Why are Indoor Cycling Bikes So Uncomfortable?

Getting a few rides under your belt will help. Positioning the saddle and handlebars correctly can also make a big...

Getting a few rides under your belt will help. Positioning the saddle and handlebars correctly can also make a big difference to the comfort of your ride, but why are indoor bikes so uncomfortable?

And what can riders do to relieve sore sitz bones, aching coccyx, and chafing?


Why are Indoor Cycling Seats so Uncomfortable?


It's not just indoor cycling bikes that are uncomfortable.

Road bikes are tough on backsides, too. Saddles often get the blame, but before you swap yours out for something wider (or with more padding) it's useful to understand why bicycle seats are shaped the way they are. It could help you find the solution to a more comfortable ride.

And it's worth knowing that for a lot of people, any discomfort often reduces and then disappears with experience. Road cyclists build up stamina the more miles they complete. Indoor cyclists often see a decrease in soreness after the first few classes or rides. If you're just starting, you may just need time to adjust.


Why are Bicycle Seats Shaped the Way They Are?


  • Bicycle seats are actually called saddles but the difference between the two is more than just semantics. Seats bear a person's weight entirely whereas saddles are designed to support a person in a specific position.

    The pointed front of a saddle is called the nose. Its narrow edges prevent a rider's thighs from rubbing against the saddle during pedaling. The rear of the saddle then widens out to support the sitz bones: the two rounded bones extending from the bottom of the pelvis. The rest of a rider's weight is then shared between the handlebars and pedals - a cyclist's two other contact points. 

  • The width and positioning of the sitz bones is important in ensuring a comfortable saddle. Females have wider sitz bones than men so a saddle sold for women will be shorter and wider, but some women prefer to use a male saddle and vice versa. Unfortunately, cycling in an indoor studio often means settling for whichever saddle came with the bike.

  • Bike saddles do vary in size and shape. The most suitable for you will depend on several factors including how much riding you do and over what types of terrain, the distance between your sitz bones, how intensely you intend to pedal, and your gender.

  • Personal preference plays a role, too. No two people have exactly the same build or bum even if indoor bike manufacturers insist otherwise. The perfect saddle for one person won't be ideal for someone else.

  • Firmer and longer saddles are often preferred by those opting for long or intense riding sessions. Wider saddles are often more suited for slower or shorter training sessions. Wide seat exercise bike 

  • But don't assume a wider or padded saddle is better even on indoor bikes. Softer saddles put more pressure on the sensitive soft tissues which can be very uncomfortable so a hard saddle may be better in the long run. It may just be a case of getting used to it. Saddles that are much wider than your sitz bones can be awkward and painful to use. Those that are too narrow can be painful.

  • Outdoor cyclists have an advantage as road bikes can be taken apart and the saddles replaced or readjusted to fit the individual rider. Specialist stores can help with this. Some can even map a rider's sitz bones to ensure a better fit and they may also allow you to try a saddle for a few weeks before committing to buying one.

  • Indoor cyclists can take advantage of this, too, if they have a universal post to swap the saddle out (the Energym RE:GEN does). Gym cyclists and indoor cyclists may have to make do with what brand the class or studio is using.

  • If this sounds like a lot, then don't panic. One of the biggest benefits of the stationary bike is that it's very beginner-friendly and with a low-barrier of entry. Don't worry too much about the saddle as most people can manage a little discomfort whilst they get used to a new training regime. And if you do need to make your indoor bike more comfortable, there are several easy ways of doing it.

woman sitting comfortably on an indoor bike seat

Are Bike Seats Universal? 

Most bike seats are universal. If you remove the seat, then you should see two rails on the bike onto which the seat or saddle attaches. The standard saddle rail is 44mm, and you'll find that most manufacturers make seats to this specification, although we'd encourage you to double-check before purchasing a new seat, because while most saddles are universal there can sometimes be differences between certain models. 

How to Make an Exercise Bike Seat More Comfortable (or Road Bike)


Manufacturers treat us as if we are all the same shape and height so never assume the factory-setting position of the stationary bike will be suitable for you.

  • Adjusting the saddle can help. Try moving it up or down. The information should be in the instruction pack that came with your bike or ask your instructor if you're in a class. One quick way of adjusting it to your height is to stand next to the bike and either raise or lower the saddle so that it's level with your hip. Next, sit on the saddle with the pedal in its furthermost downward or '6 o'clock' position. You should be able to place your foot on it with the leg almost straight but with a slight bend in the knee.

  • Check the angle of your saddle. Too far forward and you'll put too much pressure on your wrists and you'll slide forwards. Too far back and all the soft tissue in your *ahem* delicate area can get tender.

  • Your tailbone shouldn't be touching the seat so adjust accordingly.

  • Position your handlebars either level with or slightly higher than the saddle. Handlebars that are too high put added weight on the sitz bones.

  • Padded shorts can help make indoor bikes more comfortable. You may find this more beneficial than padding the saddle itself. Cycling shorts also reduce chafing and friction by creating a smooth barrier between the skin and saddle. Bib shorts worn by road cyclists can be used in indoor cycling classes or at home but if you're self-conscious, add sports shorts over the top. Just remember that some cycling shorts will only reduce chafing if you're riding commando.

  • Chamois cream is used to reduce chafing. It's popular with road cyclists but can be used by indoor cyclists, too. Add a small amount either directly to the skin or directly onto your cycling shorts.

  • Noseless or no pressure bike seats are available. ZD Net has an article about them in which they refer to a study where noseless saddles were used to reduce the amount of pressure in a very sensitive area for men. The study is worth mentioning just for the title -  'cutting off the nose to save the penis'.  There's also a female-friendly no pressure bike seat which has the central part of the saddle missing. This could also help short-term if you have a trapped nerve or some temporary medical issues. They're not especially attractive as a saddle and some people have reported that they miss having the saddle's nose for control, but if you're really struggling with comfort then it could be worth researching. 
  • The more you ride, the less saddle soreness you should experience. Think of it like breaking in a new pair of shoes. It's something discussed on a lot of forums. You may just need to persevere for a little while.

  • An indoor bike with a universal post means you can change the saddle. Take time to research and test the different saddle types and sizes. Measure your sitz bones to ensure you're buying the right size.

  • Include standing intervals when you ride. This not only relieves some of the pressure on your sitz bones but it also increases blood flow. It's a great way to imitate the hill climbs you'd be doing on a road bike and get a little ab workout as you cycle.

  • You can buy padded seat covers for your at-home bike. Some riders swear by them. It's down to personal choice but padded seats can put more pressure on the soft tissue between the sitz bones. In the short term, it can be a welcome respite. If you've been struggling with discomfort for some time, and have exhausted all other avenues, a padded or gel seat may be worth a shot.

  • The question of mens vs womens bike seats is an interesting one. Women tend to have a wider saddle with a shorter nose. Mens are narrower with a longer nose. The saddles are designed to account for the differences in male and female anatomy. For example, females have a wider pelvis. Some men may prefer a female saddle and some women may prefer to ride a male saddle, but this will be down to personal choice and should be tested thoroughly before purchasing. Unisex saddles are relatively common, especially on rented outdoor bikes or indoor bikes in gyms etc. Choosing between mens vs womens saddles comes down to whether you're confident that your comfort can be accomodated by what's considered average. 


Why are stationary bike saddles so uncomfortable?

· Beginners assume that a saddle is the same as a seat.

· Beginners may not have racked up enough time in the saddle to get used to it.

· Incorrect saddle height, width or angle may put additional pressure on the sitz bones.

· No saddle is universally comfortable. Riders should find the most suitable one for them which may mean swapping one saddle for another.

· Too much friction between the saddle and the leg can create chafing and sores.

· Not enough time standing up and out of the saddle during classes to relieve pressure.

· Women using male saddles and vice versa but also…

· Riders assuming that saddle gender will solve all discomfort issues

· Too little or too much padding for an individual's need.

· Not wearing appropriate clothing

· Not using chamois cream

Indoor cycling bike seats are often uncomfortable when we first start riding them. Fixing that may just be a matter of getting used to it or it can be a process of trial-and-error using the bike's ability to adjust or by purchasing accessories such as clothing or chamois cream. How to make an exercise bike seat more comfortable often comes down to finding your own preferred methods through experience.

If you're experiencing longer-term discomfort, you may need a new saddle. Speaking to a bike specialist can help road cyclists. If you're in a class, talk to your PT or instructor. Your at-home bike may have a removable saddle, so check with the manufacturer. 

If the soreness or pain continues without reasonable explanation, visit a doctor or medical professional to rule out any medical issues.


The Energym RE:GEN is now ready to pre-order for 2023 delivery. It's a smart electricity-generating indoor bike that captures and converts the power from your workout, turning it into clean useable electricity.  And it has a removable saddle, so you can use an indoor bicycle seat that's right for you. 


 Man sitting on an electricity generating indoor bike


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