If your bum is feeling bruised and battered every time after you’ve been out for a cycle, then I might just have the answers that you’re looking for.
Ask any long-in-the-tooth cyclist whether or not bike seat pain ever goes away or if it’s possible for your bum to get used to cycling and they’ll tell you that, “Of course it will! You just need to get more time in the saddle!”
And, whilst that might be true to a certain extent, there are plenty of secrets that those cyclists aren’t telling you about saddle soreness from cycling and sore bum bones. Little tips and tricks that will go a long way to relieving the pain of a sore backside from your cycling adventures.
I’m going to take a look today at the major problems that cyclists experience when pedalling and hunt out the best solutions if you’re finding that your tailbone hurts after riding your bike.
The problems that we’ll be getting solutions for are:
Sore sit bones
Below is a quick summary of the solutions because, when you’ve got an aching bum from cycling, then you need answers fast.
Easy ways of stopping your bum hurting when cycling:
Why does my bum feel bruised after cycling? (And what to do about it)
Ok, so whilst you might feel slightly sore in the buttock area after riding your bike, this should be more like the muscle soreness you get from a good workout and not bruised or painful butt cheeks. Those long-in-the-tooth cyclists are correct – to a certain extent! – in that your bum does get used to cycling and that pain will go away. But, there’s a lot that you can do to make the process easier and avoid serious bum area problems like saddle sores, boils, and chafing.
As well as bruising on the bum, there are three other areas of backside pain that you can get. We’ll investigate all four now and see what the (easy!) solutions are.
Bike seats are normally quite hard and bottoms are generally softer and this can make for an uncomfortable partnership when you just have a pair of shorts and thin underwear in between. And that isn’t gender-specific either, bike seat pain can happen whether you’re male or female.
The simple solution here is bike shorts with padding. So, which are the best ones?
Well, first up, cycling shorts or bike tights do two jobs to improve your bike rides. Number one: they are the best treatment for inner thigh chafing rash. Number two: they give a layer of bum cushioning between your delicate glutes and the hard saddle.
Padded bike shorts come in all different shapes, sizes and styles. The key aspect that they all have in common is a chamois (a layer of padding, often gel), which is stitched into the lining of the shorts. You can get baggy bike shorts with padding (a casual style of cycling shorts) and you can also get form-fitting tighter spandex or lycra padded bike shorts.
You can also get padded bike underwear (basically padded cycling liners). These look like tight cycling shorts and you can wear your standard shorts or pants over the top of them. If you’re undecided about cycling underwear vs cycling shorts, then it may be worth starting with the padded underwear and your own shorts, then progressing to padded shorts as you get more bike confidence (and turn into one of those long-in-the-tooth cyclists yourself!)
Try a pair of cycling shorts or underwear and I bet you’ll notice the difference they make. A numb bum whilst cycling is no fun and a little gel padding in that area can make a bike seat waaay more comfortable.
Bike saddle pain in sit bones and bike seats that don’t hurt
Ever heard of your ‘Ischial Tuberosity’? Nope? Ok, well in everyday terms, these are your sit bones and they’re the bits of your pelvis that support your body weight on the saddle. The most comfortable bike seat for men and women is therefore one that supports your sit bones the best. If it’s too narrow or too wide your sit bones, pelvis, and everything else won’t be supported correctly and this will uncomfortable when you ride your bike.
There are two options to try here. The best bike seat for sit bone pain is one which has a larger padded area on top, or one which is wider at the back. Many women can find that unisex or male-specific saddles are uncomfy to ride on because the female pelvis (for childbirth) tends to be wider than a man’s. A wider pelvis means wider apart sit bones. Whether you’re male or female, if you wider spaced sit bones, then a female-specific saddle may give you the relief you need.
Saddles with a wider top and deeper padding can also give great comfort for soreness on your sit bones. These can be the best bicycle seat option for overweight or obese riders.
Inner thigh skin chafing
More cyclists than you might imagine suffer from blisters and chafing on their inner thighs. It’s incredibly sore and yet there are easy things that you can do to stop it happening.
Cyclists can get this problem in a couple of spots. One is the inner thighs and the other is chafed buttocks. How to treat this is the easy bit. The issue is caused by the skin rubbing against other skin as you pedal and it’s generally more of a problem and hot and sticky rides.
The way to get rid of thighs rubbing together as you pedal is to always wear a pair of padded bike shorts. The rubbing will still happen, but it will be the fabric of the shorts or underwear rubbing together, not your skin.
If you already have chafed skin (and this can also help to prevent it) then you can apply a chamois cream. There are many great brands to choose from, such as Chamois Butt’r, Assos, Udderly Smooth, DZnuts Pro, and Gooch Guard. How to apply chamois cream? That’s easy, just take a good-sized dollop and smooth it onto the skin areas affected with your fingers. This acts as lubrication, stopping the skin from becoming sore from rubbing.
Perineum pain cycling
Whilst you may not have considered your perineum before, it can take a lot of pressure when you’re on the bike. The perineal area is essentially a broad line that goes from the anus to scrotum/vagina. It’s stuffed full of nerve endings (making it a very sensitive spot) and, with most saddles, is the small area that supports most of the rider’s weight on the bike. Ow.
Thankfully, there are a number of things that you can do to relieve this perineal pressure.
Step 1 is to get a spirit level and assess the current angle of your bike seat. The best starting point is for the seat to be horizontal or parallel with the floor. If the rear end is too low (which lifts the nose up too high) then this will push the front of the saddle against the perineum. To fix this, what you need to do is take an Allen wrench or bike multitool and squat down next to the bike saddle. You should see two allen bolts – one in front and one behind the seat post. To drop the nose, simply undo the rear bolt a few turns and tighten the front bolt a corresponding amount. Then jump onto the bike and try the new saddle position. Repeat this process until you’ve got the seat at the best angle for you and your perineum.
The height of the seat can also play a part – if it’s set too high then you will be forced to rock your pelvis from side to side in order to reach for and press the pedals on each pedal stroke. Lower the seat post (using either the quick-release or your Allen wrench/multitool) a bit at a time until you can complete a full pedal turn whilst keeping your pelvis still.
If neither of these works, then it’s worth taking a look at the saddle itself as it may be worth replacing this with a different type. A traditional saddle has a flat top and this can contribute to perineal pressure. Bike saddles without this flat surface can relieve pressure and there are some great examples to try out. Bicycle seats that protect the perineum include cut out bike saddles and noseless saddles.
If all else fails to help, then it’s probably time to consider the bike you’re riding itself. Bikes (and, here, I’m looking at road bikes in particular) can force you to ride in a very hunched over style which can put undue pressure on the perineum. Bikes that have a more laidback or upright position can help as they put the weight backwards (onto the sit bones, where it should be) and away from the perineal area. Examples of this type of bike include mountain bikes, hybrid bikes and beach cruiser bikes.