Saddle sores are annoying and painful. Even though they might seem small and insignificant, they can turn really nasty, keeping you off the bike for days and sometimes weeks at a time.
I’ve had my fair share of them and thus have found a few tips helpful in stopping them reoccurring.
As we move into winter and prepare for the dreaded combination of long rides and bad weather, here are some preventative measures you can take to stop you getting saddle sores.
1. FIT OF YOUR SHORTS
One of the main reasons a lot of cyclists get saddle sores is because of badly fitting shorts. Those that are too big will bunch up, often around the groin area, and this can cause ripples in the fabric. These ripples and bunched-up fabric will then chafe in areas that are often damp and delicate, causing little sores that can become infected.
Never get shorts that are too big that you have to pull them up to get the correct length on the leg, or shorts too small that they ride up when you’re pedalling. This is perhaps the biggest step you can make towards never getting saddle sores, trust me!
2. CHAMOIS CREAM
Another way that saddle sores occur is through the pad rubbing against the body when you’re moving about on the saddle. The trick here is to reduce chafing by minimising the friction generated between you and the chamois or pad.
Chamois cream like this one from Assos is THE best way and product I’ve found to help with this. Not only does it lubricate the pad when applied liberally, but it also has antibacterial properties which stop infections if some minor chafing does occur.
All you need to do is take a scoop of cream and apply it directly to the pad of your shorts. It’s not a great feeling when you first put the shorts on, but it sure beats days of discomfort.
3. CHOOSING A SADDLE
Saddle sores can appear because your saddle’s shape is not well suited to your body and doesn’t fit you right. If your chosen saddle is too wide, too narrow or just has the wrong form factor for you, it can create pressure points that can cause excessive rubbing.
This one can be tricky to figure out, since it’s hard to use a saddle for a number of rides without buying it first. The best thing to do is to stick with a saddle you know works for you once you discover one. Especially on long rides, comfort should always going to outweigh style or a few extra grams.
If you are experimenting with saddles, keep the rides short and close to home, since it’s not always immediately apparent whether a saddle is going to be a good fit or not.
4. SADDLE POSITION
Another issue with getting saddles to fit is the positioning of them atop the seatpost. You may have found a saddle that has the right shape for you, but if it’s angled wrong or not set straight in the bike, it still won’t be much good.
A good way to test what angle works best is to start off with a baseline setting, where the saddle is perfectly horizontal. Give that a try (again close to home) and make small, incremental adjustments up or down depending on how things feel. You’ll find out fairly quickly what feels good and natural, and what doesn’t.
Also experiment with how far forward or backward you want the saddle to be, and always make sure the saddle and seatpost are perfectly straight when secured in the frame.
Finally, saddle sores occur most in extreme conditions, where shorts can become damp because of sweat on hot days and due to rain and spray in cold, wet weather. For the latter, your best friend is going to be some kind of mudguard.
They’re not the prettiest accessory and they can be a bit cumbersome, but on the worst of days they can really help minimise the likelihood of chafing, especially on roads and trails that are gritty.
I’ve got to say, I don’t use mudguards all that often and by obeying the first four tips here, you’ll be well on your way to avoiding saddle sores. However, if the approaching winter is anything like last year, I’ll definitely be putting some on.
What are your best saddle sore avoidance tips?
Let me know in the comments below.