Thanks to the pandemic, many people are cycling more or increasing their time on their bikes. As Today.com notes, "There are many potential causes for the bike explosion: The need to work out because gyms had closed, the desire to spend time with family or the decision to commute via bike in order to avoid mass transit are just some of the reasons people have gotten back into cycling."
Dr. Tonya Yanok, one of our fabulous pelvic floor physical therapists, is also an avid cyclist. More and more patients are asking her about bicycle saddles and how to reduce pelvic pain and numbness associated with cycling. So we asked her to join us for a quick Q&A.
What are the common complaints you hear regarding bike seats?
DR. YANOK: Many newer cyclists or people getting back in the saddle (no pun intended) after an extended break will experience sore butts from riding. Often, this basic soreness will diminish over a couple weeks as the person's rear end acclimates to the pressure.
What if the soreness doesn't go away?
DR. YANOK: If you've been riding for a while and the soreness isn't easing, it's time to address the issue, especially if you're experiencing any numbness, tingling, and/or decreased sensation once off the bike.
- Talk to your local bike mechanic shop for a fitting or simple seat adjustment.
- If the adjustments don't seem to help, check in with a physician or pelvic floor physical therapist to make sure there isn't a bigger issue at play.
- If there isn't an underlying medical issue, the next step might be to use a different bike seat, particularly a noseless bike seat (also called a noseless saddle).
Why should people consider noseless bike seats?
DR. YANOK: Bike saddles have come a long way in recent years. For many cyclists, the cutouts and additional cushioning are all they need.
Still, traditional seat designs all have a nose (sometimes referred to as a "horn") that runs underneath a delicate region of the human body called the perineum. The perineum is home to important nerves, blood vessels, and muscles. If you add in any medical conditions or disease, a joy ride can quickly become torture!
This is where a noseless saddle can make a huge difference. A noseless seat is truly the only way to take pressure off those critical sensitive areas and prevent or relieve any symptoms.
What type of noseless bike seats should people consider?
DR. YANOK: Noseless bike seats are still in their infancy, relatively speaking, but their popularity is growing thanks to the recent influx of casual riders.
Currently, I don't promote any one brand or type, as new options are coming out all the time. But here are some steps to take when evaluating your options:
- Visit your local bike shop and ask for their recommendations. What do their employees use? What have they heard from customers?
- Check out articles from cycling enthusiast publications, such as Bicycling.
- Read online product reviews. People aren't shy about sharing their experiences. Don't simply focus on the five-star and one-star reviews. The opinions contained in the two- and three-star reviews can be quite revealing.
Thanks, Dr. Yanok!
Remember, if you have lingering discomfort in the perineum, even after you swap out bike seats, visit your physician or a pelvic floor physical therapist like Dr. Yanok for an evaluation.