Your Burning Reddit Questions: Can’t Seem to Find a Comfortable Female Bike Seat

·4 min read
Photo credit: Tetra Images - Erik Isakson - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tetra Images - Erik Isakson - Getty Images


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On the Bicycling Reddit, new and veteran riders are constantly sharing their new bike builds, their biggest rides, and their most burning questions. And when I spotted "Can’t seem to find a comfortable seat (female). Any advice?", I had to jump in and answer. Why? Because this is a question that has plagued women cyclists for decades, and because there isn’t an easy answer. I know this because I've quite literally written the book on saddle comfort.

Finding the right saddle is like finding your soulmate: You might find the right one on your first date, or you might need to go through a lot of losers before The One shows up. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a comfortable bike seat.

Understand everyone (every bum) is different

Let’s start by saying that every single cyclist is different, so there’s no ‘one saddle to rule them all.’ You may be the same height and weight as your friend who also rides, but your saddle preferences can be vastly different. Everything factors in, from sit bone width to leg and arm length to riding style to labia shape and sensitivity. So if your friend swears by X saddle, don’t feel bad if you feel like that saddle is causing your bum to go numb after 10 minutes of riding. You’re just configured slightly different!

Get your sit bones measured

If you haven’t already, head to a bike shop and ask for a sit bone width measurement. It sounds a bit goofy, but finding a properly-sized saddle makes a huge difference when it comes to comfort, and that starts with sit bone width. Your sit bones should be perched on the wide part of the saddle: if the saddle width is too narrow, your sit bones are hovering on the edge, constantly slipping from side to side and causing chafing and pressure. Too wide, and your sit bones get pressed towards the center of the saddle, which leads to awkward friction on your thighs and nether regions. Once you have the sit bone width (measured by sitting on a gel pad that marks where your sit bones are), you can select a saddle in the correct size range.

Trial different cutout styles

This may sound a bit surprising to new riders, but the geography of your nether regions (specifically your vulva and labia) can dictate how comfortable one seat is compared to another. This is especially true when it comes to cutouts, or lack thereof, on a saddle. A cutout is the channel found in the center of the saddle, and many women’s saddles have a full cutout, or at least a shallow channel running down the center. For some women, this is very comfortable and relieves pressure. For others, it causes pinching and irritation down there. There’s no one-size-fits-all advice here for different labia shapes and sizes, unfortunately. But you can trial different cutout types and see which one feels the best for you.

Check in on your bike fit

Unfortunately (or fortunately), saddle comfort doesn’t exist in a vacuum. How your saddle feels is also dependent on your bike fit: If your seat is up too high, you may be mashing your sensitive bits against the saddle every time you pedal. Too low, and you’re putting your hips and knees through an awkward range of motion. If your handlebars are too far in front of you, you may be tilting your pelvis forward to reach the, which can put more pressure right on your pubic bone (or, to be frank, right on your clitoris. And decidedly not in a sexy way). So, if you’ve tried a few saddles and none are feeling comfortable, it might be time to consider a professional bike fit—or experiment with adjusting the saddle a bit higher or lower, or moving it a bit further forward or backward to see how it feels.

Stand up more often

If you’re riding a lot—especially inside on the trainer—you may simply be feeling the effects of spending a lot of time on the saddle without giving your butt (and nether regions) a break. New cyclists often struggle with this as they get more consistent with their riding. It takes a bit of time for your bum to adjust to the bike seat! But you can make things less uncomfortable by standing up every few minutes, lifting your bum off the saddle and taking a few standing pedal strokes. This lets your nether regions ‘breathe’ and get blood flow back, and when you sit back down, you naturally make micro-adjustments so that no one piece of soft tissue is bearing the brunt of the entire two hour ride.

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