Saddle discomfort is a common problem among female cyclists, and it can be incredibly off-putting. Finding the perfect saddle takes a little research and some trial and error - but the saddle angle can be just as important.
You could have the dream saddle, but if it's pointing up or downwards, you might experience problems. Issues caused by an overzealous saddle tilt can range from soft tissue discomfort, to wrist, knee and lower back pain.
Unless your saddle is at an extreme angle - making it almost impossible for you to ride without slipping and sliding either forward or back - you may not realise that your saddle angle is out either.
Before we go on, it's important to remember that many 'niggles' could have multiple causes - we've discussed the most common issues here. If you're suffering from a reoccurring pain or injury that's stopping you from riding, we would recommend you book in for a bike fit to get the the bottom of the issue. This said, saddle angle is a common cause of discomfort that can be easily fixed, so here's a look at what could be wrong...
Problem: Saddle nose tilted down
Symptoms: A saddle angled downwards can cause knee pain and sore wrists and forearms.
When the nose of your saddle is lower than the back, the tilt can cause problems. With the nose slanted forwards, your pelvis tilts meaning your hips will slide to the front of the saddle.
Being forced to the nose of the saddle while pedalling can cause knee pain (though there are of course other potential causes). The forward position means you exert more pressure on the pedals to compensate for not having the correct weight on the saddle.
Sliding forward also means you’re sat on the narrowest section. With so little support; pressure builds, causing numbness around your delicate parts.
If you have pain in your hands and forearms, it could be that you are applying too much pressure on your handlebars. This is most likely the result of being pushed forward on your saddle. You’re compensating for the discomfort of sitting on the narrow section by taking the weight through your arms and hands.
Problem: Saddle nose tilted upwards
Symptoms: Pain in your lower back, pain in the neck and soft tissue discomfort
If sliding off the front of your saddle was bad enough, having the nose pointing skywards can cause just as many problems.
The rear of the saddle is where your bottom will rest if the nose is in the air, as the sloping will have pushed you backwards. The tilt means your pelvis is angled backwards, so all of the pressure of sitting on the saddle will be focused on your lower back, causing great discomfort.
As you’re perched on the back, clinging on for dear life, you may also be overreaching to grab the handlebars. This stretched position can lead to some cricked necks and shoulder pain, so take care.
Saddle adjusted correctly?
Your saddle should be at a neutral angle, so you’re sitting on the middle portion, not sliding forwards on the nose or backwards off the rear of the saddle. The best way to achieve this is to use a spirit level. If you don’t have one lying around, find a broom and use the length of the handle to exaggerate the slant of your saddle.
When it comes to making your adjustments, you're aiming for a flat saddle. However, it's worth noting that some women do feel more comfortable if the nose is ever so slightly slanted down. It's ok to allow a very slight tilt, but if you find you're tipping the nose right down to achieve comfort, you probably need to find a different saddle that's more suited to you.
Remember that changing the angle of the saddle could affect the height. Refresh yourself on how to set saddle height with our guide. If you're suffering from repeated niggles, then book yourself in for a bike fit with a professional.
How to adjust your saddle angle
For this task, you will need an allen key, usually a 5mm, found on most multi-tools. There are a number of variations on the type of clamps used to hold the saddle in place. It can be a fiddly task to negotiate round the saddle rails, so take your time.
Your saddle will move forward and backwards as you are working on the angle - so take a photo before you get started so you know how far forward the rails were positioned.
We've got a detailed guide on adjusting your saddle height and angle here - or you can watch the video below....
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