Cycling Chronicles - Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable?

New riders are often surprised by how hard their bike saddle is, especially when they take their bikes out for a ride that’s longer than usual. After a while, you experience some level of discomfort while riding, eventually turning into actual physical pain that’s almost unbearable. Most bikers will agree that prolonged bike riding isn’t so great, which leads us to the question, “why are bike seats so uncomfortable?”

There are actually a couple of reasons why a typical bike saddle seems to cause a lot of people pain when riding. Let’s explore some of those reasons.

Bike Engineering

One of the more obscure reasons for the discomfort brought by bike seats is because of how the entire bike is engineered. Bikes were not actually designed to carry the full weight of a rider. A bike saddle is only supposed to carry only a person’s “sitting bone” (ischial tuberosities), which puts only 70% of the rider’s total weight on the saddle. The other 30% of your weight should be on the handlebar.

Riding Position

Whenever you go for a ride and sit to pedal your bike, you need to have a nice stable platform to pedal forcefully from. This allows your powerful hip muscles to work freely. Following that logic, the proper way to sit on a bike saddle is with your tailbone slightly tilted up, and your pelvis should be facing down while your sit bones connect with the saddle.

The sit bones are the two bony areas you can feel just below your butt. Those bony parts bear the majority of your weight as you pedal. This is the proper posture as it puts the weight more on the bones rather than the delicate soft tissue between them. The bike saddle’s shape also covers only a tiny portion of your bottom, allowing your thighs to move freely when cycling.

Saddle Types

Notice how racing saddles or mountain bike saddles appear to be hard and firm compared to other cushioned bike seats? They are hard, so the sit bones and soft tissue just have enough support. Pedalling efficiency and circulation are increased, and the crotch area is kept cool. Those hard seats prevent the compression of nerves and stop chafing. Hard saddles for racers and mountain bikes are designed for power and efficiency rather than comfort. 

On the other hand, bike seats with cushions may seem comfortable at first, but it has its downsides. Ultra-cushy saddles add pressure where you don’t want it. As your sit bones push down, the foam or gel shifts as well, putting more pressure on your soft tissues. You also won’t be able to pedal as effectively. Compare this to standing on a balance ball and trying to squat. It almost seems impossible to do that because of the squishiness of the balance ball. If you're standing on solid ground, you can squat more weight and become more stable. The same principle applies to firm saddles and cushioned bike seats.

The Bottom Line—Consider Your Riding Style

If you’re an aggressive rider doing time trials on the road, you need a hard saddle that hinges forward to get aerodynamic. On the other hand, a casual commuter might enjoy a more comfortable bicycle seat with padding to support a more upright position. Essentially, your level of comfort and saddle type all depends on your riding style.

If it’s comfortable bike seats you’re looking for, then Cushbike has just the thing for you. Our shop has bike accessories and bike seat cushions to help you get more comfortable while riding. Enhance your riding experience with our comfortable bike seats!