Whenever we think of an exercise bike, the benefits that they offer is accompanied by the drawback of “laziness”. While they can help to keep us healthy and fit, in times like the present pandemic where we are confined to indoor facilities a lot – issues such as discomfort mustn’t arise during use. One of the components of an exercise bike that can leave us uncomfortable is the seat, especially with the longer time period being spent on it. As we look closer, the discomforting factors become much more diverse on exercise seats that are “gender-specific”. Plenty of fixes are available to address these comfort issues, and certainly, you should not be discouraged from exercising regularly.
The way we place ourselves on the seat of an exercise bike, weight distribution is such that most of the strain is focused on our “rear” end. The least weight is being supported by our hands as they are much more focused on retaining balance. Our feet are “taking” more weight, but the naturally designed shock absorbers in our body, or the knees, act as great cushions. This is why our rear end and the saddle become much more crucial.
Tinkering with the seat padding on exercise bikes will address the comfort issue to some extent. While this can be a great fix, sometimes too much padding is not going to be helpful. Even though you may not be able to much regarding the seat once you have made the purchase, if you still have the option – look for a seat that can be adjusted in terms of both height and depth. A saddle that has its height well-adjusted will be at the same horizontal level as your hips as your legs are planted evenly on the floor. On the seat, the perfect saddle height will cause only a “slight” knee bend while the foot is at the bottom stroke of the pedal. The distance from the saddle to the handlebars is another adjustment option. If the seat of your exercise bike is too far away – your lower back and knees will be under additional stress. With the seat too far forward, your riding position is going to be awkward and you may not be able to deliver much power in your pedal strokes. Without the perfect handlebar position, we are creating a means of tension on our bodies.
11 ways you can make your exercise bike seats more comfortable
In the next part of our article, we will look into a few ways that will increase our comfort level on the seat of exercise bikes:
- Install the exercise bike seat: This is where it all begins. Most exercise bikes come with an installation manual that typically details the features of all components, including the saddle. All the necessary information to make the best use out of the seat should be included in this manual. Even if the saddle is replaced, the replacement product is likely to have a similar manual too. So it is crucial to go through the whole thing extensively, either by you or the personnel of the bike shop who is assembling the whole setup.
- Pick the best seat size: Just get the saddle size that will stop you from tiring down sooner or leave you uncomfortable during the rides. Typically smaller seats are a preference since the reduced surface area is better suited to offer comfort on spin bikes. Leather seats, on the other hand, are the source of unwanted friction that results in unwanted swaying. At the end of your ride on a “large” exercise saddle, you are likely to be tired.
- Modify the height of the saddle: The most convenient way to get a saddle height that is more suited to you is to stand beside the bike and make vertical adjustments to the height of the saddle until it is at the same horizontal level as your hip. At this height, when the pedal is at its lowest position – you will see a slight bend in your leg. It is a good idea to avoid exercise bikes that have a fixed seat.
- Adjust the saddle angle: The angle of your exercise bike seat should be level so that it can support the weight of your whole body. This helps to move around more on the seat. Both upward and downward tilts will result in unnecessary pressure points in our body. If you feel like you have to make adjustments – try not to exceed the adjusting angle by 3 degrees.
- Ideal seat-handlebar distance: Ideally, you should set your handlebar and seat apart by the distance of your forearm so that you do not have to lean over too much.
- Use appropriate cycling shorts: To get the best out of an exercise bike saddle, you should be using flying shorts too. They usually have flat seams that couples with crotch-area padding. Also, the fabric that is being used to make such clothing has moisture-wicking properties. This allows you to put in that extra effort during your exercise and still be comfortable and dry. If you do not like “skin tight”, there are other options for you to choose from as well.
- Incorporate padding in the saddle: A convenient way to incorporate padding in the saddle of an exercise bike would be to use a padded seat cover. They will enhance your comfort level. Usually designed with a drawstring so that it adjusts to the size of the seat. Gel seat covers can be instrumental to deal with numbness and pain resulting from longer durations of riding. Seat covers also add extra width to the rear end of the saddle for a better fit.
- Use chamois cream: This lube ensures that while you are on your exercise bike, you experience maximum comfort. This is a lubricant that is water-based and can be inside the shorts you have on. Any part of your body that you feel is on the receiving end of maximum pressure from the seat, chamois can help bring down the friction there.
- Use seat posts with suspensions: The saddle of your exercise bike is seat-post mounted. A source of the discomfort on the saddle of an exercise bike arises due to irregularities and bumps that travel up from the wheels – even when you are cycling indoors this can be an issue. Therefore using a seat post that has a higher ability of flex and damping can mute down any vibrations from traveling up the frame of the exercise bike.
- Take up a good riding position: To keep yourself comfortable, you should be using your pelvis to take up the entirety of the bike saddle. You should be able to engage your core from this position, so bend your elbows a little. Your belly button should brace your abs.
- Take breaks: It is a good idea to take some breaks and not exercise for an extended period of time. This will give both your rear end and the saddle you are using a much-needed break.
Gender-specific comfortable Saddles for exercise bikes
In our body, the pelvis is a set of complex bones that is shaped like a basin and has several functions. While it is detrimental in supporting the upper body weight of a human being in a seated position, it also transfers this weight to the lower body in a standing position. Being the connection point between the muscles in the lower limb and the trunk, the pelvis is also responsible for protecting the organs that reside internally here.
Usually, there are two distinct regions in a pelvis – the girdle and the spine. The girdle is also known as the hip bone and has three separate bones that have been fused: the pubic bone, ischium, and ilium. The pelvic spine is found just underneath the lumbar spine, where the coccyx and sacrum make up this structure here. Sacroiliac joints are formed as the portion of pelvic saline here articulates the posterior through two pelvic bones that have been connected anteriorly. In the chart below, we have tabulated the way pelvic bone in men and women are different from each other.
|Size||Small, narrow with heavy and thick bones||Big and wide, with light and dense bones.|
|Sacrum||Long and narrow||Wide and short with less curvature .|
|Pelvic inlet / superior pelvic aperture||Narrow and heart-shaped||Wide, oval and rounded|
|Ilium||Verical, with a curved iliac Crest More||Not so vertically aligned, where iliac crest is less curved|
|Ischial tuberosity||Long and compact, more laterally projecting.||Short and widely spaced, more medial projection|
|Coccyx||Projected inwards||Straight and flexible|
|Design Purpose||Can support a heavier body, where the muscle structure is stronger||Ideal for bearing a child and give birth|
|Obturator foramen||Has a round profile||Has an oval profile|
|Pelvic bone||Heavy, tall, and thick||Thin and dense|
To summarize the table – in men we find the pelvic bone to be more compact, high, and narrow. One might argue that this structure is much more compatible with bicycle pedals. The architecture of the female pelvis serves a much different purpose.
If your exercise machine has a seat, then irrespective of your gender – all you are looking for from the seat is comfortable. However, the factors that make up the best seat for their exercise machine are rather different. The main differences between men’s and women’s saddles for exercise bikes are:
|Distance between seat and handlebar||More||Less|
|Area of pelvis that needs more padding||Perineum||Lower pubic arch/towards the rear|
|Between nose and rear||Thick||Tapered|
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Why do my sit bones hurt when using an exercise bike?
Ans.: The first thing that comes to our mind whenever we have to identify why the sit bone of an exercise bike user is hurting is to check whether or not the saddle has been “broken in”. With extensive use, more tolerance is built up in our sit bones as they become better conditioned so that the rider stays comfortable always. Any numbness or soreness that we may experience in an exercise bike saddle is due to pressure being exerted on the soft perineum tissues that can be found around the sit bones. An ill-fitting seat can be the cause of this too. When the seat of your exercise bike is too narrow, then maximum body weight will be focused on the tissues found between the bones. On the other hand, if your exercise bike seat has too much padding – it may exert more stress in this area over time.
➥ Read more: Where Should the Sit Bones Be On a Saddle?
Pain on only one sit bone side is common too, which is due to more of the weight being focused on the side where the discomfort is. Sitting squarely on the saddle is rarely seen. Almost everyone sits in a way where either one hip is placed further forward or one hip is off to either the left or right side. The fact the pelvic is static, side-to-side motion on the seat may often translate into diagonals. This results in some degree of discomfort. With the skewed sitting pattern and skew dynamic movement over the saddle – as we try to produce power through our lower body we end up putting more pressure and weight on one side of the sit bone.
Q2. How far back should the bike seat be?
Ans.: The ideal distance between the saddle of an exercise bike and the handlebars is the length of a forearm. This distance is just enough so that we can lean in just a little to engage the core and avoid crunching of the lower back. Know more about the correct height for the bike seats & handlebars.
Q3. What is the best pedal position on an exercise bike?
Ans.: The design of exercise bikes is such to use the machines, your feet’ ball should be placed centrally on the pedals. The heels and ball should be at the same level so that your toes remain compact. As you are strapped on the pedals here, you should move one of your legs to the 6 o’clock position. However, be careful so that your leg is not fully extended. Rather, a 25 to 35-degree bend should be noticed in your knees. Unstrap your feet now, and place your heels on the pedal again. You will notice that now there is a full extension in your legs, and this would be the ideal pedal position on your exercise bike.
Q4. What happens if your saddle height is not correct?
Ans.: If you are using a saddle that is too high, you will observe more sideways swaying as you pedal. This will be accompanied by feelings of fatigue and pain in your lower back too. In this scenario, the backside of your knee will also be stressed – or in some cases, the sharp pain will come up irregularly to the side of the knee. Bring down the height 3mm at a time and check if the swaying feeling still lingers.
On the other hand, with a saddle that is too low – you will find yourself waddling on the seat while your legs are facing outwards. A way-around to this would be to bring up the height with small increments. This should be continued until you notice that while the crank is moving by 360 degrees – your legs and the frame of the bike are parallel through this motion.
So the best way to be comfortable in an exercise bike seat is to identify the problem and look for a means to avoid or address the issue. As you hope to make the best use out of your exercise bike, you will need to spend more time on the bike than out of it. To ensure the best comfort for longer durations of use, you will need to address these knick-knacks earlier.