Q: I don't know how people can ride a bike for miles. I get quite sore in the saddle area after a few miles. Do they have special saddles?
A: Saddle soreness is not unusual, and yes, there are different saddles for different purposes, and also one size does not fit everyone.
Let's look at saddles!
When you sit on a chair – which is basically a square seat – your weight is supported by your upper legs as well as your bottom.
However, you can't move your legs up and down to work the pedals on a square seat so the two front corners are cut away to leave a “T” shape, with the tail of the “T” just there to stop you slipping off the weight bearing cross part.
Soreness comes from three areas:
Pressure on your 'sit bones', chafing or friction between your legs and the tail piece, and pressure on the nerves and blood vessels between your legs pressing on the tail piece.
In the early days saddles were of leather which either gradually moulded to your shape, or you just got used to it (a bit like buying new shoes ) but there have been great strides in saddle design.
Modern saddles have built in gel pads to protect your 'sit bones', and also they come in different widths to suit various bone shapes. For example there are now 'women specific' saddles to suit the different width of a lady's pelvis.
To reduce chafing the 'serious' riders wear Lycra shorts. These also have an extra seat pad built in, but the Lycra stays put on the legs and is a bit shiny so that it doesn't chafe. The saddle,too, can have a narrower 'tail' so your legs don't rub against it.
Finally, to avoid or reduce pressure on the 'delicate bits' between the legs modern saddles are made with a groove- like depression down the middle, and in some cases this groove goes right through so there is actually a hole. In warm weather this allows extra ventilation to reduce perspiration and chafing.
It is a mistake to think that a big, wide saddle with plump cushions is going to be more comfortable. It may be just right for short local rides but if you find that it is uncomfortable after a few miles, then it probably isn't for you.
A saddle that actually fits, and has padding in the right places with pressure relief where you need it is the real answer, but you may still have to ride it and get used to it for a short time, just as you would with a pair of new shoes.
A more extensive article on this subject can be found between descriptions of individual products on line at http://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/product-news/the-best-bike-saddles-4525
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