift your weight
Shift your weight to improve your ride comfort. This is important so that they evenly distributed the pressure throughout your body.
You also need to consider this if you always carry many things along your bike. Examples of these are bags or clothes. These can lead to shoulder strain if you don’t adjust your weight placement.
Also, shift your weight whenever you approach corners. Lean your elbows outward and point your knees to the direction you want to go. Not only does this improve balance. But this also ensures you’re less prone to accidents.
Different Types of Bike Saddles
Racing saddles are made for speed. So they are very thin and light. They also do a good job against chafing. They also provide more weight on your hands and feet. And not on the saddle. This makes the saddle very efficient if speed is your priority.
Comfort saddles are made for comfort just like what its name implies. They are wider and have more cushion. They also improve pedal efficiency. These are what you need if you are into long-distance rides on and off road. They might not look great. But that’s alright because they’re very comfortable to sit on.
It’s important to know how to make a bike seat more comfortable. This is where your ride longevity and enjoyment depends on.
There are many ways to ensure utmost comfort on the saddle. But the most important ones are to adjust your cockpit, maintain proper posture, and lower tire pressure.
It’s not really that hard to learn how to make a bike seat more comfortable. You just need to be ingenious and creative to get the right balance on your bike.
A writer by day, a tech enthusiast by night, and a mountain biker at the weekends.
After four years in business school and working for multinational clients, Jomar believes he can improve the world through his writings.
Jomar has six years of experience as a writer and has a degree in entrepreneurial marketing. Some of his works have been published on Blokt, Clutch Points, and iTech.