Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable?

Biking is a great way to exercise. However, almost everyone has the same thought the first time they ride a bike: why is the seat so uncomfortable?

From having the wrong saddle to your riding style, there are a few different factors that can make your ride uncomfortable. 

In this article, we will take a look at what factors cause saddle soreness. We will also cover a few different ways to remedy this, including adjusting your bike and wearing the right clothes. 

By the end of this article, you will know more about bike seat pain and how to experience a more comfortable ride. Let’s get started. 

Key Takeaways

  • Bike seats are not meant to cause pain, but they can be uncomfortable.
  • Bike seats are small and don’t allow much freedom for the legs, support the sit bones, and protect the back from bumps.
  • The proper riding position can improve your comfort. Bend the elbows slightly, relax the shoulders and wrists, keep the back neutral, and align the knees with the feet.
  • Chamois cream, padded shorts, and short breaks can help prevent soreness and chafing while cycling.
  • Different types of riders and terrains require different types of saddles. Narrower seats are better for fast riders, while wider seats are better for slow riders. Cut-out saddles are good for flat surfaces, while regular saddles are good for complex terrain.

Are Bike Seats Supposed To Hurt?

Many people experience bike seat soreness and wonder if bike seats are supposed to hurt. You may be happy to hear that bike seats are not meant to cause pain. 

The reason why so many people experience an uncomfortable ride is that there are various factors that can cause soreness, such as riding with improper form or having the wrong bike size. 

Even so, it is crucial to understand the difference between a saddle and a seat. While many people call it a bike seat, the proper word for it is saddle; a seat and a saddle are two different things. 

Seats are designed to hold someone’s entire weight comfortably. On the other hand, saddles are only meant to hold some of your weight. 

It is important to remember that a saddle is not a seat and that buying the perfect saddle will not help unless you learn how to ride with proper form and utilize the bike and your muscles efficiently. We will get into the how-to of this later.

Why Are Bike Seats So Small?

One of the main reasons why bike saddles are uncomfortable is that they are so small. However, as you may have guessed already, there is a reason for this. 

Since bike seats are not meant to hold your entire body weight but only your sit bones, the saddle is slender and small. (Sit bones refer to the bones in the lower pelvis that help to support your body weight when you sit.) 

Ultimately, the slender saddle gives your legs and lower body more freedom to move while bike riding. 

Why Are Bike Seats So Hard?

A bike saddle is not only small but hard. You may especially notice this with a new saddle. Even though it may feel like it does more harm than good, especially for leisure riders who just want a comfortable saddle, the hard seat design helps to prevent further soreness. 

First of all, the hardness of the saddle helps your sit bones support your weight, especially during a long ride. The hardness will also help protect your back and make the bumps in the road less noticeable. 

While foam padding may be helpful in some cases, it is important to understand the purpose of a hard seat before you decide to spend money on a bike seat pad or gel cushioning cover.

Why Are Road Bike Seats so Hard?

While the slender, hard saddle design of mountain bikes may make sense, it’s easy to wonder why road bike seats are so hard. After all, road bikes don’t take nearly as many bumps as mountain bike seats do. 

So what gives?

A good saddle for a road bike is generally very narrow and lacks much cushioning. Since people typically use road bikes for long rides, the narrow saddle helps to protect soft tissue and allows for normal blood flow

Why Does My Butt Hurt When I Ride a Bike?

Bike seat pain can happen, especially after a long ride. Many beginner cyclists complain about saddle sores; this is because two small bones in your pelvis may be carrying the majority of your body weight. This can happen if you fail to utilize your sit bones correctly. 

There are a few other reasons why your butt may be sore after riding, including a low-quality seat, misaligned handlebars, sitting improperly, or wearing too many clothes. 

What all of these factors have in common is that they can lead to a maldistribution of your body weight. Ideally, your weight should be distributed equally among multiple points on your bike, including the handlebars, the seat, and the pedals. 

When a cyclist fails to ride properly and distribute pressure points equally, it can quickly result in a sore butt. 

How To Prevent Soreness

If you want to be an avid cyclist but you experience pain, your first solution may be a padded saddle. While cushioned seats may help, there are a few other ways to prevent soreness that you should try first. 

Sit Bone Position

The first thing you should learn about cycling is where your sit bones should be on the saddle. Ideally, your sit bones should lie flat on the bike saddle. If they are at an angle, they won’t relieve pressure. If your sit bones do not lay completely flat on your current seat, you may need to look at different saddles. 

Riding Position

Something else to keep in mind is your riding position. One thing that makes bike seats so uncomfortable is incorrect posture – where you are not utilizing different pressure points. Look at the list below for a few different pointers on riding with good form. 

  • Slightly bend your elbows. Bending your elbows will help to absorb the impact when going over rough terrain and prevent strain on your wrists and shoulders.  
  • Maintain relaxed shoulders. It can be easy to tense your shoulders and raise them up towards your ears while cycling. However, try to keep your shoulders down and relaxed to give your head room to turn and look for traffic.
  • Do not bend your wrist. Ideally, the area from your elbow to your fingers should be straight.
  • Keep your back relaxed but neutral. Try to avoid crouching too much while cycling. Ideally, your core should be engaged to maintain a straight but relaxed back. 
  • Keep your knees perpendicular to your feet. Try to avoid cycling with your knees wide and far from the bike; keeping them close to the body will increase efficiency.  

Chamois Cream

Another option is to use chamois cream. The purpose of chamois cream is to act as a barrier between your skin and the seat. This barrier will help protect against chafing and prevent saddle sores. A good cream will also help moisturize and have antibacterial properties. 

Padded Seats

While most cycling experts advise against a saddle pad, getting some cushioning for your bike seat may still be a good option. 

Soft seats are ideal for those who cycle casually. This could mean taking a leisurely ride to the beach or around your neighborhood. 

Cushioned seats will typically be made of memory foam or gel. A gel seat cushion will be the best choice if you are a casual rider and only hop on your bike occasionally. Gel cushioning is the comfier of the two options. 

On the other hand, memory foam seat covers are good options for those who cycle for longer durations since their firmness provides more support.

Short Breaks 

An easy way to prevent soreness is to take short breaks every half an hour. Breaks are crucial if you are going on a ride that lasts longer than a few hours. All you need to do is get off your bike and take a few steps before continuing on. 

Do Bike Seat Covers Make a Difference?

Many beginner cyclists run to buy a bike seat cover when their saddle is uncomfortable. But do covers even make a difference? The short answer is yes. 

A bike seat cover can help to provide cushioning. Covers will make a positive difference for shorter rides as they will help make the seat feel less hard for those not used to stiff saddles. 

However, even though it may seem counterintuitive, you should not use a soft seat cover for longer rides. Having a seat cover will prevent you from positioning your sit bones correctly. You will put pressure on parts not meant to hold your weight, leading to even more soreness.

How Do I Make My Bike Seat More Comfortable?

Now that we know why bike seats are so uncomfortable, let’s find out how to fix it. From cycling shorts to bike adjustments, there are a few things you can do to increase comfort. 

Ensure You Have the Correct Bike Size

This may not be the first thing you think of, but having the right bike size can make a difference when it comes to comfort. 

If your bike is the wrong size, it will affect your seating position. As we covered earlier, your sit bones should lay flat on the saddle to prevent soreness. Having a bike that is too small or big may interfere with riding form. Pay a visit to one of your local bike shops to ensure a proper fit. 

Adjust the Handlebar Position 

Something else to keep in mind is the handlebar position. The wrong handlebar position will inevitably lead to incorrect form, similar to how having the wrong bike size can have the same effect. 

For leisure riders, the handlebar should be level with the saddle. For more advanced road riders, the handlebar should be about five to six centimeters below the saddle. 

The rules are a bit more preference-orientated when it comes to mountain biking. The saddle can be anywhere from three centimeters below the handlebar to three centimeters above. Typically, the handlebar will be above the saddle while climbing and below while descending. 

Adjust the Saddle Height

Not only will the right saddle height make for a more comfortable ride, but it will also help you ride longer, avoid injury and increase efficiency. 

While it may be best to visit a bike shop to ensure you have the right height, there is a general rule of thumb you can follow. 

Ideally, your knee should be slightly bent when your leg is at full extension (about a 30-degree angle is fine). Try this out for a few weeks, and if you still experience soreness, consult a professional to help out. 

If you are still struggling with saddle height, take a look at this video. 

Wear the Right Clothing 

One of the easiest ways to increase saddle comfort is to buy a pair of bike shorts. Similar to chamois cream, padded shorts will provide protection between your skin and the seat. Padded bike shorts will absorb impacts, reduce pressure and protect soft tissues. 

The great thing about padded shorts is that they come in different thicknesses. You can decide whether you want thin or thick padding and where you want the main padding to be. You can choose the right pair depending on your riding style and preference. 

Choose the Right Seat for the Type of Ride and Terrain

Even though all saddles may seem to feel the same (hard and uncomfortable), there are hundreds of different options out there. Choosing the right seat for your terrain and ride will make a big difference. 

When it comes to your riding style, narrower seats will generally work better for those who ride fast. More leisurely and slow riders will do well with a slightly wider seat

Fast riders will have a different position than slower cyclists, leaning more forward on the bike. Fast riders will also rely more on their legs and handlebars to support their weight. On the other hand, slower riders will rely more on the seat to hold their weight. 

Different types of terrain will also require different types of seats. For example, road bikers and other leisure cyclists will sit in the same position for long periods. This may reduce blood flow, affect nerves and lead to soreness. 

For this reason, cyclists who bike on flat surfaces such as roads should choose a cut-out saddle. Cut-out saddles have two sections in the middle of the seat that is cut out, effectively reducing pressure while sitting. 

Those who bike on more complex terrain, such as mountain bikers, won’t need a cut-out saddle. These cyclists will more likely be changing positions often, reducing the chance of reduced blood flow and pinched nerves. 


So, why are bike seats so uncomfortable? There can be a few reasons for this. First of all, bike saddles are hard and slender to provide more room for your legs while cycling, help your sit bones support your weight, and protect your back. 

While bike seats may be uncomfortable, they are not supposed to hurt. If you experience pain, you should check a few things, including your riding position, bike size, handlebar height, and saddle height. 

Now you have all the information you need for a comfortable ride. Make sure to leave a comment if you enjoyed the article. 

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