My bike saddle is a pain in the ass. Is there something I can do to alleviate this pain in the posterior? Perhaps there's a La-Z-Boy of the bike world out there to make all my road miles bearable. Andrea Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Trico's Ultra Lounge
So what to do? Certainly, it's worth investigating some different saddle designs. Trico, for instance, makes a saddle called the Ultra Lounge ($40; www.tricosports.com) that is the bicycling equivalent of a Barcalounger. It's wide, plush, and has a gel shock absorber. Plus, a central groove relieves pressure on the sensitive places of either man or woman. The Wilderness Comfort V ($38; www.wtb.com) has a similar wide design and central cutout, and is ideal for the not-so-frequent rider.
You also could go retro, buying a Brooks Team Professional ($140; available at www.nashbar.com). This is an all-leather saddle of a type popular many years ago. But what's old is new again, and lots of folks are finding that the Brooks was one of the most comfortable saddles ever made. That is, once it was broken in. It takes some time and some leather dressing to get a Brooks into good form.
Beyond that, do check your bike fit. Your saddle may be too high, causing you to "reach" for the pedals. Or your handlebars could be high, causing you to ride a bit too upright and allowing gravity to press you into the saddle.
And, because I know there are several readers waiting to pounce on this answer, I'll suggest you might even consider a recumbent bicycle. There's no question in my mind that they're the ticket for people who simply can't get comfortable on a regular bike. But, there are compromises involving price (they tend to be expensive) and performance (arguments to the contrary, I just don't think recumbents are on par with trad bikes over anything more than dead-flat terrain).
For more expert road-cycling know-how, check out the Essential Road Cyclist from Outside's 2004 Buyer's Guide.