Sitting Comfortably? - Bike Magic

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Sitting Comfortably?

Positioning a Saddle

“My bum hurts!” is probably the number one complaint of new cyclists, especially those who choose to get back into cycling by doing a 50 mile charity ride with no prior preparation!

For most people, the soreness quickly recedes and after a few more day’s of riding, getting on a bike is no longer painful.  It’s a matter of getting your bum used to sitting on a saddle, preferably an ‘anatomical’ one, and your back and shoulders used to the new sitting position.

Of course, there are ways to minimise this initial discomfort.  Check your saddle isn’t too far forward on the ‘seat post’ and make sure it’s  a decent width.  Many bikes do not come ready fitted with comfy enough saddles.

‘Tractor’ cycle saddles – such as those available from Selle Royal and Madison – are wide and often come fitted with gel inserts, bags of soft goo which conform to the shape of your bum.

Some tractor saddles also come with springs or elastomer bungs.  These let the saddle bounce underneath you when pedalling along (which can lead to a fair amount of bobbing around and, whilst comfortable, isn’t very energy efficient).

To convert your existing saddle into a gel one you could fit a gel-filled saddle cover.  Velo from Moore Large do one for £12.  Alternatively, fit a sheepskin cover from Easirider, tel: 01604 870713.

Always bear in mind, though, that too squishy a saddle won’t be supporting you properly.  Over time try to wean yourself onto a harder, more supportive saddle.

If your saddle is too narrow, all your weight is concentrated on your perineum (check where this is in a medical dictionary, we’re a family magazine!) instead of the sit-bones, the ischial tuberosities.  In men the sit bones are roughly three inches apart; in women they’re four inches apart.  This is why women’s saddles are wider.  On a sit-up-and-beg bike you’re taking a lot of your weight on your bum; on mountain bikes and sports bikes a lot more of your weight is shared with your handlebars.

Don’t fit such a wide saddle, however, that it chafes your thighs.  Find a happy medium.

If, after altering your riding position through trial and error, moving the saddle forward a touch or fitting a wide – possibly sprung – saddle or a suspension seatpost, and you’re riding in proper padded cycle shorts, you’re still uncomfortable, maybe you might be on the wrong sort of bike altogether?  Many of the mountain bikes in the shops are designed for racing and so sling you far forward into an uncomfortable position.  Racers are used to this position and it’s quite comfortable for them but for the rest of us a more ‘sit-and-beg’ position is desirable.  Hybrids are normally more upright and so more comfy for beginners.  Dutch roadsters are even more upright.  But, as was made clear above, you don’t want to be so upright that hardly any of your weight is being supported by the handlebars.  Again, aim for a happy medium.

If all else fails, why not try a recumbent? These are laid-back cycles with comfy, deck-chair like seats.  They take a bit of getting used to but have been godsends for some riders who might otherwise have had to retire from cycling.

Setting a saddle


Saddles set too high or low can lead to knee injuries.  Find the right position by sitting on your bike and putting your heel on a pedal in its lowest position.  The saddle and seatpost are the right height when your leg is straight (but not locked).  The seatpost should not be extended above the inscribed safety limit.  Buy a longer seatpost if necessary.


Most saddles have rails by which they are attached to the seat post clamp.  Undoing a locknut or Allen key bolt will enable you to slide the saddle forewards or backwards.  With the pedals horizontal to the ground you should be able to draw a vertical line from the front of the forward knee through the centre of the pedal spindle.

Angle of tilt

For true comfort on a bike the tilt of the saddle is crucial but is largely a matter of taste.  Women tend to like the saddle nose pointing to the ground slightly, to relieve pressure on the pubic area.  That’s why women’s saddles are shorter than men’s.  The Terry Liberator saddle gets round this problem by cutting a hole out of the nose.

By making just minor adjustments to the saddle’s tilt you can radically improve your comfort.  Try your saddle at different angles and ride about for twenty minutes or so to check which angle suits you best.

This article courtesy of


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