Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
An interesting question arrived at RoadBikeRider’s headquarters recently. It was from a roadie named Kenneth who has a problem I haven’t encountered. Here’s the email thread we had, which includes what I thought he should try.
I’m hoping some of you will have experienced the problem Kenneth is dealing with and be able to offer even more solutions for him. Be sure to read both of Kenneth’s emails.
Kenneth wrote (part 1):
“My chamois always shifts to the right and my left sit bone is barely or not even on the pad. I thought maybe it was a leg length discrepancy and put a 2mm shim under my left cleat. I have tried many different bib shorts, too, but the problem continues. I’m at my wits end, can you offer a suggestion?”
That’s an interesting problem to try to figure out, Kenneth. Immediately I thought of RBR co-founder and my good friend Ed Pavelka who set a world record on a Race Across America 50+ team – which gives you an idea how much saddle and chamois time he puts in.
When Ed and I worked together at Bicycling Magazine, he wrote an article about his custom bicycle fit. I believe it was titled Twisted Mister.
I don’t remember all the details, just that one of the key adjustments was to angle his saddle to one side to accommodate his natural body twist. In other words the tip of his saddle was not aligned with the top tube of his bike but slightly off center.
In your case it might be a helpful experiment to try. You could angle it just a couple of degrees to one side and see if the chamois moved more (that would be a sign that the seat angle affects it) and it would suggest I think that you should try angling it to the other side.
I have no idea if that would work, but it would be an easy thing to try as long as your seatpost is not stuck in the frame (if so, I can offer tips for freeing it).
The other thing is whether you are using some type of chamois lube. With lube you shouldn’t grip the chamois enough to move it because there’s a layer of lube between you and the chamois – at least with a good lube. Again I call on Ed’s experience. He recommends and uses a product called Button Hole. Here’s a link: https://www.enzoscyclingproducts.com/.
I don’t know if these ideas will work, but I think they’re worth trying.
Kenneth wrote (part 2):
“Thank you for the quick reply. You’re throwing old names that I remember in the late 80’s when I first started cycling. You and Ed and Bicycling Magazine taught me everything needed to have a great start in this sport I love so dearly.
You even gave me courage to start working on my own bikes. It’s snowballed into the greatest thing in life for me. I even carried on cycling while in the Army for 8 years. I’m now a disabled vet fighting demons, and cycling is the best weapon I have.
The seat angle thing I tried, I used to get a raw spot from the saddle being too far to the right, I skewed it left a few millimeters and that gave great relief. I may look into that again. I may also get a pro bike fit, too. One of my injuries may be causing it, I have two sciatic discs removed and had a really bad bike fall that screwed up the soft tissues of my left hip.”
Your Turn Readers
I told Kenneth I’d run his question here in the hopes some of you have had “chamois shift” and might have ideas to help him. It might be that a professional bicycle fit will do the trick. But, if any of you readers have had it happen and have solved it on your own, I’m sure your tips would help him. Thanks for the assist!
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.
That’s an odd problem that Kenneth has. Could it simply be that his current saddle is not wide enough for him??
Turning the seat slightly to fine tune fit is a great tip, especially since few human bodies are absolutely symmetrical. Especially after injuries/surgeries/etc.
Unfortunately, that seat adjustment option is not possible on many newer road bikes with “aero” seat posts.
Beyond a different saddle (as Karl suggested), Kenneth might try a different bike short/chamois design (if he has not already). Too narrow a chamois can put a seam directly beneath one’s ‘sit bone’ (increasing friction at that seam high spot & perhaps a tendency for the chamois to shift)..
I had a problem with a shifting chamois and finally fixed problem by buying shorts a size smaller
Kenneth Pierce says
This is a good idea. I will try it. Thanks!
Seth H. Shaw says
My first reaction was the same as Randy’s — smaller size.
Sandy Jakubowski says
The first thing that comes to my mind is your shorts are too large or stretched out. Chamois doesn’t move if it’s tight.
There are several issues that can cause this problem. Having discs removed can be a major factor. The type of saddle can make a world of difference. It is worth trying different saddles, different shapes, and different widths. Also, the height of the saddle is critical. If you make adjustments do so in 1/4″ increments until it feels right. A good bike shop can help with this.
The other issue is the size of the shorts, or bibs. I once tried a major supplier and found the large was too loose and the medium too small. There are 2 types of cuts of bibs. The US cut is slightly looser. The European cut, sometimes called Aero, is tighter, or actually snugger. I find a high quality Aero fit, with a heavy cloth that provides support, and a thick pad works better than an inexpensive pair if bibs.
I also had shifting problems when I used an thick lube, like Bag Balm, or an ointment. These cause the pad to shift. With a good fitting bib I use a roll-on, like Body Glide Cycle. Occasionally I may use a cream, like DZ Nuts, but not an ointment or thick gel.
Kenneth Pierce says
I do wear euro sized bibs from a very well know manufacturer. I did just purchase a new model of their high end bibs and the suspenders attach at the back of bibs close to the chamois. The idea is this will hold the chamois in place. I’ve a few rides in these bibs and the chamois seems to stay in place. The chamois is smaller too which i’m sure also helps. I do use a thick creme, I’ll try some thinner stuff and see if it helps.
Thank you so much.
Seth H. Shaw says
Wouldn’t a video of Ken riding from 3 angles possibly help?
Jim Langley says
I think that’s a great idea, Seth. It would be something he could do pretty easily too as long as he has a tripod. Thanks for the idea!
My initial thoughts were saddle angle and bike fit. Check. Then I thought about saddle style which no one has mentioned other than trying a wider style. Finally I noticed that all the comments have been about bib shorts. It might be worth trying non-bib type shorts or shorts designed specifically for women. I think trying smaller shorts may introduce a different problem.
Dave Williams says
This made me think about my own issues. I herniated a disc 30 years ago and it has left me with a weak calf muscles on my left side. I didn’t realize the extent of it until recently, but have noticed two thinks. One is heel drop on the left side. I have found that riding platform pedals instead of clipless has helped as I can position my foot a little closer to the arch. I usually ride a Brooks saddle and the saddle has deformed asymmetrically, it appears I am leaning to the left. I’m not sure what to do about this.
Greg B. says
I know that this maybe left field but I crafted my own saddle from carbon fibre and padding from gel shoe insoles covered with leather. I wasn’t have this type of challenge but getting a saddle that was comfortable was, for me, extremely difficult, so me being me, took matters into my own hand. Problem solved! Only took me 2 years to get the padding correct.
Not being a doctor, I am wondering about leaning to the left since the right leg is doing most of the work. Do you have a discrepancy in leg length?
I also herniated a disc over 40 years ago. At the time I was not riding much but found cycling helped. A good PT will help you and set you in the right direction. The objective is to strengthen all the muscles to take up the slack. I still do the exercises, and then some, every,single, day. This has now become part of my daily routine.
2 years ago I had a non-bicycle accident and did a full tear of my left quad tendon. This required surgery, which kept my leg in a brace for about 3 months. I did a lot of PT after the surgery but the left leg muscles deteriorated quite a bit. After a year of having all sorts of problems on the bike I finally joined a gym and started doing a lot of exercises and using the leg machine, twice a week. After only 2 1/2 months I notice a good improvement on the bike. I have slowed down and do easier,less hilly rides, but I get out as much as I can and continue using the machines at the gym.
Hard work is rewarding.
Jim Langley says
Thanks for the great ideas for solving Kenneth’s issue, everyone, much appreciated!!
Adding to Ken’s reply, I have a slight leg length discrepancy that affected soft tissue on the shorter leg side. I have Teflon spacer pads under the cleat on the shorter leg.. Initially I wondered how it affected the safety of my Look cleats but all has been fine for over 15 years. And tighter shorts was the answer to a better fit for me as noted above. We have had mixed results with professional bike fits, Eventually, we tweaked the saddle height, tilt, etc on our own. after using the pro -fit settings for. a starting position..
I also have a slight leg discrepancy due to surgery from a bicycle accident many, many years ago. The doctor told me i could use a heel lift in all my shoes, which I do. I asked about cycling shoes and he said it was not necessary. One leg would require a very slight difference in the knee bend. This never affected me on the bike. Saddle position is the most critical adjustment you can make for comfort. The newer breed of saddles are far more anatomically comfortable than older ones. Height and tilt angle will determine the amount of comfort and degree of any rubbing issues. 3 years ago I had surgery to repair a fully torn quad tendon from a non-bicycling accident. This has caused me more issues and discomfort than anything in over 40 years of cycling. The leg was in a brace for about 3 months and has never fully recovered the leg strength I need for cycling. This causes one leg to do most of the work which also causes uneven pressure on the saddle. The other issue is handlebar position. The more upright you sit the more you transfer your weight on the saddle, which makes you more susceptible to saddle sore problems. It’s amazing the things we do to keep riding.
As the truckers say on their CB radios, “keep the sunny side up and the rubber side down.” Stay safe.
Ed T says
I never had chamois issues but, 3 years ago I went with a seat (I’m not selling the seat and have no part in the company) that is so comfortable I don’t buy bike shorts with a chamois anymore. I no longer get seat rash and I’m sore after long rides. I have the same seat on two of my bicycles, one for when I travel and the other at home. Please don’t cry BS….I’ve had this discussion with other cyclists. .
And this saddle is ???????
Dave Le Fevre says
For nearly forty years, I struggled with a related problem. For me, the symptom wasn’t the seat pad moving, but intense pain from one leg.
I found that my sit bones were of different lengths. I had to put wedges under one wire of the saddle on every bike. (The slight twist that that gave to the saddle nose meant that it wore through my track bottoms, so I turned the saddle very slightly to solve that.)
After progressing through orthodox medical channels to weirder and weirder therapies, eventually someone told me of a pelvic alignment guy. I went to see him, and he eliminated nearly all of the problem.