Toughen up or butt out?

I just completed a 100km MTB race. Prepped well with good rest and nutrition.
I have been following the LV Gran Fondo plan ( as my A event is a gravel fondo in 3 weeks time)

The first 75km was GREAT; no pains minimal fatigue.
I knew the last 25 I would feel some fatigue so no surprise for me there. But at 90km my sitbones began to feel like I was sitting on nettles and my left foot developed a painful spot right above the cleat.
Both pains were well above an 8/10 and stole my joy, and almost had my bike up for a cheap sale at race end :sweat_smile:
My kisser spent 5 hours kissing that saddle.

So I’m wondering and hoping that those with experience in this area can advise - is my butt likely to “toughen up” with repeat efforts?
Does anybody have experience using 2 pairs of chamois for this problem??

Any tips or suggestions would be appreciated as, if this issue doesn’t improve, it may mean a new sport for me :cry:

How many 4hr plus rides do you have under your belt?

  • Posture on the bike, a good fit.

  • Less padding, not more.

  • Get out of the saddle regularly.

  • Practice.


As JoeX mentioned you get quite used to it. Very important is a good fit.

When I started I couldn‘t bare two hours in the saddle. Now after four hours the posture starts to get a bit uncomfortable.

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Do you do any strength training?

Here is what happens with me: each year on my first very long ride, one of my shoulders and arms gets tired. Everything gets miserable, my body position gets worse, which exacerbates everything.

The other bit I’d do is dial in saddle, saddle position, etc. And try other chamois. Bib shorts are so much aber personal preferences, and many butts have expensive tastes. :grin:

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This is only my second ride of that duration. The previous one was 7.5 hours and on a different saddle (WTB rocket). My present saddle (Specialised power comp) I’ve had for about 3 months or 90 hours of riding. Longest single ride on it (prior to this event) was 3 hours at 65km. Butt felt fine then.

Less padding not more?? I spoke to a mate who suggested ( and uses) 2 chamois for longer rides - although I know this is not popular, he doesn’t suffer the same kick in the ass that I did. But then, he does ride longer and more regularly than me.

“Get out of the saddle regularly” - yes, air on the chair regularly certainly helps.

I appreciate your comments


Well, there is then light at the end of this sphincteric tunnel!

If the butt does toughen with practice, I will hold off the sale of the bike for the moment… Thank you for giving me some hope!


My previous long ride (7.5hts) was on a different chamois and I did not suffer this malady. Thanks for your comment!

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That makes such a big difference. My favorite bib shorts are my 7Mesh, they essentially become “transparent”, as if they weren’t there. The straps are wide, soft and super comfortable.

I’d invest money in finding “your 7Mesh” bib shorts, unless you have already found them. :slight_smile:

Yes. It seems counterintuitive at first, but I think with wide, soft saddles, basically your whole butt may end up becoming numb. That’s very uncomfortable to put it mildly.


It really depends if you are really on your butt (sit bones) or on your perineum.

I would not plan on toughening the perineum…and that’s usually where all the pain comes from.

The perineum was hurting with the previous WTB saddle. This new saddle is 100% fine in that area ( professional bike fitter was right about that) it’s definitely the sit bones this time.

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I think on the positive side, you made it 90% of the way before you experienced the tough situation. That says that perhaps you aren’t far off and maybe a little tweak to the fit, a higher quality bib, some additional standing time, etc, might get you that last 10%. I will say that MTB is tough on you. I think most doing endurance MTB find discomfort at some point in the event. Should it be an 8/10 of pain, no, I don’t think so, but it’s part of what makes endurance events tough.


The foot pain could indicate a fit/position issue. You might consider getting a professional fit - though that isn’t cheap (usually $150-$300+ depending on who’s doing the fit).

How old are the shoes? The saddle?

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You do get used to it to a degree but you also have to spend more time in the saddle.

Butt - better shorts and chamois cream really help with the longer rides. I like Noxema (Chris Horner recommendation). I also switched to Assos shorts and love them. I won’t ride anything else.

My buddy who is a bikepacker / gravel racer switched to a Brooks saddle for his frequent 6-7+ hour rides.

Shoes - I start all my longer rides now with my shoes practically loose. If I don’t my feel swell enough that I’ll have discomfort if I don’t. It took me a long time to figure this out because I could do 90-120 minutes no problem but then in hour 3 my feet would be killing me. If the shoes start off on the loose side then no problem in hour 3+. And loosening the shoes after the pain sets in doesn’t help much.

I have been musing on this after reading earlier replies and I am now tendng to agree with you: the fact that my issues only cropped up 90% of the way in is probably, actually, not as bad a harbinger as I initially thought.
I now plan to:
Measure the chamois on my bib against the saddle / sit position.
Rise more frequently when riding for short butt breathers
Try some chamois cream

both shoes and saddle have never carried me more than 65km before, both are about 3/12 old. So quite new really

I might introduce my bum to the butter…

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Great tip - makes a lot of sense. I will try this - thanks mate!

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Chamois cream will help if the butt pain is from chafing, but won’t do much/anything for a deeper “bone” pain. But, it’s cheap to try, so may as well give it a shot.

Honestly, like you said, I wouldn’t worry too much about it unless it happens on shorter rides. 100km is a pretty long off-road ride by most people’s standards and it takes a few to get your body accustomed to the beating it takes.

If the foot pain returns, I’d start with loosening the shoe, as suggested already. Then, if that doesn’t help, cleat position - possibly move them backwards some. Too far forward puts more pressure on the small bones in the front of the foot/toes. This might require bringing the saddle down a hair, as moving cleats rearward effectively shortens your leg. This is assume the shoe is wide enough - if you have wide feet, you might need to try a wide shoe (though that’s an expensive thing to try, so would be my last resort).

FWIW back in 2015 I went from 40-60 minute workouts in the gym (twice a week) to doing my first 100km ride. Two issues after getting 70-80% thru: my butt hurt and I got hot foot. But now I can ride 8-12 hours a week without issues.

The more I ride, the longer I am able to ride comfortably.


I’ve had both issues in the past. Solved with the right saddle and right pair of shoes.

Saddle: Softer saddle definitely helps for me. Most saddles on high end bike models have minimal padding. The stock saddle on my current MTB was really light, carbon rails, no padding. I switched to a cheaper, heavier mode with more padding. Really requires trial and error to find a saddle that works for you.

Shoes: the one pair of shoes I did have pain with I fixed by moving the cleats more to the inside of the shoe, and leaving the shoe looser while riding (gravel shoe, not MTB; wouldn’t recommend leaving MTB shoe loose :slightly_smiling_face:). This relieved the pressure on the outside of my foot where I was having the pain.