We have all been sore after spending time in the saddle. Saddle pain can make or break your riding experience. I often speak to riders who are getting a lot of pain and assume that that is just part of cycling. Well it’s not. Don’t get me wrong there are days when you can be sore after spending a long time in the saddle. But there are definitely ways to avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort. Here are some of my tips:
This is such an easy one to implement. And a good pair of knicks can make your ride so enjoyable. Invest in at least one great pair, especially for your longer rides. Make sure you choose a pair of knicks that are have female specific padding. They don’t need to be too thick, just need cushioning below your sit bones, and soft edges. Also look for garments that fit snug and have flatlock stitching. This helps hold the chamois in place and reduces movement, which in turn will reduce chafing.
Tip: Never wear underwear with your cycling knicks. Strangest thing to do at first, but it is so comfortable and you will never look back.
Such a weird thing to use at first but worth trying. I love Aussie Butt Cream. Especially the one in the tube. Just apply to your skin where you are prone to soreness and go. It is especially helpful for long or multiple days in the saddle.
Tip:If you get saddle sores from long hours in the saddle or riding back to back for a few days, try using nappy rash cream. After showering place the cream on the sores and leave on overnight. Feels totally weird, but works like a miracle. The next day you will be back in the saddle.
Your saddle can have a massive impact to your riding experience. The main misconception when you start out is that the softer, wider saddles will be the most comfortable. Almost the opposite is true. Here are a few things to consider:
I list this one first because it doesn’t even cost you any money to change. There are a few things to consider when it comes to your saddle position. First rule of thumb is to have your saddle horizontal. I often see women riding with the front of their saddles raised a couple of millimetres. This can have a massive impact to increasing pressure through the soft tissue area. When you are on your bike in your riding position, take note of where your sit bones are making contact on your saddle. You want your weight to be distributed through your sit bones and making contact in the centre of the largest part of your saddle.
There are cases where the front of your saddle can be dropped a couple of millimetres to relieve pressure through the front tissue area. I would highly recommend that you seek out some advice from someone who is experienced at doing bike fits.
Both the height of your saddle and how far forward or back it is can affect your comfort. If your saddle is too high you will find that you are dropping your hip through the down stroke of the pedal. This will mean that your hips will be moving around for every pedal stroke and hence cause a lot of discomfort from chafing. If your saddle is too far back you may be spending your time sitting on the narrower part of the saddle and not distributing your weight evenly through your sit bones.
I highly recommend a female specific saddle for women. You want the shape of the saddle to match you. Your sit bones resting on the centre of the largest part of the saddle and your soft tissue area protected by a cut away or space down the centre of the saddle.
Tip:Not sure which one to get? Most bike stores will have some loan saddles for you to take home and try while out riding. This means you can try more than one before you commit to taking one home. Spend your money on one great saddle, rather than 5 bad ones. And just remember what works for someone else may not work for you. We are all different shapes and sizes.
Your pedaling technique can affect how much you move around in your saddle. If you are dropping your hips, not engaging your core or bouncing in the saddle, you will end up with a lot of saddle discomfort. You want to focus on making nice smooth circles, engaging your core for stability, and keeping your hips nice and still. Both your sit bones should maintain contact with the saddle while seated.
I highly recommend that everyone invests in a good bike fit. You can address all of the things we have discussed above, as well as other factors that affect your saddle and overall riding comfort. You want someone who does a holistic assessment of you, your riding ability, movement patterns, flexibility and injuries. Everyone's body is different so you want the bike fit to be custom to you.
Time in the saddle
Lastly, give yourself some time to adjust to increased time in the saddle. And remember to build up your time and distance slowly to reduce pain, discomfort and injuries.
Tracy Walker is the owner and founder of Tribal Cycling, an organisation that specialises in educating and empowering female cyclists and mountain bikers. She is a PMBI qualified Mountain Bike Instructor, a Road & Track Skills Coach, with a background in Personal Training. She has competed in XC mountain bike and road racing. She wants to see as many women on bikes as men. And if she has her way women, will outnumber men.