There isn’t a cyclist in the world who doesn’t want a comfortable bike riding experience. No one goes out and thinks, “I really want my bike to be a pain in the butt today.”
If you find that you aren’t comfortable while riding your bike, the first thing that comes to mind is the seat, and you end up asking yourself, “Why are bike seats so hard?” After investigating the question, it turns out that it’s not so cut and dry.
The Purpose of Hard Bike Seats
Manufacturers of bicycles don’t make bike seats hard just so their consumers hopefully purchase softer saddles. They make them harder because traditionally, that’s how they are supposed to be made. Unless you are riding a linear recumbent bicycle, a hard bike saddle is actually the best way to ensure you’re comfortable, and it takes less pressure off from what’s called your “sit bones.”
When looking at it logically, you can think about soft mattresses and how chiropractors often don’t recommend sleeping on them for extended periods as they don’t keep your spine aligned. You also hear that laying on hard surfaces is good for your back. It works the same with your bike seat.
Traditional bike seats are not designed or meant to carry the entirety of your weight; they’re designed to take some of it. When you sit down, your body weight gets distributed along your “sit bones,” and more often than not, when you find your bike seat too hard, it’s because you’re spreading all of your weight on those bones. If you place too much cushion between a surface and your sit bones, it inevitably creates pressure against the soft tissue between them that results in an uncomfortable ride and potential pain.
Saddles that have a lack of padding also create less chafing on the inner thighs during extended rides, as seats with excessive cushioning are typically only comfortable for shorter periods. Expert cyclists and professionals at bike shops always recommend sticking with a hard bike seat that is correctly adjusted to your height and body measurements. However, many cyclists do opt for the seat that feels the most comfortable when they press against it.
If you only plan on riding your bike along the beach or around the block, stick with your personal preference. If you plan on riding a marathon, try sticking with what the experienced cyclists and Orthopedics recommend.
Tips on Making Your Bike Seat More Comfortable
Your entire riding experience can get ruined the moment your seat starts to get uncomfortable, or you start feeling chafing along your inner thighs. If you thoroughly enjoy biking, that’s putting a downer on the day. There are plenty of tips and tricks that you can apply to adjust your bike seat and the saddle to suit you correctly, so you’re more comfortable. Instead of asking “Why are bike seats so hard and uncomfortable?” you can adjust the seat to suit your needs with the following tips.
Check the reach: Having the incorrect reach on your bike causes you to have to stretch to reach the handlebars. Doing so can cause pain in the back, neck, shoulders, and even create saddle sores along your inner thighs. Decreasing the reach on your bike can make all of the difference.
- Get a different seat: It’s already been discussed why hard saddles are recommended and used more than soft and cushiony ones. If you are still uncomfortable after learning how to distribute your weight on your sit bones, there’s a good chance you still need a new seat. The majority of bike shops can help you with swapping one out, and some saddles are designed specifically for men and women, and there are ones that are narrower than wider.
- Check saddle angle: If you have pain in your nether regions, it’s likely because the angle of your seat is off and there’s too much pressure. Regardless if your seat is hard or soft, it creates an unpleasant experience. Tilting the nose of your saddle downwards by just a few degrees can assist with relieving some of the pressure you feel.
- Check seat height: The majority of all knee pain found in cyclists comes from the saddle not being adjusted to a height that suits their needs. While having your seat height too low can compromise your ability to pedal, having it too high can create many other issues. Measuring your inner seam and subtracting ten centimeters gives you the measure you need to help with determining your saddle height. You can also get help at your local bike shop if it’s something you feel you can’t do on your own.
If you feel like you’ve tried every tip and trick in the book, and you’re making proper use of your bike’s saddle, yet you still feel uncomfortable, switching out your bike is an option. It’s often a mistake to trade out a hard bike saddle for a softer one and can lead to further issues.
Changing your bike is the last resort, but there’s the possibility that it’s just not the right one for you. We suggest speaking with professionals at your local bike shop to get you properly fitted for a bike, and to ensure that your saddle is specific to your needs.
When it comes to why are bike seats so hard, they are designed in such a way to ensure that your bones are protected, and you are comfortable. Although some might find it uncomfortable, there are multiple ways on how to make it more comfortable for you.