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Why Bicycle Seats Are Small & Uncomfortable?

why bicycle seats are small & uncomfortable

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Have you ever ask yourself , ‘why bicycle seats are small & uncomfortable?’

Almost every person in the world riding a bicycle finds the bicycle seats uncomfortable and small. It is because the bicycle seats are indeed small and highly uncomfortable to the riders. But what are the reasons behind the seats being this uncomfortable? There are several reasons why bicycle seats are small and difficult to sit on for a long time.

In this article, we will discuss the reasons why manufacturers manufacture skinny and small bicycle seats. Let us dive into the discussion about bicycle seats without any further ado.

The seat of a bicycle is not manufactured to carry the entire weight of the rider. The bicycle seats must only sit on the bones of the rider. The skinny and uncomfortable shape of the bicycle seats ensures that the thighs are moving freely while cycling. Although the bicycle seats feel uncomfortable, the proper form of the rider and adjustment of the seat make a huge difference in comfort.

It is a Saddle, Not a Seat

For a new rider or someone who does not know much about bicycles, then the word “seat” will make sense. However, in the world of bicycles, the exact word for the seat of the bicycle is the saddle. Although these two words may seem to have the same meaning, there are major differences between these two.

The most significant difference between a seat and a saddle is that a seat carries the entire weight of a person, while the saddle just sits on the bones.

So, you must be wondering that if the saddle does not carry your entire weight, then where does it go? The saddle carries a certain amount of your weight, and the majority of your weight is focused on the pedals of the bicycle.

It is essential to know the differences between a seat and a saddle as it will help a lot with the comfort of the rider. The things that cause a seat to be comfortable for a person are bad and unwise ideas for a bicycle.

Why Bicycle Seats are Small and Uncomfortable

When people look at the bicycle seats for the very first time, the majority of people have one common thought. That is, how they are going to sit on that seat and how it would feel. Even though the shape of a bicycle seat is weird and uncomfortable, there are indeed good reasons behind it.

Many people have tried their best to redesign the shape of a bicycle seat, but none of the changes made are that noticeable.

While some new materials and shape variations have been introduced, the bicycle seats are still small and skinny. Although it might seem weird, in the majority of cases, these weirdly shaped seats are the most comfortable.

It is not necessary that a seat that is comfortable and suitable for relaxation must also be suitable for strenuous activities. And riding a bicycle is a very strenuous physical activity.

The idea of sitting on a soft and comfortable seat is indeed suitable for relaxation, but the same softness makes bicycle riding uncomfortable. Soft and warm seating material, along with a highly movable and pleasant seating arrangement, is the opposite of what people want for a bicycle seat.

The most important point of contact on a bicycle seat is the sit bones, commonly known as the Ischial Tuberosity, of a person. These two bones provide the best type of support and help to keep the rider in place.

Think of the two sit bones of your body as two mini pillars that support your body and keep it in place on the bicycle. Since the bones are strong are hard, they do not move around much.

The remaining area of the butt and other parts of the body that come in contact with the bicycle seats often rub, overheat, and chafe. This rubbing and chafing often occur due to excess contact.

These parts of the body that come in contact with the seat are typically softer, and thus, they move more and ache more quickly. To prevent this chafing, overheating, and rubbing, the best way is to sit on a hard bicycle saddle while riding the bicycle.

However, you definitely do not wish to have a bicycle seat that only supports the sit bones as some pressure requires distribution. Wider bicycle seats often have too much surface area than required and thus, cause a much higher amount of discomfort.

The level of discomfort significantly increases if the saddles are soft.

There is also a reason behind why the bicycle seats are narrow at the front. A wider front part of the seat often disrupts the clearance of the rider’s thighs. So, the rider will experience discomfort as the thighs will rub against the front of the seat with every rotation of the wheels.

One Size Does Not Fit All

It is a common saying that one size of a particular thing will not necessarily fit every person. And this saying is true when it comes to bicycle seats. Bicycle saddles are not one size fits all, and thus you have to try a few saddles before finalizing the right one for you.

People usually get measured for a bicycle’s height and weight, and sometimes they also get measured for a bicycle seat. The majority of people find the right saddle size for their bicycle, and it is not a bad idea to measure for the right size.

The Right Form and Endurance

When people start riding a bike for the first time, many of them do not have enough stamina to maintain the proper form. Many new riders lack the endurance level to cause their legs to carry the majority of the weight. Thus, these experienced riders often tend to sit further into the bicycle seat, and this causes soreness in the legs.

If you are a beginner in the world of cycling, then soreness in the first few weeks is extremely common. The soreness goes away once the body adjusts properly to the bicycle.

If you experience soreness in the legs even after quite a few weeks of riding a bike, the chances are that the seat is not fitted properly or is not the right one for you.

Different Seats for Different Types of Riding

Bicycle seats are available in various sizes depending on the riding type of the bicycle. Usually, the seat will be skinnier depending on how fast you ride the bicycle. The reason behind this is that the faster you move, the more your body weight focuses on the pedals and handlebar and not on the seat.

Slow or regular bicycle riders often choose seats that come with a slight curve design. The slight curve relieves the pressure of the contact parts between the body and the bicycle.

These riders often sit in a more upright position than the racing bicycle riders, and thus, a slightly wider seat can end up being more comfortable.

why bicycle seats are small & uncomfortable

Different Seats for Different Types of Ground

The type of bicycle seats available varies depending on the type of ground on which the bicycle moves. Road cyclists and normal cyclists often sit still on the seat of the bicycle.

Mountain bikers ride their bikes on uneven ground and roads, which means that they are most likely to shift positions while riding the bicycle. Mountain bikers need bicycle seats that are durable and have a streamlined shape.

Regular bikes often come with cut-out bicycle seats. Cut-out bicycle seats have a section removed from the middle of the seat that reduces both the weight and pressure of the rider’s body.

Sitting still on the bicycle seats for long periods of time often affects the nerves and reduces the flow of blood. Cut-out bicycle seats help a little in reducing these problems.

Cut-out bicycle seats are helpful for both male and female bicycle riders, and almost all the major bicycle brands offer this type of seat.

Another very helpful tip to help in such situations is to take a short break once every 20 to 25 minutes. Even 20 to 25 seconds out of the bicycle seat can reduce the pressure on the body by a great amount.

Importance of the Right Form, Fit, and Height

Complaints pointing to the bicycle seats can also be caused by other issues of the bicycle, such as the position of the handlebar. The pressure points and contact points between a body and a bicycle can often be a lot more complex than we think. Although the seat has the ability to cause a lot of problems, it is not the main reason always.

Visit the local bicycle shop in your area and ask them to make the necessary measurements and suggest a bicycle accordingly. Try the different sizes and types of saddle and see how they feel and adjust to your bicycle riding position.

Small changes in your riding position can often have a drastic impact on the distribution of weight and pressure of the rider. The horizontal level, height, and distance of the seat from the handlebar are crucial as a lot of factors depend on these.

Each and every measurement of the bike links and influences the remaining measurements. Thus it is essential to find a seat that is:

  • Suitable for the riding style of the bicycle rider
  • Compliments about the shape and position of the rider on the bicycle
  • Measures up to the sit bones of the rider

The best way of finding the right bicycle seat is to visit the local bike shop and try the different types of seats.

Performing Small and Required Adjustments

If you are thinking of repositioning the seat of your bicycle instead of purchasing a new one, then there are a few things that you can do. Adjusting the seat of your bicycle is the key to performing small adjustments on your bicycle. Small changes often result in a big difference, especially when the rider is experiencing a high level of discomfort on the seat.

Sometimes the adjustments can result in a much worse situation than before, and you can easily move back to it if you made only a small adjustment. It is better to keep a proper note of all the adjustments. This will help you to look back and see all the changes and adjustments you have made.

Do Seat Covers Make A Difference?

Although many people do not consider the importance or effect of a seat cover, seat covers have a significant impact on comfort level. One of the most common choices of seat covers is leather or synthetic. Leather seat covers take longer than any other materials to wear and are a popular choice among bicycle riders.

Initially, the leather seat covers are hard but become softer after breaking in and showing character. This is something that the synthetic seat covers fail to do.

Are Cushioned Seats Good For Bicycle Riders?

There are mainly two types of cushioned seats: gel and foam. Both of these seat cushions might not be the best option but are great for initial comfort. Many riders choose a soft cushioned seat in the beginning and move to a harder one later. The riders move to a harder seat when they develop toughness in the muscles and build a tolerance to the sitting discomfort.

The majority of brands offer a good balance by creating seats that come with slight cushioning and are suitable for the long term as well. Seats with gel cushioning are the more popular choice among bicycle riders.

Gel-cushioned seats are not only effective for regular and leisure riders but are also helpful to racing bicycle riders.

Bikers must avoid any type of cushioning that feels too soft or too wide as the comfort can easily get replaced by thigh chafing and aches. Gel-cushioned seats often undergo deformation due to pressure, and the uneven sections of the seat can prove to be highly uncomfortable.

Thus, the majority of the riders often search for seats with a small amount of cushioning instead of maximum cushioning.

Are Cushioned Bike Shorts Worth It?

Many people think that cushioned bike shorts are only for elite and pro-level bicycle riders. Cushioned bike shorts are also recommended for bicycle riders who only spend a few hours on their bicycle seats each week.

The cushioned bike shorts support the padded crotch area, also commonly known as the chamois. The main function of the cushioned shorts is to reduce the vibrations caused by the road, elevate the pressure points, and get rid of the painful and nasty thigh chaffing.

These cushioned bike shorts are often made up of elastic polyurethane fiber, also commonly known as Lycra. The elastic polyurethane fiber sits close to the skin of the rider and prevents rubbing, which in turn prevents chafing.

The key is to have shorts that fit the rider tightly as it prevents the fabric from rolling up, creasing, and wearing against the rider’s thighs. Thus, the majority of riders do not wear anything below the cushioned bike shorts.

Bibbed shorts are often a popular choice among bicycle riders as they reduce pressure from the waistband and put that pressure on the shoulders. The bibbed shorts make the wearing of shorts less restrictive and disregard the chance of the shorts sliding down while cycling.

Although cushioned bike shorts provide comfort to the riders while cycling, riders often replace these shorts regularly, the cause of replacement is that the chamois often compress and become less useful for safety and protection.

While searching for shorts to wear while cycling, it is better to look for shorts that have as few seams as possible. Seams potentially contribute to irritation which is something that nobody wishes to face.

The Right Bicycle Seat

Although riders move their arms and legs to relieve the tension, pressure, and discomfort from the body, it is not that easy when you have a highly uncomfortable seat.

The majority of people who ride a bicycle complain about why bicycle seats are small and uncomfortable. Even though it is not much you can do about the complaints finding the right bicycle seat makes a big difference.

Eliminate a lot of disruption and uncomfortableness by making sure that both the bicycle and the seat match the shape of your body, the style of bicycle riding, and the type of ground.

Finding the right bicycle seat will not cause more than a trip to the local bicycle shop and a few trials of the bicycle seats available.

The bicycle riders who choose to go for a hard and small bicycle seat in the beginning often benefit in the long run compared to those who go for the soft and wide bicycle seats.

Wide vs. Narrow Bicycle Seats: Which is Better?

If you ask questions about whether wide bicycle seats are better than narrow bicycle seats or not, the answer is no. Narrow bicycle seats are small and uncomfortable in comparison to wide bicycle seats, but bicycle seats are not supposed to comfort the riders.

Narrow bicycle seats only support the sit bones of the rider and shift the weight of the rider on the pedals and handlebars, thus reducing the weight and pressure of the body.

Although the wide bicycle seats look appealing and more comforting than the narrow ones, the answer is that they are not better. Wide bicycle seats often cause the thigh of the bicycle rider to rub against the seat, which results in aching, overheating, and nasty and painful chafing.

How Do Females Deal with Bike Seat Pain?

Women cyclists experience and encounter more problems and pain than male cyclists. A recent study shows that 62 percent of women suffer from numbness and swelling due to the seats on the bicycle.

Although there are treatments that help women to get over this pain quickly, many women find this issue embarrassing and hard to discuss.

The main cause behind this bike seat pain in females is the wrong position and wrong selection of the bicycle seat. No one should go through this bike seat pain. Thus, it is necessary to find the right and suitable bicycle seat.

Why are the Mountain Bicycle Seats So Hard?

The seats of the mountain bicycle are hard to make sure the sit bones and the soft tissues are safe and supported. Proper support of the sit bones and the soft tissues ensures the efficiency of pedaling and makes sure that the circulations increase.

This helps to keep the area of the crotch cool by shifting weight to the pedals and handlebar of the bicycle. Hard mountain bicycle seats prevent the compression of nerves in the rider’s body and reduce thigh chafing.

How to Reduce the Bike Seat Pain?

The pain caused by the seats of the bicycles is a pain that each and every cyclist has experienced at least once in their life. Although bike seat pain is a regular problem among both male and female cyclists, it is better to take a few days off the bicycle when the cyclists experience the pain. The break of a few days from the bike will help the cyclist with healing.

How many days will it take to properly heal the bike seat pain depending on the depth of the pain?

If the pain is caught or noticed early, then the healing process will only take a few days. However, if the pain is deep, then the healing process might even take a few weeks to months.

How to Stop the Bicycle Seats from Hurting?

Although it is not possible to stop the bicycle seats from hurting at all, it is possible to reduce the hurt by a significant amount. The bicycle rider must wear clean, washed, and dry bicycle shorts while riding. Sitting around in dirty and damp shorts after finishing cycling must be avoided, and the saddle contact area must be cleaned thoroughly after riding the bicycle.

Do you have any questions or queries or any feedback? Leave a comment in the comment section.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Why are bicycle seats so uncomfortable?

Bicycle seats are designed to support the rider’s sit bones (Ischial Tuberosity) rather than providing a soft cushion for the entire buttocks. This design helps to ensure proper posture, reduce chafing, and enhance pedaling efficiency. While they may seem uncomfortable at first, the right saddle fit and riding form can significantly improve comfort.

2. What is the difference between a bike seat and a saddle?

The term “seat” implies a surface that supports the entire weight of a person, while a “saddle” is designed to support only the sit bones. In cycling, the correct term is “saddle,” reflecting the design’s intention to provide support without carrying the rider’s full weight, allowing for more efficient pedaling.

3. How can I find the right bicycle seat for me?

Finding the right bicycle seat involves considering your riding style, the type of cycling you do, and your body’s anatomy. It’s often helpful to get measured for a saddle at a local bike shop and try out several models to find one that fits your sit bones width and riding preferences.

4. Are cushioned seats or bike shorts better for reducing seat discomfort?

Both cushioned seats and bike shorts can help reduce discomfort, but they serve different purposes. Cushioned seats can provide initial comfort but may not be suitable for long rides. Cushioned bike shorts offer continuous support and chafing protection without compromising the saddle’s firmness needed for effective pedaling. The best approach is a combination of a properly fitted saddle and quality bike shorts.

5. How can I reduce bike seat pain?

To reduce bike seat pain, ensure your saddle fits correctly, adjust your bike to fit your body properly, and wear padded bike shorts. Taking breaks during long rides and gradually increasing ride duration can also help your body adjust. If discomfort persists, consider consulting a professional to reassess your bike fit or explore different saddle types.

6. Why are mountain bike seats so hard?

Mountain bike seats are hard to provide the necessary support for sit bones while minimizing soft tissue compression. This design helps maintain efficient pedaling, increases circulation, and reduces the risk of chafing and nerve compression, especially important on uneven terrain.

7. How long does it take to heal from bike seat pain?

The healing time from bike seat pain varies depending on the severity of the discomfort and the measures taken to address it. Minor soreness may resolve within a few days with proper rest and saddle adjustment, while more severe pain could require weeks or even months if medical treatment is necessary.


In conclusion, while bicycle seat discomfort is a universal experience, understanding the reasons behind saddle design and taking steps to find the right fit can greatly enhance riding comfort and performance. Your detailed exploration of this topic provides valuable guidance for both new and experienced cyclists in addressing one of the most common challenges in cycling.

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