Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable?

Mountain biking usually means spending long hours on the saddle while pedaling your way from one location to another.

That sounds nice. Unless of course, if you’re still new to the sport and you just hate the fact that your bum feels sore after just a few minutes of riding.

Well, that’s normal. But you’ll get used to it in the long run! That’s just how things work for mountain biking, especially if you’re into long cross-country rides or pesky uphills

But why are bike seats uncomfortable in the first place? And what can we do to avoid this level of discomfort?

Read on to know.

What is the difference between a seat and a saddle?

Before anything else, it’d be wise to first know the difference between a bike seat and a saddle. A seat is made to carry your full weight.

Meanwhile, a saddle is made to just carry a part of your weight. So, where does your remaining weight go? To the pedal. That’s why the area where you sit on a horse and a bike is called the saddle because your feet still have a platform to rest on.

It’s also important to note that the majority of your weight should rest on the pedals and not on the saddle so that you’ll have a more comfortable experience riding your bike.

Why are bike saddles small and narrow?

The first thing you observe when you look at mountain bikes for the first time is that it has a very small bike seat. They’re also shaped weird and awkward that it seems like you’ll have a very hard time spending a few minutes on that.

Well, that’s because the bike saddle has good reasons why it’s shaped that way. There have been many efforts to redesign the saddle, though, but nothing still beats the narrow and slender feature that a bicycle saddle has today.

So, what are the reasons why they’re still designed that way? Well, first off is that harder and narrower seats are more comfortable than the wider and softer ones.

That’s surprising to most people, but that’s the fact because you aren’t sitting on it to stay dormant. You sit on a saddle to support your weight while moving, that’s why you need to make it as slender as possible.

It sure is nice to think about the soft and plush texture of a couch. But what’s nice for watching TV doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s also nice if you’re going to do strenuous physical exercise just like riding a bike uphill or going on long rides for hours.

The saddle width and softness will just make your cycling experience more uncomfortable because it’ll just rub on the sides of your hips and won’t accommodate airflow, which is crucial to your comfort on long rides.

It’s all a matter of contact point

Your sit bones are the most important contact point between your bike and yourself. This is also called the Ischial Tuberosity which consists of two bones that support your body when you are in a riding position.

Think of your sit bones as the pillars or structures which support your position on your bike. The surrounding parts which include your skin and hips then make contact with your saddle.

Wide leather saddles such as the blue wind waterproof bicycle saddle, also most likely to rub and heat up due to friction when pedaling. These soft areas are expected to move more and ache in the long run.

This is why it’s better to have a harder and stiffer seat so you only sit on something that will only support your sit bones.

Wide mountain bike seats are just going to have too much surface area that will rub on your body and cause rashes. So, the narrower the saddle is, the better and more comfortable you’ll be.

Different Types of Bike Saddles

Bike saddles also come in different shapes and sizes, depending on your riding style. If you are a road cyclist, then it’s best if you have a very thin saddle that has a hard surface because you’re going to sit on it for a long time.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Riders who race will also have a riding position that is closer to the bike’s front where they learn forward. This means that this riding position will need racing saddles with a more aerodynamic and angular design to ensure comfort.

There are also these so-called cut-out seats that have a small section in the middle area of the saddle removed.

This reduces weight and pressure from your body because there’s no material pushing up against you in the middle. This also improves airflow and breathability which makes your ride cooler.

Sitting on your saddle for hours, in the end, affects the nerves and makes you feel numb because of the reduced blood flow. However, you don’t have to worry about that if you have a cut-out seat because of its hollow middle section.

Best Ways to Prevent Saddle Discomfort

Ride more often

This might sound very simple, but it is the most effective way to get rid of saddle discomfort. The more you ride your bike, the more used your muscles will get. You’ll also build up glute muscles which will make you more capable of riding your bike longer.

Strengthen your leg muscles

Do leg workouts so that you don’t have to place lots of pressure on your saddle. Instead, you redistribute the pressure to your legs. This is very helpful when you are riding enduro and downhill trails because you are going to stand on your pedals most of the ride.

Wear proper cycling shorts

Don’t ride your bike if you don’t wear proper cycling shorts. These kinds of shorts have padding placed on the interior under the section of the bike shorts. They can also be bought from the nearest local bike shop. This provides an extra layer of protection for our skin’s soft tissues that will prevent saddle sores due to rubbing and friction.

Conclusion

Bicycle seats aren’t made for comfort. Instead, they are made for supporting our body weight when riding our bicycles. It doesn’t mean that wider and softer saddles are more comfortable than the narrower and harder ones.

In fact, they’re less comfortable because you need to avoid your skin from rubbing on the saddle to prevent sores. Know the bike discipline you want and choose the corresponding right saddle that’s fit for that discipline. When you do, then you’ll surely have a more comfortable ride.

Photo of author
AUTHOR
Jomar Teves
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.