Seat discomfort during or after cycling? We know this very well!
We from TWAR are: Marie, Wiebke, Steffi, Johanna,Eva, Jule (Radelt) and Juliane (Radelmädchen). We all cycle a few years and have joined TWAR to share our experiences. This includes the beautiful, eventful, encouraging stories, but also the unpleasant topics, such as the chapter seat discomfort. In this article we clarify the questions around the butt: How are we real with this?
What is our experience with seating discomfort & Saddle sore?
Probably everyone who reads this knows them – sitting discomfort. Pain is very individual and can have various causes. So far, no universal remedy has been found for sitting discomfort. But what helps from our experience are two things: talk about it and then act! In the following section we share our “aches and pains” with you. Maybe you will recognize some of them and feel understood.
“I know two forms of seat discomfort: The saddle does not fit the butt – then it hurts me “in” the body, on the bones, or on the muscles. And then there are the problems with the skin, because the fabric rubs and it comes to sore spots or pustules. In addition, the pants are no longer the freshest on long brevets, and dirt and salt probably accelerate inflammation,” Eva reports.
What Eva tells, Jule (Radelmädchen) and Wiebke can confirm: “Especially in summer, when you sweat quickly, I know the “diaper butt” phenomenon, which is caused mainly by the seat cushion and moisture.” Jule still adds, “It becomes painful especially when scabs occur, which are created by a saddle that doesn’t fit – even on short distances.”
Unfortunately, Marie and Steffi have both had experiences with saddlesores. “In the past, I had severe seat complaints and had to stop an event at 404 km because the Saddlesore was too strong,” Marie reports.
With Steffi it went even up to chronic inflammations as well as redness, pressure pain and numbness.
But even “minor” bruises, such as pimples and boils can become very unpleasant, explains Johanna.
Sandra also reports these, in combination with unpleasant pressure in the area of the vulval lips, which can also often be the trigger.
Jule reports that she again had little to no problems and if so then after longer and hard races. Wiebke has also been largely spared so far. Marie agrees, saying, “In the meantime, I’ve found the right position and the right saddle, so I can even do without cream on medium-length routes and over longer days.”
We don’t want to tell any horror stories here or discourage by the experiences mentioned. Because: Cycling is fun. This joy grows when everything is coherent. So also the thing with the saddle. For every major or minor problem there is a solution. Here are our 9 tips for complaint-free riding.
Our 9 tips for complaint- and pain-free cycling tours:
Number one is the right saddle. Many factors are decisive here. For example, the seat bone distance. A seat bone measurement as part of a bike fitting can measure the appropriate distance.
Once the correct width has been found, all saddles can be fitted. As an alternative to fitting, the correct saddle size can also be determined on the Internet using templates, corrugated cardboard and instructions.
In the beginning, the load on the saddle is always associated with pressure, which can be uncomfortable at the seat bumps. There arise small inflammations, because the body must first get used to the load. All other pain should not be. I highly recommend doing a bike fitting with saddle pressure measurement. Of course, it costs at first, but in the end you save nerves and probably even money because you don’t have to try zich saddles and pants.
But I also recommend a bike fitting because too much or the wrong pressure on the saddle can also be caused by an incorrect sitting position and then even the best pants and the most suitable saddle won’t help,” explains Johanna. Bikefitting is therefore often a good approach to solving saddle problems. You can find more about bikefitting under point 7.
On longer tours, you should shower thoroughly in the evening or clean your intimate area with wet wipes. In addition, a daily clean seat cushion and a second short shower before the start is recommended. This prevents the formation of bacteria and thus also the risk of redness, pimples and Co.
3: Break and air
A day’s rest can work wonders. After a tour, it is advisable to change your cycling shorts for looser ones as soon as possible. Even overnight, a little air can relieve irritation remarkably.
So in the summer, quickly change into an airy outfit or even sleep naked. If it is very uncomfortable, a break day will also help so that healing can take place and worse is avoided.
4: Creams and baby powders
Creams can be used both preventively and for acute problems. Especially on longer tours and in winter, seat creams make sense. Thorough (and repeated on longer trips) application of creams can help. If problems have developed, rash baby powder and zinc cream may be recommended – as well as plenty of air.
For boils, traction ointments can help, but sometimes it needs to be cut out if it doesn’t go away on its own.
In addition to somewhat more expensive creams such as Muc Off or Assos, Kaufmann’s Children’s Cream has also proven effective.
In the next but one section, we will go into more detail on the subject of Chamois creams.
Wet shaving is definitely NOT recommended for sensitive skin. Trimming is always enough and prevents ingrown hairs and protects the flora in the intimate area. This is especially important to consider for prolonged exposure.
A bikefitting is definitely recommended. “When I think about how many saddles, bibs and creams I’ve bought and tested before, I quickly realize that I should have done the fitting much earlier,” Marie reports.
Fitting the contact points in their entirety (hands, buttocks, feet) helps to find the right seating position and prevent many types of pain.
Sandra says: “During bike fitting with saddle pressure measurement, not only the correct saddle width is determined. The saddle position is also adjusted and the saddle angle. If the saddle width is correct but the saddle is much too far back, you sit too far forward on the saddle nose. This can lead to pressure in the pubic region.
If the saddle position is too inclined, this can cause slipping and thus increase movement on the saddle. This also increases the stress on the skin and can be uncomfortable. Even the right height of the saddle can have an impact on comfortable sitting. A saddle that is too high will cause the cyclist to slide back and forth.
And slippage causes friction, and friction sometimes causes pain and even sores.”
7: Omit underwear
To avoid even more potential friction points, it is highly recommended to get into your bib shorts without underpants. In the evening you should change or wash your shorts anyway to wear clean shorts the next day. See point 2 cleanliness, since after many hours in the saddle to prevent the skin irritation, bacteria and the combination of both.
On bikepacking tours, it’s a good idea to take two different pairs of cycling shorts with you and swap them out. The butt is happy about some variety in between and with two pants you also have the opportunity to always wash one in the evening and dry it during the day on the bike. If you test different pants, then you will also find your favorite pants faster. It’s best to ride with them anyway.
9: No experiments before long tours
Last but not least: Go with what has proven itself. Finding the right seat setup that works on long tours is not that easy. But once you’ve found the right saddle or saddle/shorts combo, stick with it and don’t experiment, at least before tours. Jule (Radelmädchen reports: “I also like to just take my saddle with me for rental bikes, because the risk of having to ride in pain is just too high for me.”
THE RIGHT SADDLE - THE RIGHT BIBSHORT? THE COLLECTIVE RIDES WELL WITH THAT!
The crux of this article is the saddle and pants. That’s why we want to get very specific here. Which saddles does who ride? Which matching pants? For this in the following our individual answers as inspiration. It should be said that this is only a starting point. Every person is different. The variation of the answers shows that quite well.
Since the Transcontinental Race I ride the Ergon SR Pro Women saddle and currently pants from Velocio, Universal Colors and 7Mesh. (Johanna)
For me it’s the Specialized Power Mimic Women and the Bibshorts from 7Mesh. (Steffi)
My favourite Bib is the Luxe Bib von Velocio, though I find the straps quite tight. In the saddle I’m still trying. In a bike fitting fit an SQ Lab saddle (612) quite well and the Power Mimic from Specialized. In the endurance test it is not yet ideal, unfortunately.” (Sandra)
On the gravel bike I drive the SQ Lab 612 in the widest size. Look again here if you are interested in the saddle size. On the road bike I drive the Specialized Mimic Power Comp saddle in 168 width. The saddle rides perfectly even on trails. My favorite Bib is the velocio Luxe Bib, though the Pad is getting off after a year of riding with it. (Marie)
SQ Lab 612 ERGOWAVE® active 14cm, prefer pants with thin pads from Elastic Interface. (Jule radelt)
My saddle is the SQ Lab 14 and my favorite bib is the H.laalaLai shorts from ASSOS without straps. (Eva)
I swear by the Brooks Cambium (so far without recess, because with me any potential edge, quickly causes pressure points. On long tours I use the Cambium almost always with bike shorts with padding. I like the DHB Damenbibs quite like, but also some pants from Vaude and adidas work for me. I haven’t tried too many different ones yet though. (Jule bike girl)
My favorite saddle on the road bike is the Brooks Cambium C13 carved and on the gravel bike the Selle Italia Diva Flow, which I also drove on my long South America bike trip. Bib-technically I am very well supplied with Ryzon. I prefer to ride the unisex Signature Bib Shots and the Womens Bib in alternation. (Wiebke)
Chamois-Cremes: YES or NO?
The right choice of saddle and bib is very individual. So also with the seat cream, also called Chamois cream. Some never go without, others always without. Some sometimes.
Here’s an insight into the creams we use so:
While Johanna (Assos), Jule (Chapeau Cycling) and Steffi (Muc Off Ladies Chamois Creme) take good care of themselves with cream on long rides, Sandra, for example, rarely rides with seat cream. “I noticed, especially when it’s warm and I sweat a lot, it has a counterproductive effect. Maybe the sweat can be drained less well there. I ride maybe 1% of my bike rides with Chamois cream. On day trips mostly without.”
Marie weighs in and reports, “I use Chamois cream as needed and by feel. Meanwhile, I have it with me and smear it THIN on when I think it would do me good. On the last Maurice Brocco, I put some cream on after 250 km as a precaution.”
For Eva, milking grease with calendula extract from the drugstore has proven effective after long test rides. She uses the cream on tours of five hours or more. Wiebke confesses that she rarely uses Chamois cream and has never bought any herself.
We hope that you can draw something valuable from our experience. Even though we are not bikefitters or orthopedists, we hope that we could emphasize the importance and individuality of this topic.
Jule and Eva sum up the topic nicely in their words. Jule says: “No one should have pain when doing hobbies or in their free time. There are umpteen possibilities where pain can come from, but it is worth getting to the bottom of it and there are good solutions (fitting, saddles, pants …) and many tips (see above). The art is to find the right combo. And of course it’s important to look for physical imbalances, like leg lengths, torso and abdominal muscles.”
Eva adds, “Sometimes I’m asked for buying recommendations, then I like to say two things: don’t care about your favorite cool brand and let your butt decide. Also, I don’t believe in ‘breaking in’ a saddle. If it doesn’t work, try something else. It’s our main point of contact with the bike – it should fit.”
So it pays to look and find. Because pain-free riding is what we sincerely wish you all.
Editor: Wiebke Lühmann
Proof reading: Sandra Schuberth
Layout/ Edit: Marie Beulig
Header Photo: Lukas Piel