Saddle sores are history!
"My bum hurts!" is probably the number one complaint of new
cyclists, especially those who choose to get back into cycling by doing
a 50 mile charity ride with no prior preparation!
For most people, the soreness quickly recedes and after a few more day's
of riding, getting on a bike is no longer painful. It's a matter of
getting your bum used to sitting on a saddle, preferably an 'anatomical'
one, and your back and shoulders used to the new sitting position.
Of course, there are ways to minimise this initial discomfort. Check
your saddle isn't too far forward on the 'seat post' and make sure it's
a decent width. Many bikes do not come ready fitted with comfy enough
'Tractor' cycle saddles - such as those available from Selle Royal and
Madison - are wide and often come fitted with gel inserts, bags of soft
goo which conform to the shape of your bum.
Some tractor saddles also come with springs or elastomer bungs. These
let the saddle bounce underneath you when pedalling along (which can
lead to a fair amount of bobbing around and, whilst comfortable, isn't
very energy efficient).
To convert your existing saddle into a gel one you could fit a gel-filled
saddle cover. Velo from Moore Large do one for £12. Alternatively,
fit a sheepskin cover from Easirider, tel: 01604 870713.
Always bear in mind, though, that too squishy a saddle won't be supporting
you properly. Over time try to wean yourself onto a harder, more supportive
If your saddle is too narrow, all your weight is concentrated on your
perineum (check where this is in a medical dictionary, we're a family
magazine!) instead of the sit-bones, the ischial tuberosities. In men
the sit bones are roughly three inches apart; in women they're four
inches apart. This is why women's saddles are wider. On a sit-up-and-beg
bike you're taking a lot of your weight on your bum; on mountain bikes
and sports bikes a lot more of your weight is shared with your handlebars.
Don't fit such a wide saddle, however, that it chafes your thighs. Find
a happy medium.
If, after alteing your riding position through trial and error, moving
the saddle forward a touch or fitting a wide - possibly sprung - saddle
or a suspension seatpost, and you're riding in proper padded cycle shorts,
you're still uncomfortable, maybe you might be on the wrong sort of
bike altogether? Many of the mountain bikes in the shops are designed
and so sling you far forward into an uncomfortable position. Racers
are used to this position and it's quite comfortable for them but for
the rest of us a more 'sit-and-beg' position is desirable. Hybrids are
normally more upright and so more comfy for beginners. Dutch roadsters
are even more upright. But, as was made clear above, you don't want
to be so upright that
hardly any of your weight is being supported by the handlebars. Again,
aim for a happy medium.
If all else fails, why not try a recumbent? These are laid-back cycles
with comfy, deck-chair like seats. They take a bit of getting used to
but have been godsends for some riders who might otherwise have had
to retire from cycling.
SETTING A SADDLE
Saddles set too high or low can lead to knee injuries. Find the right
position by sitting on your bike and putting your heel on a pedal in
its lowest position. The saddle and seatpost are the right height when
your leg is straight (but not locked). The seatpost should not be extended
above the inscribed safety limit. Buy a longer seatpost if necessary.
Most saddles have rails by which they are attached to the seat post
clamp. Undoing a locknut or Allen key bolt will enable you to slide
the saddle forewards or backwards. With the pedals horizontal to the
ground you should be able to draw a vertical line from the front of
the forward knee through the centre of the pedal spindle.
Angle of tilt
For true comfort on a bike the tilt of the saddle is crucial but is
largely a matter of taste. Women tend to like the saddle nose pointing
to the ground slightly, to relieve pressure on the pubic area. That's
why women's saddles are shorter than men's. The Terry Liberator saddle
gets round this problem by cutting a hole out of the nose.
By making just minor adjustments to the saddle's tilt you can radically
improve your comfort. Try your saddle at different angles and ride about
for twenty minutes or so to check which angle suits you best.
With thanks to Carlton Reid and BikeBiz, the UK cycle industry webzine for this article.