I chuckled when I read Fred’s article on “How to Solve Saddle Sores,” because I was planning on writing a similar piece. Most cyclists have no problem asking another cyclist’s advice about gear or route suggestions. But when it comes to discomfort in the southern hemisphere, folks aren’t so willing to talk. Especially in a male dominated sport, women don’t always have another woman to talk to.
Being female, approachable, and a seasoned cyclist, many new and veteran cyclists have asked me about saddle sores or discomfort on the bike. I truly feel honored that people feel comfortable enough to talk to me about virtually anything, even when it’s a very personal part of the anatomy. But seems like I need to decode the question in order to determine what is actually going on. Here are a few common issues that might resonate with what you’re experiencing.
I receive an email from a young and fairly new road rider who says “My saddle is all up in my business.” After several questions and asking her to use more biological terms, I decoded the issue. She’s experiencing a lot of pressure in the front soft tissue area. To me it says her sit bones are not being supported in the saddle, resulting in all her weight putting pressure on her soft tissue.
I asked if she’s ever been measured for her saddle. Her response was the typical answer I get “No, it’s the seat that came with the bike.” This is key, the saddle that comes with your bike most likely doesn’t fit you!!! Because she was uncomfortable talking about her seat issues, I sent her to a local bike shop run by a woman who is also a certified bike fitter. Sometimes it’s a lot easier for a woman to talk to another woman. Sure enough her saddle was not the right size. She was fitted with a new saddle and the problem was solved.
A triathlete friend of mine emailed me asking, “What shorts do you wear? I’m having problems no matter which of my five brands of shorts I wear.” Hmmm, doesn’t sound like a shorts problem, sounds like a saddle problem.
After asking questions about where she gets sore, has she been fitted for a seat, etc. it is clear to me this too is a saddle issue. I sent her off to the same place as Case #1. Sure enough, her saddle didn’t fit, and she also needed adjustments to her stem length and seat height. Another happy cyclist again after that.
At a local bike shop’s ladies night a friend introduces me to a woman who was almost in tears because she’s convinced she would have to give up cycling. After years of riding, it was now painful to sit on a saddle for any length of time.
Understanding where exactly she was experiencing pain, it sounded like her saddle was not supporting her sit bones. The saddle was 10 years old, so my guess was it just was worn out. In addition, I thought she might need to have a bike fitting since as we age our flexibility decreases. So I sent her to a certified bike fitter who recommended a new saddle and some tweaks to her bike fit. Thrilled to say she didn’t have to give up cycling.
I can go on and on with similar stories, but most come back to saddle fit and/or bike fit.
Please, if you are having an issue, don’t suffer in silence and don’t be shy to discuss it with someone who’s knowledgeable about bike fit. It could be a simple as using lube or very possibly the wrong size or wrong style saddle.
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women's cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri's full bio.