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Photo Credit – Total Women Cycling

Saddle soreness is a common complaint among female riders. Ineke Mules looks at some solutions. 

Ask any cyclist and they’ll tell you that having the right seat makes a world of difference to overall riding comfort and performance. But actually finding the right seat can be a challenge – especially for women. Saddle soreness is a common complaint among female riders, but the underlying cause is often different for each individual.

Unfortunately many road bicycle saddles are designed for men, which can cause a number of problems for female cyclists. A comfortable seat should reflect the rider’s anatomy. For women this means the seat has to be wide enough to accommodate the hips. A standard men’s saddle is comparatively much narrower. Women who ride with a men’s saddle often feel pain due to the lack of support; if the seat is too narrow the rider transfers their support from the skeletal or pelvic area to the soft tissue, causing discomfort. In saying this though, a saddle which is too wide is also likely to result in a painful ride. Achieving the right balance is key.

Another problem with seats designed for men is the lack of padding. The use of padding follows the same logic as seat-width; saddles made for women generally use more layers of foam for physical reasons. The purpose of padding is to distribute pressure across the surface of the saddle. Ideally any form of padding should be made of firm, shock-absorbing foam. This will offer the best support and prevent any excessive movement. For those who require extra padding, a gel bike seat cover can provide a quick fix. Some manufacturers are beginning to offer saddle fit cushions made out of memory foam; these allow you to determine where your sit bones are so you can choose the saddle which best suits your needs.

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The shape of the saddle also plays a huge role in rider comfort. Many women’s saddles include a cutaway to relieve pressure on soft tissue. The angle of the seat is also important as it can significantly alter the rotation of the pelvis. The style of riding should also be considered when finding an appropriate seat. For example, if you’re into mountain biking, it’s recommended that you choose a seat which offers a lot of support. For racers or endurance riders, the seat needs to be strong and reliable without being too wide.

Ultimately though, it’s important to remember that choosing an appropriate seat comes down to personal preference. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another and finding the perfect fit often comes down to trial and error. Luckily, the days are gone where bicycle manufacturers took a one-size-fits-all approach to seat design.  If you’re having any issues with your saddle, the best thing you can do is seek professional advice and pinpoint the cause of your discomfort. Your body will thank you.

Bicycle SA runs Adelaide’s biggest bike ride for women on Sunday 22 November – Gear Up Girl SA. Take part and get your friends cycling in a fun, safe environment and choose from a River Ride, Beach Ride & Hills Ride.