Why Your Stationary Bike Seat Hurts
If you’ve recently brought home an exercise bike, stationary trainer, or another self-contained bicycle trainer, you’re not alone. At-home cycling was just one of the many unexpected trends that surged ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Led by the explosive popularity of the Peloton, this industry has seen quite an unexpected boom in 2020 and 2021. By August of 2020, sales of indoor exercise bikes of all kinds had almost tripled their 2019 levels. You were lucky to find one if you tried.
But many riders who were new to stationary cycling were in for an unpleasant surprise: that new stationary bike seat hurts your bottom and is not suited for long periods of riding. Especially if you’re used to distance cycling, you might find your new NordicTrack or Peloton to be, well, a real pain in the ass.
There are a few reasons why these indoor bikes are uncomfortable. We talked with longtime cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie to find out just what those are. And, thankfully, he had some tips for improving the stationary bike experience, including how to make your exercise bike seat more comfortable.
You’re Sitting Too Upright
“When you’re on a self-contained, indoor bike like this, you tend to be more upright,” says Coach Darryl. “And because of that, you’ve got more weight on your butt.”
This is true whether you’re using your normal road bike on a stationary trainer or you’re on a self-contained exercise bike. As Darryl puts it, when you're riding outdoors, your natural tendency is to lean forward and “get more aero.” You’re fighting the wind, and you naturally position your body to cut through it.
Indoors, you don’t have the same motivation to lean forward, so many cyclists sit up a bit too much when they’re riding in this situation. Instead, you should lean forward just as you would if you were cycling outdoors. Put more weight on your hands and less on your rear end. If you’re using an exercise bike, you can easily lower the handlebars to make this more comfortable.
You’re Not Giving Your Butt a Rest
One of the nice things about road cycling is that you’ve usually got built-in breaks throughout your ride. You come to traffic stops, you put one or two feet on the ground, and you take your butt off the saddle. This rests your rear and allows you some time to air out and dry off — all things that will lower your chances of saddle sores.
When cycling indoors at home, though, there are no natural breaks. You can keep going for as long as you want, and even when you take a breather, you might just sit straight up on the saddle, pedaling lightly with your arms at your sides while you cool off.
Not only are you not giving your butt a break, but you’re also putting even more weight on the saddle by sitting upright and pedaling lightly. When you ride hard and face resistance from the pedals, that puts pressure on your feet instead of your buttocks.
The solution? Take breaks the right way when you’re cycling at home. Get off the bike and rest your butt like you would if you were on the road.
You’re Using the Wrong Bike Shorts
When you’re cycling at home, you don’t have to worry about other cyclists seeing you or your outfit. You can relax a little in the comfort of cycling solo. That means you might tend to save your older gear for those indoor rides.
But think twice before you use that old, worn-out pair of bike shorts for your stationary training. The chamois (the padding inside the shorts) is probably worn thin and less effective, and you can guess what that means if you ride long enough: saddle sores.
If anything, that nice, new, well-padded pair of shorts is even more important for your indoor ride than your outdoor ones, so make sure you’ve got a few good pairs handy.
Those Stationary Saddles Weren’t Built for Distance
The last — and most important — issue with stationary cycling at home isn’t about you, it’s about the bike. A standard stationary bike seat hurts after extensive use because it just isn’t made for long rides.
“The saddles that come with these bicycles are often not as high quality or don’t have the right design for long-distance riding,” says Coach Darryl.
That’s why we recommend replacing the saddle on your exercise bike with a Selle Anatomica tensioned leather saddle — one that is built for distance. But we don’t want you to take it from us. Take it from longtime Selle Anatomica customer, Ted Silver.
Ted is an experienced long-distance cyclist who has been using our saddles for over 10 years. He is the program coordinator for the country’s only academic minor degree program in bicycling at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, and he’s president of BikeWalkNC, a statewide volunteer bike and pedestrian advocacy organization.
He also trains indoors, and after a recent purchase of a NordicTrack, he decided it wasn’t quite meeting his indoor cycling needs.
“The saddle my NordicTrack Commercial S22i came with was just OK for short rides, but I intended to do some longer rides,” says Ted. “I decided to install my Selle Anatomica saddle, along with Look Keo pedals, to know that I could ride comfortably for as long as I want and know that my butt and feet would be ‘training’ for when I could get back outside."
Ted was so excited about having a matching saddle for his stationary bike that he emailed us pictures of his setup. Looks like he’s got the right idea!
So, if you’ve been trying out cycling at home but haven’t loved it, don’t give up. Once you learn how to make your exercise bike seat more comfortable, we’re confident you can get comfortable and enjoy riding. It may not be the same as riding outdoors, but it can be close.
If you’re planning to replace the saddle on your exercise bike or other self-contained indoor bicycle, check out our saddle adjustments guide so you can make sure you set everything just right.
Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.
Images courtesy of Peloton and Ted Silver