How to Treat and Prevent Saddle Sores?

It’s common for many cyclists to suffer from saddle sores after an extended period of riding sessions. Even the most prepared riders, say a triathlete, can experience the side-effects of long-duration cycling as the nether regions, irrespective of how well-protected, are continuously subjected to moisture, chafing, heat, and pressure.

Saddle sores can be quite an irritating thing, but there are some things you can do to prevent them.

What is a Saddle Sore?

In a nutshell, a saddle sore is a skin irritation condition that usually occurs in the body area that has the most contact with the saddle. This irritation develops as a result of sweating and chafing.

Newer cyclists who aren’t accustomed to riding are most susceptible to saddle sores as their body isn’t familiar with the constant pressure, friction, and rubbing that occurs due to hours of sitting on a saddle.

A telltale sign of a saddle sore is a raised, pink, or red tender spots in the body area that rubs your saddle.

Basically, a saddle sore can take the form of ingrown hair around the hair follicles or a pimple as it’s fundamentally similar to those medical conditions—a bacteria-filled pore. Unlike ingrown hair though, a saddle sore will take more than a hair removal session.

If you thought the pimples on your face or the ingrown hair on the armpit hair follicle area were annoying, wait till you get a saddle sore in the most sensitive regions of your body. Yes, we’re talking about the crotch and thigh areas.

During such occasions, it can get damn near impossible to ride on a bike. If left untreated, expect to get a severe infection.

That means you won’t be able to ride for a long time! Now, you wouldn’t want that, would you?

The good news though is that there are ways you can treat and avoid saddle sore. First, let’s talk about some of the preventative ways as prevention is always better than cure.

Tips to Prevent/Avoid Saddle Sores

1. Choose good bib shorts

It is imperative for you to sport bib shorts that come fitted with a chamois. Chamois is essentially a pad that is sewn into cycling bib shorts to provide cushioning foam for the rider’s comfort.

Additionally, a chamois pad also features properties capable of wicking moisture.

However, bear in mind that the way chamois is integrated into bib shorts differs from one bib to another. So, you may have to try out different bib shorts to discover one that fits you best.

In essence, you’ll be looking for shorts that don’t rub you the wrong way.

2. Seek professional help from bike stores

Having a professional look at your bike fit can make the world of difference.

An expert can identify areas that need some tweaks in an instant and help make sure your seat height is correct. They can also see if the saddle fits you well and is of the correct height, and also check the fore-aft and tilt.

The professional can even suggest some handlebar position adjustments to provide relief to the pressure points and your sit bones. Even small riding position adjustments can do you a world of good.

3. Pick the right saddle

Choosing the right saddle is of paramount importance to avoid saddle sore.

To find the right one and settle the issue, you’ll have to do a little “trial and error” as every person is shaped differently. So, a saddle that works for your best friend may not work for you.

One good thing to remember though is to opt for a level saddle. Don’t make the mistake of going for the lightest saddle around.

You may think that the light weight will help improve your performance, but if it comes at the cost of comfort, how far do you think you can ride uncomfortably? In a bid to shave off weight, lightweight saddles aren’t given enough padding.

At the same time, don’t go for the biggest, most padded saddle either. Just keep your focus on the shape of the saddle and how it fits your body (sit bones)—that is key.

4. Use chamois cream

One product that can help a lot is chamois cream. Not only can it instantly kill off the bacteria that causes skin inflammation, but it also doubles up as a lubricant to protect your skin from the constant rubbing and friction.

5. Don’t forget good hygiene

You can help reduce your chances of getting a skin bacteria infection if you wear clean shorts all the time. Don’t use your shorts two days in a row even for a light bike ride.

Also, after your riding sessions, head to the shower immediately and dry yourself properly before wearing your usual outfit. The cycling shorts must be cleaned after each bike riding session and they must be fully dry before you wear them again.

6. Travel small distances

It isn’t possible for you to run a marathon without proper preparation.

Similarly, don’t aim for long-distance cycling unless you’ve trained for it. If you shoot for the stars from the get-go, your body will not be accustomed to your saddle.

Also, understand that saddles, like shoes, need time to break in. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to travel small distances repeatedly for a while before you set a more difficult goal. 

Ways to Treat Saddle Sores

1. Rest and clean up well

If the sores get painful, either decrease your ride volume or give your body a complete rest to treat the sores. Getting on the saddle despite the sore can be counterproductive and prolong the healing process.

Also, keep the area affected by the soreness clean at all times; repeated washes can be beneficial. 

2. Apply anti-bacterial lotion

When left untreated, saddle sores can result in severe infections.

At the first sight of a sore, apply antibacterial cream on the affected area. Doing so will expedite the recovery process and prevent the sore from progressing into a severe skin infection.

3. Wear breathable underwear

It’s also possible for you to ease the pain and quicken the recovery process by sporting breathable underwear.

Loose, breathable underwear will ensure further stress isn’t dumped on the irritated skin. By allowing your skin to breathe a little, you help it heal faster.

4. Visit your medical doctor (GP)

If the pain becomes unbearable and you don’t see much healing progress, it may be best for you to visit your local general practitioner. The medical expert will be able to identify the severity of the soreness, offer expert advice on treatment, and also prescribe creams that’ll help you heal faster.

Remember that treating saddle sore is common territory for doctors. So, there’s no reason for you to feel embarrassed to treat saddle sores.

Conclusion

Why would you want to put yourself through the pain when there are things you can do to avoid saddle sores and substantially minimize its severity? Isn’t it always better to be safe than sorry?

As long as you wear the right cycling shorts with chamois pads, get the right road bike fit, travel small distances initially, shield your skin with a layer of protective cream, and keep your hygiene routine on point, you’ll never have to experience saddle sores that can keep you off your bike.

As responsible cyclists, please do help spread the tips around. These tips are useful for both men and women riders.