Saddle Soreness: Why Do Bike Seats Hurt (and How to Stop It)?

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The Short Answer

Bike seats can hurt due to factors like bruised sit bones, chafing, and skin irritation. Standard saddles may not fit everyone, and finding the right saddle is important. Padded shorts and saddle covers can help. Pain diminishes with time, and gender-specific and comfortable saddle options are available.

Although cycling is a fantastic pastime, a way to keep fit and mode of transport many people will find at some point, they develop pain in their nether regions due to their saddle and the many issues they can unfortunately cause you.

Butt (apologies I just couldn’t help myself) we no longer live in the olden times when saddles were just made from leather and metal without much variation: these days there’s a lot on the market regarding saddles and other products to help ease any issues that may arise. 

Saddle Soreness: Bike Seat Hurts Butt

Many of you, if not all reading this, will at some point have experienced soreness from being on a bike saddle. This soreness can be a result of: bruised sit bones (the bones in your bottom), chafing which can cause skin irritation or damage, or saddle sores which are basically wounds or spots.

First and foremost, bruised sit bones are often caused by not being used to a saddle, so a little discomfort here can be expected when ‘bedding in’ a new saddle. But you should actually measure your sit bones before purchasing a saddle to ensure the width at the back is the nearest size to your measurement. 

Next, chafing is a pretty common and self explanatory one. It occurs due to the material of your clothing and saddle rubbing together. It’s annoying but there are a few products like padded shorts and chamois cream that, alongside a saddle that suits your body, will help to prevent chafing from happening as much. 

Skin irritation and damage is a nasty one, that can occur from sitting on a saddle for a long time. The best way to stop this is having a comfortable saddle, as well as wearing breathable clothing while riding. Some irritation may still occur if you have sensitive skin though, but sometimes you have to just allow your nether regions to get used to it.


Are Bike Seats Supposed to Hurt?

Saddles on bikes are not meant to hurt you. But the problem is, when a bike has been sold, a standard saddle is fitted to the bike: often an easy and cheap to manufacture generic one. This saddle may suit you, however, chances are it doesn’t.

The most important thing to remember is that humans come in all different shapes and sizes and therefore this variation means one size definitely does not fit all. So it’s important to factor in the cost of a new saddle when budgeting for a bike.

Therefore, if you saddle is hurting and you are really struggling, it’s best to pop along to a local bike store and see if you can have a saddle fitted to you (saddle mapping as it’s often called) to help ease your pain.

It’s also worth noting that many bike shops will let you try a saddle out or bike a saddle to try for 30 days and then give you a full refund if it’s unsuitable. So make sure you look out for this being offered, as it’s well worth considering.

Why Do Bike Seats Hurt?

Saddles can hurt mainly due to two reasons: you may not be used to it or the saddle design itself is just not suited to your anatomy, nor your personal needs. 

That being said, if you have found the correct saddle you should not be experiencing too much pain. A little numbness every now and then may occur, especially if you are sat on the edge of your saddle or in a position you don’t normally sit in as it may reduce blood flow (hence the numbness). 

However, a good saddle that is suited to your needs as well as a pair of padded shorts that are also suited to your anatomy will be a solid coupling to help prevent any pain that may occur. Although, if you are riding for hours on end, a little pain may still be expected.


Bicycle Seat Pain: Male vs Female 

Some saddles on the market are designed to be male or female sex specific. This is because the difference in anatomy means a slight adjustment in design is needed in order to promote blood flow and relieve delicate tissue where needed.

Meanwhile, some saddles are very cleverly designed to suit the needs of both sexes in order to effectively support and relieve pressure points to reduce pain. 

Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable?

Bike saddles are often so uncomfortable because the saddles that come as standard on bikes have not had much technology or research put into them: they’re often cheap and easy to mass produce. 

Thus they often aren’t as comfy or specialist. On the other hand, some people get on really well with cheaper saddles, it is massively down to the individual and their own personal needs. 

It’s also arguably due to the fact that humans just are not designed to put a lot of pressure, or their body weight, on such a delicate part of their body such as their undercarriage. So there’s no real surprise that saddles can hurt. 

Does Bike Seat Pain Go Away?

Luckily, if you are just getting into cycling, the great news is that the pain does eventually subside as your body gets used to being sat on a saddle. The rate in which this occurs will differ slightly for everyone.

In general, riding your bike as often and as much as you can will help your body to get used to sitting on your saddle pain free. Your undercarriage will also become more in tune to your saddle and the position you are in while on your bike. 


How Do I Make My Bike Seat More Comfortable? 

If you want to make your saddle more comfortable and the pains go away faster, as mentioned previously, there are certain steps that can be taken in order to ensure maximum comfort.

For example, a very well padded saddle or alternatively a saddle cover, which is a great and inexpensive way to make your saddle more comfortable. These often just offer extra gel or foam padding which is easily attached on top of the existing saddle. 

Or of course, getting yourself a pair of padded shorts which can be worn under pretty much anything – just remember to ditch the underwear while wearing them for optimal effect. Sounds bizarre, I know, but it really does make them much more comfier. 

Padded Bike Seat Covers

On the other hand, if you’re looking just for a good saddle cover to improve the current saddle you have instead of splashing out on a new one, there are a lot of solid options to choose from.

For example, a good quality one from Selle Italia can be purchased from the popular British retailer Halfords, which is water resistant, perfect for commuters and affordable. It also comes in S, M and L to suitably fit it over your current saddle. 

Most Comfortable Bike Saddles 

Below are just a small selection of saddles that within the cycling industry and due to the technology used to design them, are widely regarded as some of the most comfortable saddles on the market.

They may not suit you but they are a great starting point and definitely good options to try if you are on the lookout for a comfy saddle.

  1. Specialized Power Comp with MIMIC

  2. Specialized Power Expert

  3. Bontrager Boulevard Fluid Bike Saddle

Best Women’s Saddle

1. Specialized Power Comp with MIMIC

  • UK Flag £100
  • US Flag $140

Prices are approximate

Patented Body Geometry design is lab-tested to ensure blood flow to sensitive arteries

Innovative MIMIC technology uses multilayered materials to maintain equilibrium and minimise swelling in soft tissue.

Durable hollow Cr-Mo rails.

Level 2 padding: Medium density foam for bike feel with additional cushioning.

Available in three widths: 143mm, 155mm and 168m.

This women’s specific saddle from Specialized is a great choice for women who have had a hard time finding the right saddle. Although it may look more like a road bike saddle, it’s actually a popular option among commuters and leisure riders too.

Thanks to its special foam-like technology at the front (nose) of the saddle helps to cushion the soft tissue, helping to prevent swelling as well as pain. Therefore it’s understandable why it’s been such a big hit with female cyclists.

2. Specialized Power Expert

  • UK Flag £115
  • US Flag $160

Prices are approximate

Patented Body Geometry design is lab-tested for both men and women to assure blood flow to sensitive arteries.

Lightweight and supportive PU padding for comfort and support on longer rides.

Lightweight and durable hollow titanium rails.

Tough, lightweight, and water-resistant cover.

Available in four widths: 130mm, 143mm, 155mm and 168mm.

A similar design to the previous offering, but designed specifically to suit both male and female saddle needs, this is another great offering from Specialized that is great for every kind of cyclist, from commuters, to road riders, and gravel explorers.

Interestingly, this saddle has a gap in the middle to offer relief for your delicate soft tissue / undercarriage to help promote blood flow as well as preventing numbness – leaving you able to enjoy your ride in total comfort.

3. Bontrager Boulevard Fluid Bike Saddle

  • UK Flag £80
  • US Flag $80

Prices are approximate

Fluid adds comfort by moving with you as you pedal to alleviate pressure

Fluid is better than gel at reducing pressure, showing an average reduction of over 20% in peak pressure compared to gel alone.

Full cut-out provides targeted support and soft-tissue relief.


Dual-density shell and air foam construction is soft yet supportive.

Available in two sizes: 280mm x 205mm and 280mm x 225mm

Last but not least, a cheaper and more stereotypically looking ‘comfortable’ saddle that still offers similar features to the previous two with a little extra padding. However, this saddle possesses a patented technology that allows the saddle to move freely with you as you pedal for less pressure and more comfort.

Overall this saddle offers a great amount of padding and support which will help reduce any sit bone soreness that you may be experiencing. Equally, due to the cut out in the middle, numbness and soft tissue discomfort will also be minimised. Therefore, this is a solid selection for commuters and leisure riders.

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