Bike saddle soreness: What is it and what can you do about it?

Saddle soreness is one of the complaints that are found to be the biggest pain in the butt amongst cyclists. Fortunately, you can prevent many complaints by using a good bike saddle, a good pair of trousers and a good adjustment of your bike and saddle. In this blog you will read what saddle soreness is, how to prevent it and how to treat it.

What is saddle soreness?

Almost every cyclist suffers from saddle soreness sometimes, but what is it exactly? Actually, there is no single definition for saddle soreness. It can be caused by friction between your skin and the saddle and/or your cycling shorts, perspiration and body heat. The spot where saddle soreness occurs can also vary greatly. Your sit bones, the tailbone, or genitalia can get sore. In all cases however, it comes down to having soreness or an injury around your seat area.

zadelpijn kan ook komen door een verkeerde fietshouding
Do you suffer from saddle soreness? Find out what causes it!

It is not unusual for your contact points to hurt a little bit during cycling. But if you’re still hurting after the ride, you are experiencing saddle soreness. So what are the exact causes?

Causes of saddle soreness

There are a number of causes of saddle soreness. The following are the most common:

  1. You have the wrong saddle
  2. The saddle or other parts of your bike are not properly adjusted.
  3. You’re wearing the wrong cycling shorts
  4. You haven’t trained sufficiently

Cause 1. Your bike saddle does not suit you

A good bike saddle must fulfill a number of conditions. First off, a bike saddle should be hard enough. If the saddle is too soft, your sit bones will sink into it, which can put pressure on the perineum (the area of skin between the sexual organs and the anus). A soft saddle is therefore only suitable for short rides, for example on your city bike.

Therefore, a good sports saddle is hard. When you buy a new bike saddle, it may take some getting used to because you will feel your seat bones at first. After about 10 to 15 rides, you will already feel less pain, because by then, you will have developed more skin tissue in that area. On almost all of our bike saddles, we offer a money-back guarantee. This gives you one month to find out whether your new bike saddle suits you.

dameszadels zijn breder dan herenzadels
Women’s saddles are generally wider than men’s saddles, because women’s sit bones are further apart.

It is also wise to consider the padding material when choosing a new bike saddle. A gel saddle, for example, is not very suitable for your road or mountain bike. Gel absorbs your body temperature. As a result, your saddle will also become warmer. Because your body can no longer get rid of the heat, you will start to perspire, which in turn can lead to saddle soreness. If you typically ride for more than half an hour, it is best to choose a saddle with a foam padding. This material does not heat up as much, keeping your body cooler.

Bike saddle selection guide

Besides the hardness and padding of the bicycle saddle, there are a number of other aspects to consider when buying your ideal saddle. The right shape and width of your saddle are very important. If, for example, you choose a saddle that is too narrow, your sit bones will not fit on the saddle. This may eventually cause saddle soreness. For example, women’s sit bones are further apart than those of men. Women’s saddles are therefore generally wider than men’s saddles.

Een zadel met uitsparing kan de druk op het zitvlak verlichten, waardoor je de kans op zadelpijn afneemt.
A saddle with an cut-out can alleviate pressure on the soft tissue areas, thereby reducing the risk of saddle soreness.

In our blog about the bike saddle selection guide you can find out which shape saddle suits you best. We also explain how to measure your saddle width. This blog will make it easy for you to determine which bike saddle suits you best.

Cause 2. The bike saddle or other parts of your bike are not properly adjusted.

It is very important to adjust your saddle height and saddle position (setback) properly. This will prevent not only saddle soreness but also a host of other physical ailments.
In our saddle height blog we tell you how to determine the right saddle height for your road bike. We also show you how to correctly adjust the setback of your saddle.

It is equally important that the shell part of your bike saddle is positioned horizontally. With a flat bike saddle, measure this by laying a leveler on the saddle. Do you have a saddle with an upright edge? Then place the spirit level in front of where the raised edge begins. A horizontal bike saddle can prevent saddle soreness.

zadelpijn verhelpen door de juiste setback
You can easily adjust the setback of your bicycle saddle yourself.

Is your saddle adjusted properly, but do you still suffer from saddle soreness? Then your bike might not be properly adjusted after all, and that means you’re not riding in the ideal cycling position. In this blog we explain the different sizes of your road bike.

You’re wearing the wrong cycling shorts

Another cause of saddle soreness may be that you’re wearing the right cycling shorts that are not right for you. It could also be that your comfortable cycling shorts and/or chamois have worn out and you need a new pair. When you buy new cycling shorts, pay attention to the quality of the padding. When the chamois is of good quality, sweat can be wicked awa[po more easily. It is also important that the seat pad fits properly to your body, so that the chamois and the cycling shorts don’t cause chafing.

fietsbroek met zeem kan helpen bij zadelpijn
The better the quality of the chamois, the longer you’ll be able to cycle without experiencing discomfort.

To make sure your cycling shorts and chamois stay in the right place, we recommend bib shorts, that is, shorts with braces. For men, we can definitely recommend this. Braces are not always necessary for women, as they generally have wider hips.

Choosing the right size legwear is also very important. Select your jeans size on our website, and you’ll be shown the correct size cycling shorts immediately. Of course, if you happen to be in the Netherlands, you can always visit one of our Superstores, where our expert staff can help you find the perfect cycling shorts.

In our buyer’s guide you can read more about what to consider when buying cycling shorts.

Your shorts and chamois will stay in place when you wear a bib short.

In addition, you should make sure that you always put on a clean pair of cycling shorts when you go out for a ride. First of all, this is much more hygienic and secondly, a used pair of trousers will rub a lot more than a clean pair from the closet. So, you can also prevent irritation to the seat or saddle soreness by wearing a clean pair of shorts.

And lastly, we cannot say it often enough: do not wear underwear in your cycling shorts! To a beginner, this may sound strange, but doing so can also cause saddle soreness. Underwear can chafe, the seams can irritate and it probably cannot wick away your sweat properly.

Cause 4. You have not trained sufficiently

Finally, you should ask yourself whether you have trained sufficiently. If you typically only cycle short distances, and now, after a longer ride you feel saddle soreness, the duration of the ride could be the cause. This is normal, as your body will have to get used to your bike and/or saddle (again). Are you a beginner cyclist and already suffering from saddle soreness after your first rides? That is certainly not strange. Fortunately, it is just a matter of getting used to it. The more time you spend on your bike, the more your saddle soreness will decrease.

zadelpijn door druk op zitvlak
Standing up from time to time during your ride can also reduce the discomfort on pressure points.

Preventing and treating saddle soreness

Preventing saddle soreness is of course better than treating it, but almost every cyclist will experience it sooner or later. Of course, rest is the best remedy, but that is not possible if you are halfway through your ride. To prevent saddle soreness, you can use a chamois cream. This cream reduces friction between the fabric and the skin during cycling and prevents irritation. Different brands sell chamois cream, so you may have to take some time to find out which one works best for you.

You can prevent friction between your skin and your cycling shorts by using a good chamois cream.

You can also use chamois cream if you already have irritated or chafed skin and want to treat your saddle soreness.

Seat protection

Do you think you are suffering from saddle soreness due to an incorrect riding position? Then we recommend you take a look at the adjustment of your bike. On our blog page you will find many how-to blogs. If that’s not enough, we recommend you enlist the help of a professional bike fitter.

pijnvrij fietsen
You certainly won’t be riding happily when you’re suffering from saddle soreness.

Do you have another great tip on how to get rid of saddle soreness? Let us know in the comments!

Eva van den Berg

Eva van den Berg

Since starting work at Mantel, I’ve been reading and writing about bikes on a daily basis. This added to the fact that I am testing new products, has caused me to get excited to expand my own bike collection. I wonder what the inside of my garage will look like in a few years. Luckily I have a big garage at home!

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