9 Ways to Avoid Getting a Sore Butt While Riding a Bicycle

One of the biggest complaints I hear from new cyclists is that they get a sore butt from riding a bike. Unfortunately, many new cyclists give up on the joy of cycling before they overcome the pain. Here are nine common and some not so common tricks I use to eliminate the problem.

1. Padded shorts – Padded shorts have become a cycling standard because they work by reducing soreness from cycling. A little bit of padding goes a long way, so don’t overdo a good thing. Your shorts don’t need to be Lycra. There are plenty of baggy padded cycling shorts available. However, tight fitting Lycra shorts don’t bunch up into a wedgie like baggy shorts can.

2. Go Commando – Lose the underwear when wearing cycling shorts. Cycling shorts are designed to be worn without underwear. Wearing underwear only causes problems such as bunching. While Lycra shorts may have a “freeing” feeling that may take a little getting used to, they also have a modesty panel built in so the “freeing” feeling is not also revealing.

3. Get a gender specific saddle – There are saddles designed specifically for men’s and women’s anatomies. Make sure you have a saddle designed to fit your anatomy that helps to relieve pressure where it counts.

4. Get off your butt – You can greatly reduce the beating your butt takes simply by taking your weight off the saddle when riding on rough sections of road or when encountering bumps.

5. Change Positions – Luckily, touring bicycles have drop handle bars that allow you to change your position on the bike easily. In doing so, you are also reducing the pressure on the same points on your butt.

6. Keep riding – Toughen up the tissue around the sit-bones by continuing to ride. Most seasoned cyclists do not experience a sore butt except on very long rides because they have toughened up this area over time.

7. Wax the saddle – This is a secret I’ve used for years but I find many cyclists don’t believe me when I tell them. While it is a common practice for riders with an unpadded leather saddle to wax their saddle, I’ve found that it is just as useful for padded saddles as well. I use spray furniture wax on my saddle. A waxed saddle helps me to easily slide to a new position. Frequently changing my position on the seat helps prevent pain caused by remaining in one spot too long.

8. Massage – It’s always worth a laugh when I tell a new rider to get a butt massage. However, I find that massaging the sore area after my ride eases the inflammation, improves blood flow and reduces the soreness in my butt for me.

9. Reduce tire pressure – While cycling across the United States in 2015, the chip seal road surface throughout most of Texas was a jarring experience not quickly forgotten. To reduce the beating on our bodies at the contact points at the handlebars and saddle, we reduced the air pressure in our tires by several pounds per square inch (PSI). Let your tires absorb some of the beating rather than your butt.  Thankfully,  with today’s tubeless tires you can ride in comfort with much lower tire pressure.

I hope these nine tricks help to get you back in the saddle again.

Ken Whittaker


Bargain (Free) Helmet Cover

A few days ago, I posted that I used to carry a plastic garbage bag as an emergency rain coat.  While I would never recommend a garbage bag as a rain coat, I would, however, recommend a plastic shower cap as a light duty helmet cover.   And the price is right since you can generally score one for free during a stay at a hotel or motel.

Ken Whittaker


Wet Weather Kit

Day 40 Rainy Louisiana

Before I started bike touring, I wouldn’t even consider riding my bike if there was a remote chance of rain.  As a fair weather rider I never fully realized what I needed to keep pedaling comfortably in wet weather.  In retrospect, I cringe to think that I only carried a large garbage bag as an emergency rain coat. 

Inevitably, there will be rain and cold weather. And in many cases you have no other choice but to keep pedaling to reach your destination for the day. So, it pays to be prepared for anything that Mother Nature might throw at you.  Otherwise, you could find yourself in a deadly situation.

While nothing will keep you completely dry in the rain, a good wet weather kit will help to keep you warm, comfortable and protect you from hypothermia.  Hypothermia can occur when you are exposed to cold air, water, wind, or rain.   It is an emergency condition that can quickly lead to unconsciousness and even death. Surprisingly even exposure to water in the 70-80 °F range can lead to hypothermia. Needless to say, cold air, water, wind, or rain can be deadly business, so it pays to be prepared.

My wet weather kit includes:

  • Rain jacket
  • Rain pants
  • Helmet cover
  • Shoe covers
  • Lights and clothing with reflective material to make me more visibility to drivers
  • Dry bag with a complete set of warm dry clothes
  • A dry bag for electronic devices
  • And an emergency blanket

Don’t forget that wet weather can have a serious impact on your bicycle too. My wet weather kit for my bike includes:

  • Saddle cover
  • Fenders
  • Wet lubricant
  • And dry rag

Ken Whittaker


Be Eye-catching Flashy

As cyclists we put ourselves at risk every time we ride.  It seems like we are invisible to drivers sometimes.  I have vehicles pull out and turn in front of me all the time.  I’ve even been struck from behind and I’m sure the driver didn’t see me until I landed on her hood.  Being more visible in traffic is a life saver. 

The best way to make yourself more visible is to add front and back Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) to your gear.  It makes sense that a cyclist with lights is easier to spot than a cyclist without lights.  Lights increase our contrast with the background so we don’t just blend into the environment.  In fact, one study, Safety effects of permanent running lights for bicycles: A controlled experiment – PubMed (nih.gov), shows that bicycles equipped with (DRLs) have a significant (19% lower) reduction in crashes with vehicles as compared with bicycles without.  I’m so convinced of the effectiveness of DRLs that I’ve mounted a set on my helmet so I can direct the light by moving my head as needed by my situation.

If you don’t already have DRLs don’t wait another second, I suggest adding a set of bright high-quality front and back DRLs to your gear today.  Be Eye-catching flashy. It could save your life.

Ken Whittaker


How to Find the Best Bicycle Helmet

I wear a helmet because I believe that a helmet can make the difference between life and death in the event of a crash. When I was hit by car (see My Biggest Challenge) the last thing I remember, just before everything went black, was that my helmet hit the road really hard. While I suffered some very serious injuries, my only head injury was bruising to my face.

Hit by a car days after cycling across America

I’m not saying that just because I wear wear a helmet, you should too. Wearing a helmet is a personal decision. However, if you are in the market for a new bicycle helmet,

you might be surprised to learn that buying the most expensive helmet doesn’t mean you will get the most protection.

A joint project with Virginia Tech and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated 180 bicycle helmets using the STAR evaluation system. They found that while all helmets meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) safety standard, bicycle helmets do not provide the same protection and that price is not a good guide for buying a helmet.

In fact, after review their evaluation of road style helmets, I didn’t see much correlation between the price of a helmet and the protection it provides. The helmets with the top ratings (five stars) range in price from $50 to $325. So before buying a new helmet checkout Bicycle Helmet Ratings and get the best protection you can find, in a style you like, that is within your budget.

Ken Whittaker


Tiny Changes Can Produce Big Results

I know small changes can produce big results sounds like a cliché. But even your choice of socks can help keep you safe when cycling.  For example, the human brain is wired to notice movement and has the ability to recognize rhythmic up-down movements of pedaling. Adding strikingly bright socks to your cycling kit can offer a powerful and low-tech tool for enhancing visibility on the road. Check out the science at An Open-Road Study of the Daytime Conspicuity Benefits of Fluorescent Bicyclist Apparel.

Black Bike with Reflective Sidewall Tires

I make myself as visible as possible with as much Hi-Viz color as I can, including my helmet, gloves and even my special order “Atomic Yellow” bicycle. I also look for clothes and accessories that have reflective material as part of their design. Whether its clothing, tires, panniers, seat bag, etc., reflective material adds an extra layer of visibility in low light that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I don’t have to worry about dead batteries. The sidebar picture of my black bike helps to illustrate how much more visible my bike becomes in low light conditions with reflective sidewall tires.

Ken Whittaker


Dess Boldly Conspicuous

In my post “5 Step Guide on What Clothing to Pack” I talk about how cycling clothing is notoriously functional at keeping a cyclist comfortable. However, your cycling clothes can contribute significantly to increasing your safety on the road too.

Lately, I’ve noticed an alarming fashion trend toward dark cycling clothes. While it may look cool, dark cycling clothes blend into the environment and reduce your visibility to drivers on the road. Recently, I was astonished to see a cyclist wearing camouflage clothing. What was he thinking? I don’t want to sound cruel, but was he trying to win the Darwin Award for contributing to the evolution of humanity by removing his genes from the gene pool?

On the road, dress to be boldly conspicuous. Wear Hi-Viz clothing that stands out and can be well seen from a distance and in low light. That’s why yellow has become the standard worldwide for warning signs. Similarly, wearing Hi-Viz clothing serves as my warning sign to motorists that they are sharing the road with a cyclist.

While this seems like common sense, if in doubt you can find the supporting science here at “The Safety Impact of a Yellow Bicycle Jacket“.

Ken Whittaker


Touring Specific Cycling Shoes

Cycling Touring Shoes

Once while touring in Acadia National Park, I stopped at the top of a waterfall to take in its beauty. It was a wonderful experience until the metal on bottom of my cycling shoe began to slip on the wet rocks. I literally had to throw myself to the ground to keep from going over the waterfall. Since then I’ve switched to SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) clipless pedals and multi-use/touring shoes and I’ve never regretted it.

There is something reassuring about clicking in my pedals and becoming one with the bike. Now, I feel equally confident off the bike. With the SPD cleats recessed in the bottom of the shoe, only the shoe’s tread makes contact with the ground so the shoes are very sure footed and safe for walking.

Another advantage to using SPD multi-use/touring shoes is that they don’t look like cycling shoes so I don’t mind wearing them off the bike. Also, they eliminate the dirty looks from establishment owners for click/clacking across their floors or demands that I remove my cycling shoes while in their establishment.

Ken Whittaker


Cycling During Heat Advisory Warnings


On my ride today my GPS (Garmin Edge 1030) kept giving me a Heat Advisory warning. While cyclists need to take precautions in the heat, some advantages we have during hot weather are that we generate our own cooling breeze and can carry plenty of water. But there are other steps we can take to protect ourselves from hyperthermia:

Ride during the coolest part of the day. – I try to get out early and avoid riding at midday.

Pick a cool and shady route. – If I can, I like to head for my favorite shady rail trail that runs along a river. This route is considerably cooler than riding on the road. If I do overheat, I can always cool off in the river.

Drink plenty of water. – My GPS allows me to set an alarm at the completion of ever mile. I use this alarm as a reminder to take a drink. I never wait until I feel thirsty. I’ve found that if I do, it is too late and I’ve already started to dehydrate. I carry three water bottles and refill them every chance I get so I will not run out of water.

Take frequent breaks. – Since I can’t easily monitor my body temperature, I watch my heart rate very closely in hot weather. If I see it rising for an unknown reason or not returning to an expected rate after heavy exertion, I find a shady spot and take a break until it returns to normal.

Wear cool clothing. – Here cyclists are in luck. For the most part, our clothing is designed to keep us cool. However, I add sandals, sun sleeves and head scarf to my kit to keep me cooler.

Also see my posts Sunscreen 1st and Sunglasses

Ken Whittaker


Sore Butt

One of the biggest complaints I hear from new cyclists is that they get a sore butt from riding a bike. Unfortunately, many new cyclists give up on the joy of cycling before they overcome the pain. Here are nine common and some not so common tricks I use to eliminate the problem.

1. Padded shorts – Padded shorts have become a cycling standard because they work by reducing soreness from cycling. A little bit of padding goes a long way, so don’t overdo a good thing. Your shorts don’t need to be Lycra. There are plenty of baggy padded cycling shorts available. However, tight fitting Lycra shorts don’t bunch up into a wedgie like baggy shorts can.

2. Go Commando – Lose the underwear when wearing cycling shorts. Cycling shorts are designed to be worn without underwear. Wearing underwear only causes problems such as bunching. While Lycra shorts may have a “freeing” feeling that may take a little getting used to, they also have a modesty panel built in so the “freeing” feeling is not also revealing.

3. Get a gender specific saddle – There are saddles designed specifically for men’s and women’s anatomies. Make sure you have a saddle designed to fit your anatomy that helps to relieve pressure where it counts.

4. Get off your butt – You can greatly reduce the beating your butt takes simply by taking your weight off the saddle when riding on rough sections of road or when encountering bumps.

5. Change Positions – Luckily, touring bicycles have drop handle bars that allow you to change your position on the bike easily. In doing so, you are also reducing the pressure on the same points on your butt.

6. Keep riding – Toughen up the tissue around the sit-bones by continuing to ride. Most seasoned cyclists do not experience a sore butt except on very long rides because they have toughened up this area over time.

7. Wax the saddle – This is a secret I’ve used for years but I find many cyclists don’t believe me when I tell them. While it is a common practice for riders with an unpadded leather saddle to wax their saddle, I’ve found that it is just as useful for padded saddles as well. I use spray furniture wax on my saddle. A waxed saddle helps me to easily slide to a new position. Frequently changing my position on the seat helps prevent pain caused by remaining in one spot too long.

8. Massage – It’s always worth a laugh when I tell a new rider to get a butt massage. However, I find that massaging the sore area after my ride eases the inflammation, improves blood flow and reduces the soreness in my butt for me.

9. Reduce tire pressure – While cycling across the United States in 2015, the chip seal road surface throughout most of Texas was a jarring experience not quickly forgotten. To reduce the beating on our bodies at the contact points at the handlebars and saddle, we reduced the air pressure in our tires by several pounds per square inch (PSI). Let your tires absorb some of the beating rather than your butt.

I hope these nine tricks help to get you back in the saddle again.

Ken Whittaker


Updated April 26, 2018