Whether you’re giving cycling a try for the first time or you’re a veteran at the sport, you probably love the exhilarating, energizing feeling of stepping off the bike at the end of a hard-earned class. But, chances are you’re not a fan of cycling seat pain.
You know it as the sometimes-painful feeling between your inner thighs and in your crotch region. It’s caused by the uncomfortable (and tiny) seats. This part of the bike, known as the saddle, is where your body experiences the most compression during the workout.
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Bicycle seats come in different styles, widths, and cushion supports. But USA cycling expert and coach Menachem Brodie, N.S.C.A.-C.S.C.S., points out that there’s not really one size that fits all. This makes finding the right seat that much more difficult.
The good news is that there are ways to make your cycling seat far more comfortable. Here are expert-approved solutions.
Set up your bike properly.
One of the most common and often overlooked causes of indoor cycling seat pain, according to the pros, is a bike seat that’s either too low or too high. When either of these scenarios occurs, your legs don’t have the ability to fully support your body weight while you pedal.
“We may feel more ‘sporty’ or ‘fast’ with the handlebars set lower. [However,] when it comes to spinning and indoor cycling bikes, you actually want to keep the handlebars up higher,” Brodie says. “This will help you keep better posture, allow you to build up your strength and keep back pain at bay.” He recommends sitting on the saddle with one pedal at dead-bottom of the rotation (at the 6 o’clock position on a clock face). “You should be able to keep your foot flat and put your heel on the pedal with a very slight bend in your knee,” he adds.
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Buy a comfortable pair of cycling shorts.
You may be able to get away with wearing any old pair of leggings to certain workouts, such as Pilates or yoga. However, indoor cycling requires a specific kind of shorts, experts say. “The bib shorts are the choice of experienced riders, as with the ‘suspender’ style. They are far more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. And [they] don’t cut off circulation to your gut,” Brodie says. Because not everyone will feel comfortable exercising in skintight attire, he suggests throwing a pair of basketball shorts on top. “Just make sure they have either a drawstring or a good waistband to keep them from falling down.”
Danielle Girdano, a certified master personal trainer, recommends investing in a pair of gel-padded shorts. “Foam will break down too easily and quickly due to sweat and pressure. But gel will hold up much longer and provide for a much more comfortable ride,” she adds.
Use chamois cream.
Plenty of cycling pros swear by this cream, pronounced “shammy.” “Used in small amounts, this cream can significantly decrease the friction you may build up while riding in the saddle,” Brodie says. But he warns not to go overboard—the size of a nickel should be more than enough. “While ideally used with cycling shorts, you can also use it with your underwear and regular workout gear. Although we do recommend the cycling shorts,” he adds. “You can apply the chamois cream with your fingers directly to the padding, ideally in the middle where most friction would occur. Or you can apply it directly to your nether regions.”
Buy a padded seat cover.
If you’re experiencing severe indoor cycling seat pain, you can opt to purchase a removable bike seat cushion cover from a myriad of stores and online retailers, such as amazon.com. Not only do these covers cushion your seat, but they also make it a bit wider. Making your purchase online is fine. However, Brodie recommends checking out the different brands and varieties in a store before purchasing online.
Shower immediately after your workout.
It’s not always feasible to shower right after your workout. But the general rule is to rinse within 15-20 minutes, even if it’s with a cleansing wipe. Brodie warns that neglecting to do so can allow germs, dirt, and bacteria to creep into your pores and cause infections. It’s also advised to switch into clean, loose-fitting underwear and shorts or pants post-workout. This can prevent “saddle sores,” which are essentially zits “down there.” “These can be very troublesome, as they can linger and grow,” Brodie says. “If you have a longer drive home or perhaps want to have a coffee with the crew after the class and not rush to the shower, be sure to take with you loose-fitting underwear and a pair of basketball shorts.”
You may have complained about indoor cycling seat pain to a friend or your instructor before. And you may have received a response along the lines of “you’ll get used to it.” That doesn’t sound very promising when you’re experiencing such pain and discomfort. However, there is some truth to it, according to Girdano. “Once you have started the process of conditioning the sit bones, consistency is important,” she says. “If consistency is not achieved, then the sitting area will never become conditioned, and relief of discomfort will never be achieved.”