Bike Riding & Bladder Irritation

Updated April 17, 2017

Bladder irritation--typically a urinary tract infection--is a common complaint among bicycle riders, particularly women. Bladder irritation usually occurs from pressure exerted from an incorrectly sized or positioned saddle (seat) and is typically described as pain, irritation and redness similar to or actually a urinary tract infection. Bladder irritation is easy to correct if a bicycle saddle causes it, but consulting a doctor is always the recommended first step toward healing. According to the Olin Health Center website, most cycling injuries are caused by improper bike fit. And Ben E. Benjamin of Massage Therapy Journal reports that health issues from improper saddle fit cause not only urinary tract--bladder--issues but can also cause genital pain, erectile dysfunction and localised atherosclerosis.

Saddle Cutouts

Many saddles now exist with sex-specific cutouts in the centre of the saddle to increase the bladder comfort of both males and females while riding, but these cutouts are a hot button issue with most cyclists. Saddle cutout comfort comes down to a personal preference and it is recommended to try both saddles with and without cutouts before making a purchase.

Saddle Size

Saddles come in a variety of sizes typically measured in millimetres across the widest part of the saddle. The width of a saddle is aligned to the width of the points on the ischial tuberosity--also know as the sitz bone--as a saddle too thin will cause unnecessary pain and irritation to a cyclist's bladder. Most bicycle shops have tools to measure the sitz bone of a cyclist.

Saddle Fore/Aft Position

Saddles typically have rails under the seat to mount the saddle to the seatpost. The mounting points on the rails usually have roughly 2 inches or less of fore/aft adjustment allowing the saddle position to change in relation to the distance between the saddle and the handlebars. A saddle too far aft will cause the sitz bone to miss the widest point on the saddle and cause irritation of the bladder to occur.

Saddle Tilt

The most important saddle adjustment for bladder irritation is the saddle tilt. A saddle titled even 1mm too high or low may cause unnecessary pain and irritation. Proper saddle tilt is level with ground. Start on a level surface and set a levelling tool on the saddle. The tool should contact the highest points on the front and rear of the hammock shaped saddle. Adjust the saddle to level so the hammock of the saddle cradles the pubis while riding.

Proper Bicycle Fitting

Without proper adjustments a saddle could easily cause pain and irritation to a cyclist's bladder. Because of this, a proper bicycle fitting obtained at a reputable bicycle shop performed by a trained bicycle fit specialist is the best option for most cyclists with bladder trouble. It is still strongly recommended to see a doctor, as even minor bladder irritation caused by bicycling may be a sign of more serious health issues.

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About the Author

Jonathan D. Septer offers more than a decade of professional writing experience and owns/operates Bone Machine Books in Kent, Ohio. A professional bicycle mechanic with more than ten years experience at various Midwestern shops, Septer studied at Kent State University, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in English.