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I went on my first long bike ride yesterday - approximately 30 miles. (I know, it's cake to you grizzled road veterans out there, but I'm proud!) I had a great time and we took a fairly leisurely pace - approximately 10 mph or so. Lots of cycling and a lot of conversation.

I didn't have any problems with energy or anything, but during the ride I was a bit sore in the saddle. Due to our pace, I was able to ease this a few times by standing in the pedals and pedaling infrequently. By the time we were getting back (the last mile or so) I was really feeling it, but today it seems to be okay. Overall, it worked well.

I'm thinking that the soreness is probably just the symptoms of a longer ride (and me not being used to that). However, I figured I'd ask. How would I, as a relatively new rider, know when saddle soreness is caused by a bad (for me) saddle or bad saddle adjustment versus extended time in the saddle? Are there specific symptoms that I should be looking for?

Edit: I'm looking for generalizations, as I know that specifics change with each rider and bike. An example would be something like, "if you have excessive soreness in your inner hamstring area, your seat may be too far forward", stuff like that. As it stands right now, I'm chalking this all up to the first ride, but I'd like to be knowledgable for future rides (and not ignore any potential warning signs I might miss).

Thanks!

(As a note, for anyone who might ask - I'm riding a Fuji Traverse 1.7. Everything's stock. I'm about 5'10", 5'11" with long limbs.)

  • Do you have numbness in your toes or little fingers? – Criggie Sep 27 '15 at 23:02
  • @Criggle No. Is that a thing? – jedd.ahyoung Sep 27 '15 at 23:15
  • yes sadly it can be. I have a slightly numb left little finger right now, 24 hours after my ride. However fingers are unrelated to your saddle, toes tend to be foot/shoe/pedal related instead. Bike shorts/tights will help you, and a seat that is hard enough, flat enough, and horizontal enough. – Criggie Sep 28 '15 at 0:26
  • It's just one ride! – andy256 Sep 28 '15 at 4:19
  • I had this problem and bought a wider saddle, which instantly fixed it. – Max Williams Sep 28 '15 at 10:23
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The first ride gives almost everybody soreness.

You should be using your sit bones with your saddle. You can roughly measure this at home. A too narrow or too wide saddle may give some pain (note this is not the same thing as soreness).

Also, you may want to invest in padded bike shorts. Those help some people.

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I'm going to disagree about padding and "getting used to it" a bicycle that fits well is surprisingly comfortable. Fitting well means that the seat supports you by your "sit bones" (ischial tuberosities) and doesn't put pressure on the soft structures of your crotch. Padding can actually make it worse.

The answer to this question, How to Judge Comfort When Buying a New Saddle, and especially the link to the article from Cervélo Cycles on The Four and a Half Rules of Road Saddles may help you think about adjusting your saddle or getting a new one.

That said, you will get more tolerant of the discomfort, but for now I'd use it to fine tune my seat and position on the bike.

  • 1
    You bring up an excellent point. Pain due to pressure on the sit bones is one thing (normal, IMO, until one builds up endurance). Pressure on "the soft structures of the crotch" is NEVER normal (and yes, padding can exacerbate this problem). – keithmo Sep 27 '15 at 17:59
  • +1: If the OP could feel blood returning when standing up, that sounds like the soft tissues are taking weight instead of (or as well as) the sit bones. Padded shorts and other things can certainly be helpful, but the saddle still needs to fit correctly first. – Useless Sep 28 '15 at 11:19
  • @Useless, I think you've hit on it. The OP's noting that "Taking pressure off was worse than keeping pressure on!" says to me that it was soft tissue – not pressure on sit bones. If that's the case padded shorts might actually make it worse. – dlu Sep 28 '15 at 12:31
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Dirty little secret: Butt hair.

As you ride, friction tugs on the hairs of your butt, irritating them. And at some point the hairs actually get kind of tangled and matted with each other, leading to extreme tension on the hairs.

Of course, eventually the most vulnerable hairs get pulled out from the motion, but you can bypass that step by shaving your butt. (An electric razor or hair trimmer will do the job adequately -- blade is not needed.) Be especially careful to get the area around "the crack", as getting the hairs on both sides of "the crack" tangled together is quite unpleasant.

(There is also, of course, the need to otherwise "toughen" the butt, but a amazing amount of the discomfort is due to the hairs.)

  • Be careful with shaving too much or too close; you will end up with ingrown hairs which are WAY more painful. – Chris Cleeland Sep 28 '15 at 16:37
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I used to get sore and started getting numbness in my "private parts". I researched it and found this is a massive problem, well researched, many opinions, and many people selling snake oil solutions. I resolved my issues with a split saddle (with a big trench in the middle) which has the front of it tapering down. This forces me back onto my sit bones and puts no pressure on the nerves suppling my "manhood muscles" (very important). I presume etiquette on the group is not to mention specific brands - but I bought a high end saddle with virtually no padding (padding has nothing to do with comfort) that positions me correctly. The is excellent. I still get sore from long rides but only in the way you expect your body to get sore when you punish it!

  • I think mentioning brands can be very helpful. I don't think there is a general problem with it – especially when you're tying it to aspects of the product that make it work well. – dlu Sep 28 '15 at 12:32
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    I went for a Sella SMP saddle. Cost megabucks - but hey I've only got one old fella and he needs looking after. I am totally happy with and will put one on my next bike. They are very rigid, no meaningful padding, but get all the weight off your soft bits. The front of their saddles drops down significantly and I have it tilted so I am (ALMOST) about to slip forwards. It was the 4th saddle I tried and totally solved problem. For the record in my research I have found this is not just a male problem. Females putting the hours in on the saddle need same saddle geometry to avoid nerve damage – john anderson Sep 28 '15 at 20:16
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Can you tell if the pain is from pressure or abrasion?

If it's pressure, then the it's probably because it was your first long ride. It takes a while to get your butt "battle hardened" for longer rides. Sadly, one quickly loses this after a week or two off the bike.

If it's abrasion, then check the saddle to see if anything is rubbing during your pedal stroke. Also check your shorts/pants for fabric seams that could cause issues. Finally, check your saddle height. If it's a bit too high then your hips will rock as you pedal, causing abrasion and leading to unhappiness.

+1 to @batman's suggestion of padded bike shorts. You can also get a bike-specific padded liner and wear it in lieu of underwear under normal shorts/pants.

  • No abrasion, just pressure. I had the whole "I'm feeling a little bad now, but I can keep going" when I was sitting - but when I stood up, oh, man. Taking pressure off was worse than keeping pressure on! :P I'm guessing it was just due to blood flow back to the soft tissues over my sit bones. – jedd.ahyoung Sep 27 '15 at 17:39
  • Some chamois cream or baby bottom cream can work wonders. You may apply it to the padding or better directly to the skin. I wouldn't do a longer ride (>1hour) without. – Carel Sep 27 '15 at 18:39
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At that speed and distance you did a 3h ride. Anytime you do the same thing for 3h that you're not used to doing, you will encounter some "adjustment soreness". I am assuming you haven't done 3h rides in the past?

Even grizzled veterans have to work back into saddle time.

That said, get your fit double-checked by an experienced fitter. Be sure to explain what you felt and when. Also, a wide saddle isn't always the most comfortable. It's more a question of how proportional it is to your sit bones. The key is that you want the BONES to be in supportive contact with the saddle and not your soft tissue.

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Yes, it is unfortunately normal that if you start bicycling that this problem arises.

The German magic bullet against a sore bottom is Hirschtalg which is available here from xenofit. They have translated it as "stag fat", I hope that such a product is known in other countries.

Another one is Sixtus Olympia Gesäßcreme which is quite famous under professional bikers. Disadvantage: It smells a bit like cough sweets.

  • I'm guessing this stuff is referred to in English as "chamois cream". There are several brands available depending on where one lives. They will alleviate chafing but not do much for pressure-induced problems. – Chris Cleeland Sep 28 '15 at 16:39
  • @ChrisCleeland Yup, that it is, I did not know how the translation is. Yes, it does not help against pressure, but apart from readjust the saddle, using other saddles and padded bike tights there is not much you can do against pressure-induced problems. Chafing and the resulting "bumps" (how do you call them ?) is the main problem for me. – Thorsten S. Sep 28 '15 at 21:42
  • bumps are probably "saddle sores" though not typically caused by the saddle itself. – Chris Cleeland Sep 29 '15 at 12:34

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