Saddle Sores

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bicycle saddle sores
Bicycle saddle sores – what a pain!

Have you ever set down with friends, trying to explain to them that the reason for your sudden unrest while sitting on the sofa is your yesterday’s bike trip?

Did you know...?

Did you know that if saddle sores are left untreated, they may fester?

If you do not sterilize your sores on a regular basis, they may become infected. Your doctor will then have to drain the abscess of pus and other fluids which is a very painful procedure. Treat your sores regularly using creams and gels containing benzoyl peroxide or erythromycin.

Many cyclists suffer from bicycle saddle sores during and after a long ride. In the bicycle forums you can find many questions about bicycle saddle pain. Take a look at two examples:

"I am a bike rider for a long time, and recently I've decided to expend my riding territory and to challenge myself with longer rides (20 miles and up) on my mountain bike. I have a fitted bicycle and a high-quality Specialized bicycle saddle. Still, after about an hour of bicycling I start to feel uncomfortable on my saddle. This feeling is gradually increasing to an intense pain in my bottom. At this point all I want is that the ride will be over. I would like to know how to solve saddle sores while cycling, and what can I do to prevent bicycle saddle pain on my future rides. Is stopping the ride from time to time can help? Should I replace my saddle or my riding technique?

Thanks "

Or

"Over the past year I suffered from a friction with the seat while riding causing doormat and pain, forcing me to stand up on my bikes, or even to stop biking in order to relieve the pressure. I would like to add that I've replaced my bicycle saddle three times and I still suffer from bicycle saddle sores.

Thanks"

These common questions have many answers in the forums. In this article I will try to summarize most of the information about this painful issue of saddle sores.

What is Bicycle Saddle Sores?

There are two types of saddle sores:

  1. Sore and pain resulting from pressure on the buttocks tissues and bones. While pedaling our thighs and skin that is under your "sit bones" is rubbing against the saddle.
  2. Chafing on your buttocks and in the groin area, especially when biking during hot and humid days.

Bicycle saddle sores have many reasons. Some of them are related to the saddle shape and size, other are related to our bicycle sizing, to our riding technique, or to other reasons.

Possible Causes of Bicycle Saddle Sores

Too Many Hours on the Saddle

Many hours on the saddle without being used to it creates pressure on the buttocks tissues, which results in pain. To prevent this it is recommended to reduce the amount of hours on the saddle. If you are a beginner, it is recommended to start with short rides, and gradually increase your cycling distances. It is also recommended to stop the ride occasionally in order to give your buttocks tissues time to recover. Perform a series of stretches and relaxation while you stop riding. If you prefer to continue riding just stand on the bicycle pedals from time to time for a minute or two. It might help.

An Unfitted Saddle

A Saddle that is too narrow, too wide, too soft, too hard, has unfitted width or unfitted shape can be a real cause for bicycle saddle sores. My advice is simple: Don't save on saddle: Buy the best bicycle seat! It does not mean that you have to take a mortgage to buy a saddle. Stay away from excessively wide saddles or saddles filled with shift able mushy gel, which can move around and may rub your inner thighs. The "best bicycle seat" should be wide enough to support the sit bones.

Your best bicycle seat can only be found through trial and error. Hopefully, your bike shop will have a saddle test-ride program or liberal trade-in policy. See the article about finding the best bicycle seat. Here are some quality bicycle saddles that might help:

Wrong Saddle Height

Set your saddle to the proper height. Saddle that is too high will cause friction as your sit bones will rock over the saddle as you pedal. Just be aware not too set your saddle too low: you will loose some of your pedaling efficiency, and it might also lead to bicycling knee pain.

Wrong Seating Position

If you seat in the front of your saddle there might be too much pressure on your crotch. Take pressure off this sensitive area: sit mostly toward the rear where your sit bones get maximum support. Change your seating position periodically. During climbs move farther back on the saddle. Sit in the middle of the saddle when you are bending low.

Wrong Handlebars Height

Try to lower your handlebars. Handlebars that are too high cause an imbalanced split of your weight load between the saddle and the handlebars. Just make sure not to lower the handlebars too much as it might lead to neck muscle pain.

Improper cycling shorts

Improper cycling shorts may cause chaffing. There are many shorts brands and chamois types. Take the time to find the bicycling shorts that works best.

  • If you're getting sores in the areas of seam-to-skin contact, wear seamless-chamois bike riding shorts.
  • There are bike riding shorts that are designed specifically for the anatomy of woman, as they have a liner with no center seam.
  • If your shorts are even slightly loose they will mess with your skin. Even with tight shorts you might feel some play in the chamois area around your butt.
  • Some are wearing two pair of shorts on bike rides for double the padding.
  • Try to wear bibs instead of regular shorts. They lack of compression around the waist.

Here are some cycling shorts that might help:

Chaffing due Insufficient Lubrication or Poor Hygiene

To avoid this, Lube to reduce friction. Coat your skin and / or chamois bicycling shorts with Vaseline Petroleum Jelly (or any commercial product such as Chamois Butt'r or Bag Balm®) before going for a long ride. Cover under your sit bones, and any place that might rub. Always wear clean shorts for each ride!. If you seem susceptible to saddle sores, you may find it helpful to dry your skin, and then to wash your crotch with antibacterial soap and warm water before lubing up.

For me, the most effective way to prevent chaffing during the ride is to put some type of powder (such as baby powder, gold bond extra strength powder or a layer of assos chamois cream) on my skin down there to dry the area, before I put my shorts on. It works, and feels great! Here are some products that might help:

How to Treat Bicycle Saddle Sores?

You have just returned from a great bicycling trip (they are always great, aren't they?), your adrenaline level is high, but: you suffer from bicycle saddle sores. How can you treat this troublesome pain? It would be great if we would know how to solve saddle sores before it starts. Now, that your have it, there are several things that we can do to ease the pain and to make the recovery time shorter.

Get out of your sweaty shorts as soon as possible after a ride. Before you take a shower, swab the area with a little rubbing alcohol. Then shower or clean up with soap and water. Dry well and put on comfortable loose-fitting clothing that allows your skin to breathe.

After the shower, put anti-bacterial salve or Bag Balm® on the hot spots. Appling Bag Balm® to irritated areas will help heal the superficial wound and prevent it's from getting worse. You can also treat your sores with an acne gel.

Take some time off the bike to help it heal. It's far better to lose one or two days on the bike than risking two weeks of cycling due infection. If you are in the middle of a bicycling tour and you suffer from a bicycle saddle sores you may try using Preparation H. It's not going to help get rid of it, but it will help shrink the swelling and numb it. If a sore is getting out of control, ask your doctor about a course of oral antibiotics. And, as always with bicycling injuries, it is best to consult a doctor. Try to find one that is expert on sports injuries.

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