Here’s our top 10 list for the prevention of saddle sores:
- Bike fit – This is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT measure you can take to prevent saddle sores and general discomfort on the bike. If you are a serious fitness, recreation, or competitive cyclist, you owe it to yourself to pay for a professional fitting session. Inquire at your local bike shop.
- Cycling shorts – There are just a few pieces of equipment in cycling where, relatively speaking, you should spare no expense. Quality bike shorts will have a molded pad in the crotch area made of COOLMAX or similar polyester-based material. This material is designed to wick away moisture, provide cushion, allow for airflow, and prevent chaffing.
- Saddle – A quality bike saddle or seat is of obvious importance when it comes to the comfort of your posterior. Saddles come in a multitude of shapes, sizes, cushion thickness and type, and construction. Since no two pelvises are the same, try out as many saddles as possible before settling on the right one for you. Many shops (including www.competitivecyclist.com) have programs where you can test drive multiple saddles before purchasing. Some manufacturers have models of varying widths that can accommodate your specific pelvis measurements (e.g. Body Geometry by Specialized). You might be surprised to find that the cushiest and widest saddles are often the most uncomfortable.
- Skin – clean and dry is your mantra when not riding. Always try to remove your shorts as soon as possible after riding. Head to the shower as soon as possible too. If you do not have an active sore or chafe, then assure after showering that your crotch is dry before putting on undergarments.
- Undergarments – Between rides, wear lightweight undergarments that allow for maximum airflow and do not promote moisture build-up (cotton is king here).
- Laundry – Do not wear shorts twice without washing them! You’re not cultivating a mushroom farm.
- Unctions and tinctures – Old school riders swear by dousing their most delicate areas with isopropyl alcohol when ramping up early mileage with the thought that this toughens up their skin. If you can withstand the sting, then this will certainly aid in drying your nether regions after a post-ride shower. Beware, it hurts and may not be entirely necessary.
- Inspection – Take a look at your crotch frequently. Look for areas of chaffing, redness, and little bumps. You might be surprised by what you find! Some of these spots can be fairly asymptomatic so you’re only going to know that they are there if you look. Pay close attention to “little bumps” as they can grow into large boils and abscesses. The best remedy for these little bumps or chaffed areas is time off the bike or a decrease in mileage. You can also try a variety of ointments available on the market (e.g. Doc’s All Natural Saddle Sore Ointment).
- Rest – Just as your body needs rest to accommodate a training load, your crotch needs time away from the bike.
- Chamois cream – Either you use it or you don’t. Most people become habitual users once they try it. Chamois creams were initially created to condition chamois pads when they were made out of actual animal hide. These days, a chamois cream is essentially used to decrease friction between a rider’s skin and chamois pad. Some brands use bontanical ingredients to hinder bacterial and fungal growth which are big culprits in non-healing saddle sores. Beware of brands that use mineral oil and silicone as they can breakdown modern chamois pads and clog the airflow properties inherent to the material used in chamois pads.
Prevention is the best avenue to a healthy bottom and many happy miles of riding. What do you do when you get an actual sore? Check back for our next post regarding the treatment of saddle sores.