Your butt and the saddle of your bike have a love/hate relationship, mostly hate. Many people try cycling for a few times and say that they can’t get past how badly their butt hurts. Much of the pain comes from choices you make as a cyclist. Everyone’s “sit bones” are configured differently, almost like a fingerprint. Here are a few things that may help you enjoy your bike a little more:
Saddle Choice: In reference to the previously mentioned configuration of various butts, the saddle that your friend raves about might not work so well for you. In some shops, many saddle brands have a try-it-out kind of deal where you can ride a certain saddle and swap it over and over until you find the one that fits. NOTE: no saddle is going to be a feathery pillow of loveliness on a cloud of divine pleasure, so you can put that out of your head right now. Many bicycle shops can measure your sit bones with various devices and tell you what type of saddle that would be best for you. Don’t forget your basic anatomy class and remember that a woman’s pelvis and a man’s pelvis are way different.
Bib Choice: Yes, it’s important. The chamois of the cycling shorts are the key. Ever wonder why some bibs cost so much while others are bargain basement? The construction of the bib with the percentage of Lycra and Spandex and other materials and stitching and . . . the chamois build. Many makers will just throw in some foam for a little padding, but it is much more complicated than that, and you get what you pay for. A chamois’s primary job is not to pad your ride. The primary function is to wick away moisture and move with you to keep your skin from chaffing. When shopping, you might see these labels:
Anatomic or 3D A chamois that is shaped according to the rider’s anatomy, rather than sewn in flat.
Anti-microbial The pad is made with materials such as silver ions and bacteriostatic carbon to fend off germs.
Four-way Stretch The chamois moves in all directions with the shorts to help prevent bunching and binding.
Moisture Wicking Uses technical synthetic fabrics to speed moisture transfer away from the body and keep you dry.
Multi-density The foam in the padding is denser in certain places, usually under the sit bones.
Multi-thickness Made with variable amounts of padding—thicker under the sit bones and slimmer in the sensitive perineal region.
How you sit on the bike is another KEY point. If you ride more upright, then you need the density to be more in the rear. Stretched out? More in the middle. And so on.
Saddle Cream: When I first started cycling, I had no one to tell me what to do. I winged it. I learned lessons, and one of those was what not to use as a friction lubricant. Do NOT use baby powder. This was my go-to because I thought it was stave off chaffing. After heavy sweating occurred, I was screwed. Once I was finally introduced to chamois cream that is made for the specific purpose of not chaffing, I began shopping around for what worked best for me. Believe me when I say that there are many different labels out there. Remember what works for one might not work for you. There are even different lubricants for men and women. And yep, you get what you pay for. When you find lube you like, more is NOT better. Don’t glop on a fist full of lubricant. You just need enough to cover the edge of your butt where it meets the perineal area all the way up to your genitalia . . . basically everywhere your chamois comes in contact with the saddle. You don’t want to feel like you’re on a Slip N Slide.
Riding: The more you ride the better your butt will adjust to riding. It really is getting your butt conditioned to the saddle and what you do on the bike. Over time, if you have done the homework and searched for the right saddle and put your time in on the bike, it will get better.