Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Igor Karni
There are lots of different studies that address this or that subject around cycling. There are studies about the best e-bike of the year, the most innovative e-bike motor, the most powerful e-bike battery. So far, I did not come across a study that would talk about sore butt in cycling.
Though, apparently, this is one of the most known and often the most annoying problems that cyclists encounter. So, let’s talk about the sore bottom problem and what we can do about it.
What to do to avoid sore bottom on an e-bike? Make sure that you
- distribute your weight via your hands pressing on the handlebar and your legs pressing on the pedals,
- adjust the height and comfort of the saddle, and
- do not forget that butt muscles are trained as any other muscles, so it will become better with time.
Since I started cycling, very often, the same question kept coming back: “And your ass? Does it hurt? What do you do to avoid it?”
Others would ask: “Well, frankly, I like riding a bike but it hurts my buttocks too much”. As if this was too hard to handle.
Then I searched the internet for all possible combinations: “buttocks”, “ass”, “bottom”, “pain”, “ouch”, etc., and did not have much luck finding anything decent. No one seems to have talked in detail about this very sensitive and universal subject.
For obvious reasons, I will not illustrate this post with “before / after” photos, so you will have to take my word for it. At the same time, I will try to be as technical as possible, and to explain in as simple terms as possible, so that this matter is very clear at the end.
Treat cycling as another sport
Let’s start with an analogy. When you start running after years of taking a break from this sport, your body will most certainly hurt. You will quickly have aches, possibly a sore knee, or other pains. You will experience physical discomfort. This is normal.
As you continue to practice running, your body will become more accustomed to these new efforts and the initial pains and discomfort will quickly disappear.
There is no reason why cycling, being a sports activity, should not be accompanied by the same temporary discomfort. As you continue cycling you will eventually obtain your “titanium” well-trained bottom.
To take our discussion further, it makes sense to identify two types of bottom pain from cycling. Whatever the pain is, I agree that it remains embarrassing, unpleasant and, good news, avoidable.
What are these two types of cycling butt pain? Let’s get down to the basics …
Two types of cycling butt pain
The first identifiable discomfort results from irritation of the intimate parts. This phenomenon is due to heating and repeated friction. The discomfort remains at the skin level. Your skin in these areas can become red, itchy, etc. Not very pleasant, certainly.
The second type of soreness is deeper, it comes from the muscles and other organs of the pelvis. No more pleasant than the redness and itching.
Both types of pain are unpleasant and both can come at the same time. And this is when you get, what they call, a “cyclist butt problem”.
Saving you from your cyclist butt
Do you believe that the Danes or the Dutch wear special shorts under their skirts or pants? Do you believe they had their steel buttocks as if it was part of the Darwin evolution of the species?
Nay, they’re just used to cycling. And you are possibly not used to it. And you have pain in your ass as soon as you start riding a bike? What can you do to avoid this pain?
Distributing your weight
Is it worth remembering that on a bike you have 5 points of support, not only your butt.
First, you have your both feet that press on the pedals. Knowing that your feet will be going in a circular motion, these points of support will only slightly lift any weight from your buttocks.
Second, other points of support are your hands. As you certainly know, your hands on your bike are well away from your buttocks. Leaving more of the body weight on the hands and releasing this weight from your buttocks would change the problem. And this is not the goal.
We do not want not to have more pain in the buttocks but have sore wrists, elbows, and arms. This is certainly not a viable solution.
Also, you need to keep your hands focused on what they are designed for while cycling. This is steering, shifting, braking. Eventually, push and pull back when you accelerate. So leave your hands to do what they are there to do – focus on their initial mission.
The contact point with the bicycle is your butt. This is the one that interests us today.
Here we are! The comfort of your buttocks will depend on your position on the pedals and the handlebar. The more you bend forward on your bike, the more weight will be distributed to your hands. And the more you will lighten the support on the buttocks.
Easy tip: The comfort of your bottom will depend on your overall body position on the pedals and the handlebar.
When you pedal, if your position is very leaned forward, the support on the buttocks will be on the perineum for women, the urethra for men.
Saddle not too high and not too low
Talking about keeping more weight on the pedals, it is essential to have the right saddle height.
Easy tip: If the saddle is too low, you may have a tendency to bounce off the saddle. If the saddle is too high, you may tend to swing from right to left on your pelvis.
Bouncing or swinging is not the best cycling tactic. These unnecessary movements will, on one hand, reduce your pedaling quality, and on the other hand, create friction where it does not need to be. Where there is friction, there is redness. Where there is friction, there is pain.
Why is it important to adjust your bicycle saddle?
Let’s take a close look at the saddle choice and adjustment. I do not claim to have a full overview of the saddles that are offered on the market, not going to give you a full overview of them, let alone a comparison.
We all have beautiful butts, just because they are unique. Because they are unique, they are so precious. Being unique, just like anything in your life that is unique, each case will be a bit particular.
I will try to give you core needed advice that will save you rushing to your saddle dealer to buy a new saddle. Yet, this may be the solution for you in the end (to buy and install a new saddle for your e-bike).
Adjust saddle height
The first thing to do is to adjust the height of your saddle. The right seat height is when your feet touch the ground when you stand on the tips of both feet.
We often see cyclists in the city pedaling with their knees to their ears or (although less often) the saddle been much higher than the comfortable seating position. As already mentioned, start by adjusting the height of the saddle properly.
The two commonly accepted criteria are:
Criteria 1. When you sit well on your saddle, centered, without shifting your hips, with one pedal in the lowest position, your leg on this pedal must be at the limit of being stretched. At the limit of being stretched, does not mean completely tense. This will be too tight. Your knee will be in full extension and it is not good either.
Criteria 2. When you sit well on your saddle, centered, without shifting your hips, put both feet on the ground and they should be able to touch the ground just with their tips.
Please note that if you ride a Beach cruiser or fat b-bike, for example, these saddle height adjustment settings do not apply.
That said, obviously, one bike is different from another, and the correct adjustment of the height of the saddle will not be the same. It’s up to you to test different heights with your e-bike, taking into account the two criteria above.
Also, note that naturally, one tends to adjust the saddle height too low rather than too high. Follow the above tips, so you avoid a sore butt and possible knee pain.
It may be also necessary to adjust the angle of your saddle in relation to the pedals. The horizontal position is by default the best.
Once the saddle height of your e-bike is well adjusted, the next step is to take good care of your skin.
Hygiene and taking care of the skin
The first piece of advice is to take good care of your hygiene. It may sound trivial, but actually pedaling with clean skin in the places that touch the saddle is always a good idea.
If your skin is clean, you will avoid the growth and proliferation of bacteria that cause skin irritation. At your destination, if you do not necessarily have a shower available, use baby wipes to give yourself a boost of freshness.
Make a rule to take a pack of baby wipes with you and you will be all set for the hygiene part.
Easy tip: Avoid pants or skirts that have a large seam right where your body touches the saddle.
I also recommend that you wear antibacterial or cotton underwear. This natural material has been the best for cycling for a long time. Avoid pants or skirts that have a large seam right where your body touches the saddle. Jeans, for example, often have this flaw. It may sound obvious, but worth mentioning! And if you plan a long cycling trip, this can really make or break your day.
Use special cream if necessary
If that is not enough, there are anti-irritation creams on the market, creams that you will find at almost any bike shop or any pharmacy. These creams are extremely effective. The only disadvantage is that you still have to put them on and let them do the job, before getting on your bike.
My favorite is Assos Chamois Crème. Can be found on Amazon (click to see on Amazon, or this one), in special stores online and offline. Assos Chamois Crème exists for women and men. Makes sense to use it for long trips that would last more than 3-4 hours.
I used this cream a lot at the beginning of my cycling life. My butt also did not really like the new cycling experience.
Note that there are different creams for men and for women. We are not exactly made the same at this level. If you decide to use such creme, find one that suits your needs.
Now, let’s look at different saddles that are available. This could be part of the solution to the butt soreness problem.
Which saddle to choose?
Let’s now look closer at the choice of saddles. There are about as many of them as there are forms of the butt. So there is certainly a saddle that suits you. Shape, softness, material, length of the beak, with or without a hole in the middle. The purpose is not to tell you which saddle fits you perfectly, but rather to simply help you understand and choose the right saddle for you.
The choice of a good saddle will depend on your position on the bike. If you ride a city electric bike, with your body mostly upright, you will need a different saddle than the one, which would suit you perfectly when you ride a road e-bike.
Easy tip: There is a natural tendency to believe that the large and softer the saddle is the more comfortable it is. This is not correct.
There is a natural tendency to believe that the large and softer the saddle is the more comfortable it is. This is wrong. If the saddle is too wide, it could interfere with pedaling. This will increase irritation or annoy your moving parts.
On the other hand, it is also certain that a minimalist saddle weighing a few grams, fine as a sword, hard as wood, and solid as steel will be an elitist saddle that will have to be avoided at first.
Do not use gel wraps
Often, beginner cyclists prefer to wrap up their saddles with gel wraps. Thinking that a gel envelope on the saddle can only do good. In fact, this is an error too. Wrapping the saddle with gel coating is not recommended. Does not do any good for you.
Why? This gel cover, fitted to the saddle, will tend to slide from left to right, from front to back. This sliding will cause warming up. This warming up will cause skin irritations. No professional cyclist uses this solution, which is then the proof.
Read also: Most common pains when riding an electric bicycle, and how to prevent and cure them.
In conclusion, ask a professional
The comfort of your saddle will depend greatly on a number of parameters. From e-bike tire pressure to the condition of the road and the choice of the coating of your saddle.
When it comes to choosing the right saddle that will accompany you on long trips, the best advice would be to go to a specialist bike shop, take your e-bike with you and take good advice from a professional.