Pain in your butt or groin from cycling is common, even if you’re indoors on a Peloton or Airdyne, or even your DIY bike trainer. A little discomfort your first day may be normal, but if it persists or grows severe, you may need to make some changes to your bike and how you ride it. Here are some things you can try.
Setting up your bike correctly is crucial for a comfortable ride. If you’ve got your own bike at home, dust off the instruction manual and make sure you know how to adjust all the adjustables. You probably know that the seat can move up and down, but most seats can also tilt forward or back, and there may also be a slider to move the seat more toward the handlebars or the back wheel. (If you’re taking an in-person spin class, show up early and ask the instructor to make sure you have everything set just right.)
That seat angle can make a huge difference—level is good, but I like to point the nose just a smidge toward the ground—and you may find adjusting it takes some of the pressure off. Depending on your bike and your anatomy, you may even prefer a backward tilt, so experiment until you find what’s most comfortable for you.
Don’t stop with the seat. Ideally your weight should be evenly distributed between the handles, the pedals, and the seat, so don’t forget that adjusting other parts of the bike—like the handlebar position—can end up relieving pressure on your seat.
Cycling classes often invite you to stand up on the pedals, usually during higher intensity parts of the ride. If you’re not up for that, fitness-wise, that’s fine—but do make sure you get your butt off the seat at least a few times every ride, even if it’s just for a few seconds.
Some shorts and underwear have seams in uncomfortable places, and you might not notice until it’s too late. Experiment with seamless garments or even going commando, and remember that snug-fitting, mid-thigh-length shorts are called bike shorts for a reason—they’re the ideal style to wear when you’re cycling.
Cyclists often wear padded shorts, a good choice if you’ll be in the saddle for hours on end. Just remember that padded shorts are to be used in addition to adjusting your bike and all of these the other tips, not as an alternative.
Now we get to the obvious answer—you want a thick, cushy saddle, right? Actually, that’s not a given. Cyclists know that the faster you want to go and the more aerodynamic your bike, the thinner and harder a saddle you’ll want. Softer saddles make sense if you ride slower and sit more upright.
Extra padding can also backfire a little. On a hard saddle, the pressure is just on your seat bones (the ischial tuberosities of your pelvis). But in a squishy saddle, you’ll end up with pressure all over the soft tissues of your nether regions. So if you’ve been buying thicker and thicker seat pads and they never seem to help, try a firmer seat and see if it is actually more comfortable once it’s properly adjusted.
The width of the saddle is also important. For the best fit, measure the difference between your seat bones and choose a saddle that matches. A too-narrow saddle will put pressure on your soft tissues; a too-wide one can chafe your thighs. Another bonus in picking out the right seat: Some saddles come with a cutout in the middle, which can relieve pressure on the area between your seat bones.