By Rick Schultz
Reading Fred Matheny’s detailed article on dealing with saddle discomfort, I would like to add a few things.
As a bike fitter, most of my client’s state that their number one issue is knee pain. Hands going numb, shoulder, neck pain is number two. Saddle pain is usually a distant third.
With that being said, saddle discomfort is still in the top three, and a minority of these clients also say they have been dealing with saddle sores.
Saddle discomfort can usually be traced to selecting the wrong saddle design for a particular riding style. For example, road cyclists sitting with their pelvis oriented more vertically will be placing more pressure on their Ischial Tuberosity requiring a slightly wider saddle. Road cyclists sitting with more anterior pelvic rotation will sit more on their pubic rami, requiring a saddle with a cutout. Making sure you are riding on a saddle that matches your specific riding orientation is the first thing that will help solve saddle discomfort. Amount of saddle padding should also be considered.
Now, onto the next topic!
With the amount of training and racing I used to do, I would get saddle sores all the time. Discussing this topic with many clients, one thing has been consistent – those who get saddle sores are always riding on the same saddle.
A given saddle might be comfortable but might not match your anatomy 100 percent. Where the saddle doesn’t match your anatomy, a hot-spot can appear that will sometimes turn into saddle sore(s).
Saddle Sore Mitigation
Testing a hypothesis, I prepped four different saddles and set them up the same via four bike fits. All the same height and same fore/aft position. When I feel saddle discomfort (potentially leading to a saddle sore), I switch out to saddle number two, which I ride for a few months until I feel a little discomfort then switch out to saddle number three, etc.
For the past many years, I experience very little saddle discomfort and have had zero saddle sores.
This is a trick that you might want to try as well. You could do this with as little as two saddles, but the minimum I would feel comfortable recommending is three. I just happen to have four saddles that fit me as well as four seat posts.
FYI – the saddles I use are
- Selle SMP VT30C, can substitute the F30C as well. Close to the same saddle but with leather cover (F30C) vs synthetic cover (VT30C).
- Bontrager AJNA PRO
- Shimano Pro Stealth
- Specialized Romin Evo
Give this trick a try and let us know how it works.
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 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.
Doug Kirk says
If it is your sit bones themselves or the skin directly over your sit bones that are the problem, and this has become chronic, take a look at the INFINITY saddle. It removes ALL pressure from that area. NOT cheap but a real difference maker. I’ve put at least 5000 miles on it and would not go back to a conventional saddle.
You DO have to make sure that the seams on your bike shorts do not sit under the area where your skin contacts the saddle, but it has Made an incredible difference for me and some other people I know.
I would really like to have Rick Schultz try out this saddle and post his results in road bike rider.
I have a theory about a possible cause of unexpected saddle-sores. I’ve known several bike riders who experienced severe saddle sores, usually on very long rides, when they have never had saddle sores before. This may be especially true when nothing has changed, no new saddles, no new clothing, etc. My theory is that when you last washed your biking shorts all of the detergent did not get rinsed completely out of the chamois. This may be because of overloading the washer, an inefficient rinse cycle, or just the luck of the draw. Either way, that detergent, once combined with the inevitable sweat, literally creates a caustic environment, very similar to sitting in a puddle of lye for a while., with pretty painful results. So, it’s probably not a bad idea to always do a second rinse when washing bike shorts.
Doug Kirk, Madison, WI says
I have a new hypothesis too. I was laid up for 6 months after surgery and gained 15#. My first couple of rides on the same bike, same B-17, same shorts, mild weather, and I got inflammation that I normally only get during long very hot rides. Bag balm on next couple of rides and and no problems now. Working on the weight issue…