Why do mountain bikes have hard seats? (3 Reasons!)

Updated On:

If you’re an avid biker or even a beginner, then you know how addictive mountain biking can be. Not only do you build a toned physique and experience an adrenaline rush, but you also enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way.

The only problem with the sport is how sore your back can be from the hard seats. So, why do mountain bikes have hard seats?

In general, mountain bikes are designed to be firm and durable to withstand cycling on rough terrain and heavy use. Additionally, harder saddles are better for longer rides. They help distribute your weight more evenly and prevent injuries in the lower body.

In this article, I’ll explain what causes mountain bike seats to be hard. I’ll also discuss why such a design is beneficial and how to make the saddles more comfortable. So, stick around for all the details!

What Causes Mountain Bikes to Have Hard Seats?

Hard and comfy mountain bike seats

As you might have guessed, mountain bike seats are stiff due to the materials and construction techniques used to make them. Most saddles have three components: the shell, the rails, and the cover.

The shells create the bike seat’s shape. It typically has a narrow, forward portion, which forms the nose, and a more rounded back part. That structure creates a functional design that perfectly supports the pelvic bones.

Metals and hard plastics combined with synthetic elements, such as nylon or carbon filament, make up the primary materials in shells. The latter offers the same sturdiness as steel without sacrificing too much bike saddle flex.

Additionally, carbon filaments are light, weighing only 20% of steel’s weight. That makes the saddle low in mass, improving the bike’s performance.

Rails are the connection points between the seats and the rest of the bike. They provide backward and forward seat adjustments and support the saddle’s structure. For that reason, rails are made of heavy-duty metals, such as steel, manganese, titanium, or carbon fiber.

Like shells, lightweight options, such as titanium and carbon fibers, are popular rail choices in modern bike seats. However, those sturdy materials also cause the saddles to be hard.

As for the covers, most mountain bikes have minimal padding made of foam, gel, or a combination of both. Topping that layer is an outer cover consisting of vinyl, spandex, or leather. Again, the use of minimal padding makes bike seats stiff.

Why Do Mountain Bikes Have Hard Seats?

From the above, you can see that mountain bike seats’ hard design is intentional to make them durable and lightweight. Why? Because the stiffness helps support the sit bones and maintains a consistent riding position. The latter is crucial for your pelvic bone health.

Additionally, hard seats increase pedaling efficiency. Here’s a detailed explanation of each benefit:

Support Sit Bones

Sit bones are the lower part of the hip bones. They bear most of the torso weight when you sit down. For that reason, most of the saddle’s pressure distribution should be on the sitting bones.

Not only does inadequate saddle support cause pain, but it can cause pelvic floor problems, like urological and erectile dysfunction.

Now, the above explains the importance of saddle ergonomics, but what does it have to do with using hard materials?

You see, stiff bike seats provide better support than soft ones. The latter redistributes some of the pressure to the rest of the pelvis, which can cause poor sitting posture.

In a dynamic position, like cycling, you want the seats to support the lowest arch in the pubic area and put minimal pressure on the anterior perineum, the urinogenital area.

Again, that’s to improve posture and prevent pelvic injuries. Hard bike seats provide those perks, making them better than soft seats.

Increase Pedaling Efficiency

Because of the hard nature of bike seats, cyclists usually resort to a forward riding position to sit comfortably on the saddles.

That leaning position results in more efficient pedaling because it works in tune with the mechanics of the mountain bike’s frame. It allows for even weight distribution on the front and rear wheels as you shift on the seat.

Additionally, hard seats absorb less energy compared to soft saddles. That means most of the energy produced from the leg muscles transfers to the pedals, leaving nothing to waste. As a result, it maximizes your cycling performance and increases your speed.

Durability

As mentioned earlier, hard bike seats are made of highly durable materials but are also lightweight.

Soft bike seats, on the other hand, contain more cushioning, usually made of synthetic materials like foam. Although comfortable, those seats are less durable than the hard ones. So, the cushions won’t stand the wear and tear that comes with long rides on bumpy terrain.

However, that’s not the only reason that makes hard mountain bike seats long-lasting. Remember the leaning position that stiff bike seats help support? Well, it appears that maintaining a constant riding position is essential to the longevity of bike seats.

Generally, three stressors can act on bike saddles: the biker’s weight, road stress, and riding posture. As surprising as this may sound, the rider’s posture causes the most damage to bike seats.

That’s why hard mountain bike seats are more durable than soft saddles since they help you stay in one cycling position.

Why Do My Mountain Bike Seats Feel Uncomfortable?

Three primary reasons can cause your mountain bike’s seat to feel uncomfortable. Those are incorrect seat sizes and setting as well as wrong handlebar positions.

Sure, mountain bike saddles are no cosy sofa. Still, for an experienced biker, sitting on the hard seats shouldn’t be uncomfortable.

If that’s the case, you probably picked the wrong seat size. Improper saddle measurements cause an uneven distribution of pressure, causing discomfort. Aside from size, the saddle’s setting can make all the difference in how comfortable your ride can be.

Use a level and adjust the seat’s angle until you find what works best for you. Additionally, make sure to alter the saddle’s height to avoid lower body issues.

Similarly, inaccurate handlebar positioning causes a sore back due to excessive forward or backward leaning. So, try to adjust the height before taking the bike for a ride.

How Can I Make Mountain Bike Seats Comfortable?

No matter how soft your bike seat is, you can expect discomfort from sitting on a saddle if you’re a beginner. In that case, you simply need to cycle until you get used to mountain bike seats.

Adding a saddle pad is another solution that might help you make the seat more comfortable. It provides an added layer of cushioning and absorbs shocks, making long rides less painful. Alternatively, you can wear padded shorts to protect the pelvic bones and reduce soreness.

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Paul Tuthill
Growing up in Scotland, Paul developed a love for the outdoors and a desire for adventure from an early age.