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Sore Bum Bones Cycling? Read this now!
According to Wikipedia:
the “ischial tuberosity (or tuberosity of the ischium) is a large swelling posteriorly on the superior ramus of the ischium. It marks the lateral boundary of the pelvic outlet.”
More informally, these are known as your sit bones, or “that part of my butt that feels like I’ve been repeatedly beaten with an iron bar when I get off the bike”.
Whatever you want to call them, many folk suffer from some serious pain ‘back there’ after they’ve been sitting in the saddle for a while. And they tend to suffer in silence as well because, you know, it’s not exactly a dinner time conversation topic, is it?
It’s a real shame though because sore sit bones can really take the fun out of what should be fun times on the bike.
Thankfully there are a lot of options available that can get you sitting comfortably again and enjoying pain-free cycling.
Shall we take a look?
Quick Answer: Santic Padded Bike Shorts
Perineal numbness from cycling?
There are four stages to solving this problem:
- Adjust your saddle angle
- Raise/lower your saddle
- Wear padded shorts, or padded undershorts
- Change your Saddle
How to prevent sore bottom when cycling
Let’s go through each of these in detail, shall we?
1. Adjust your saddle angle
I have to confess that I had owned many bikes, in a range of different styles, sizes and colors, before I even realized that you could actually adjust the angle of the saddle.
I just bought the bike, hopped on, and rode it off into the sunset.
In fact, even when I actually found out that you could adjust the saddle angle, I didn’t really understand why it was so important. Particularly when the recommendation was to adjust it by as little as a couple of degrees each way.
But then I tried it and realized what a massive difference it can make. With the nose tilted too far down, you will always feel like you’re slipping off it and will consequently put more pressure on your wrists and hands from gripping on to the handlebars. With the nose tilted too far up, you will put undue pressure on your perineum and sit bones.
How to adjust bike saddle angle?
The saddle angle is easy to adjust. All it takes is a hex wrench, like this and a quick watch of the video below.
I would suggest that you start with the saddle set parallel to the ground. Try it for a couple of miles and see how it feels. Then hop off and start adjusting it by 2 or 3 degrees up or down to see if it feels more or less comfortable.
2. Raise/lower your saddle
Whilst you’ve got the hex wrenches out it’s worth taking a look at the height of your saddle as well.
Hop on the bike and start pedaling. Are your hips rocking from side to side as you pedal? If so, your saddle is too high.
Saddle height too high problems?
Try lowering the seat by 3/16 in or 5mm at a time and see at what level your hips can stay level as you turn the pedals. Now try cycling for a couple of miles and see whether you can feel a difference on your sit bones.
3. Are padded bike shorts necessary? Yes!
The first line of defense for your sit bones is a good quality pair of padded bike shorts.
These are cycling shorts that have a thick foam or gel pad stitched into the gusset. They help by cushioning sensitive bits of you (your perineum and sit bones) and the saddle, along a broad line from your ahem, naughty bits, back to your buttocks.
Men’s vs Women’s padded bike shorts
Ladies and gents bike shorts often come in gender-specific fits, so go for a dedicated fit or a unisex style, depending on your preference. You can choose from road bike style ones that look like this. Or, in a ladies style like this. Or, if tight shorts aren’t your thing, then go with a mountain bike style short like these.
Padded Undershorts: Cycling Groin Protection
If instead, you have a lucky pair of shorts that you like to go biking in, or you just don’t like the look of standard bike shorts, then you can still get the benefit of that protective padding.
Padded underwear is also available, just like this. I love the skulls 😊
Or, in a men’s style like these.
Just a quick word of caution here. Please don’t double-up with both padded shorts and padded underwear. It’s too much thickness and it will likely cause more discomfort. Also, many cyclists tend to avoid wearing underwear with padded shorts as it stops lots of layers of fabric bunching up together.
4. How to make a bicycle seat more comfortable? Change your saddle
There are a range of different saddle types that are shaped to put less pressure on the sit bones. Here are a couple of different options. Pick the one that suits your riding style best.
For recreational riders, this saddle from Outerdo is a great choice. Thick padding and shock-absorbing springs are great at cushioning your sit bones. Plus, that cutout that you can see in the center of the saddle really makes the difference relieves pressure on the sensitive perineal area.
Another option is a ‘noseless’ bike saddle. This is exactly what you’d imagine it to be – you have good padding at the rear for your sit bones, but the nose of the saddle has been taken away. This means that there is nothing to put pressure on your perineum. Takes a little getting used to, but this can be a real winner.
I’ve written a fuller article here about saddles. Have a look if you’d like more details and some more saddle options.
Why are bike seats so hard?!
Most of the time we don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about our ischial tuberosity.
But once you start getting some pain in those tender little sit bones… then that’s the only thing that you’ll be able to think about. Ouch!
There are some easy ways to stop it from happening and I hope this gives you useful methods of doing so.