By Rick Schultz, MBA, DBA
A question recently came in regarding pain and sit bones.
Subject: Bontrager Montrose Elite Series 2 saddle and Sit Bone Pain.
Dear Bike Fitness Coach,
When setting this new saddle with a spirit level, where should I sit the level on the saddle? The saddle appears level to about 2 thirds of the way from front then the rear section has a built-in rise. When set with spirit level from front nose to rear I am getting very sore on my left sit area. Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
First off, great choice in picking a great saddle. I highly recommend this saddle and actually have this saddle on 2 of my bikes!
A good saddle helps solve several potential causes of pain. These include but are not limited to pain caused by (a) old and worn out saddle, (b) saddle too soft/too hard, (c) too much padding, (d) no cutout for soft tissue, (e) wrong design, etc.
If it isn’t the saddle itself (the wrong design for you specifically), we need to look at other possible causes. This checklist includes but is not limited to (a) your weight distribution, (b) saddle height, (c) saddle fore/aft, (d) saddle width, (e) saddle tilt – maybe you need to go more nose up/down, (f) handlebar height, (g) cleat placement, (h) how you are sitting on the saddle – pelvis rotated or sitting straight up, (i) flexibility, (j) leg length discrepancy – functional vs structural, etc.?
As you can see, there are numerous items that a pro-level bike fitter looks at to ensure that you can cycle strong, safe and pain-free. Usually, it’s not just one item that causes discomfort but several small out-of-adjustments that lead up to pain when cycling.
I’m sorry to say that, at this point, if you continue to ride the way things are now, you will experience more and more pain. I am a level 3 Bike Fitter with the IBFI Institute so I recommend you look for a level 3 or 4 fitter in your area.
Sorry I wasn’t able to be more specific than that, but there are too many things to check via email. I hope this helps. Please write back after your bike fit and let me know of your experience.
Bike Fitness Coaching
A pain in one spot might indicate a necessary adjustment somewhere else completely. For example, referred pain (also called reflective pain) is where pain is perceived at a location other than the site of the pain stimulus. Another good example in cycling is kinetic chains where tight hamstrings can cause lower back pain.
A good bike fitter is part scientist, part artist and part coach. A fitter looks at everyone as an individual where there is no blanket solution. Not only is each person different from others, but he or she is also asymmetric individually. This means that just because two people have the same symptoms, the solutions can often be quite different, quite complex, and there is unfortunately usually not a single solution.
Which means that in this case, the bike fitter might find that the current saddle is too narrow, the nose of the saddle needs to be dropped, the saddle needs to be moved forward, the stem is too long, the handlebars need to be rotated, and, the cyclist needs to be sitting with their pelvis rotated instead of sitting straight up and down.
A good bike fitter will also know when to refer the client to a medical professional (usually a physical therapist) so that the client can be healed where the bike fit can resume. A good bike fitter will never try to diagnose any possible medical condition – so be aware and interview your potential bike fitter first.
Coach Rick Schultz is an avid cyclist who trains, races and coaches in Southern California. Rick is an engineer by trade, and in addition to being a coach, he's a bike fitter and prolific product reviewer. He's the author of Stretching & Core Strengthening for the Cyclist and Bike Fit 101: Your Toolset for a Great Bike Fit in the RBR eBookstore. Check his product reviews website, www.biketestreviews.com, and his coaching site, www.bikefitnesscoaching.com. Click to read Rick's full bio.