My Butt Hurts

I can't tell you how many customers at the bike shop, or people I met while cycling across the country, have come up to me with their eyes averted and embarassed grins stretched across their faces. I know what they're going to say before they even open their mouths. "I'd ride my bike more often, but... it hurts".

Oh, boy.  Don't I know it.

The good news is, it doesn't have to.  At least, not all the time.  If you haven't ridden a bicycle in a while, there is an initial period of "breaking your butt in", which is just as torturous as it sounds.  You've got to hop on your bike every day, even if it hurts, and ride for fifteen minutes. This tells the tissues that are getting mashed between your sitz bones and the seat to toughen up. It will feel like the cruelest kind of masochism, but after a week your butt won't feel bruised anymore.  Those tissues just need a chance to adapt to what you're asking of them.

If you "break yourself in" for a week and your bottom still hurts, it's probably because there is something wrong with the seat (also called the saddle).  Everyone has a unique body, with differently-shaped booties and  differently-spaced pelvic bones. The best way to find out what's going on is to bring your bicycle into your local bike shop. The fix might be as simple as tilting the seat up or down, or you might need to get a new saddle that fits your gender/age/style of riding better. The bike shop personnel will be only too happy to assist you, and there's no need to be embarrassed: they've been there. 

A commemorative sketch of the bike seat I will never forget... though I wish I could.

A commemorative sketch of the bike seat I will never forget... though I wish I could.


I rode 5,000 miles on the seat pictured above.  On long days it was so torturous that I often had to quit riding.  It was the limiting factor that I hadn't anticipated.  I knew my legs would grow tired and my hands might cramp up on the handlebars, but I hadn't guessed that my booty would be the body part to scream the loudest, "GET OFF THE BIKE ALREADY".

When I finished the cross-country tour, I shopped around at various bike shops and discovered that I'd been riding on a bad seat.  It was old, it was designed for men, and it had lost its supportive integrity.  I treated myself to a brand-spankin-new women's saddle from the brand Terry, and have never regretted it. 

Life's too short to be in agony.  So if you want to ride your bike more, but the mere sight of your bike seat sends you into PTSD, it's time to head to your local bike shop, shuffle shyly up to the counter, and utter those three little words, "My butt hurts".