BIKETART FEATURE: PREVENTING AND TREATING SADDLE SORES
After a week of riding and racing in the Pyrenees, I encountered an unexpected level of pain in my undercarriage. Let it be said – this article may be touching on the taboos of both mountain biking and road cycling – but it’s a necessary evil. Saddle Sores and Saddle Rash are debilitating conditions which should never be ignored. From my experience there’s an array of causes for saddle rash and saddle sores, not limited to;
Quality of Kit
Age of Kit
Hours or Days spent in the saddle consecutively
How long the kit stays on after the ride
All of these factors contribute towards a sore undercarriage. Many riders will be quick to blame their saddle but the problem often lies with the habitual routine before or during a ride – or the kit you choose for it.
So, what’s the difference between Saddle Rash and Saddle Sores? I would say there is a fundamental difference between the two. One is easier to treat than the other, and one is a more advanced stage. I will discuss below.
Saddle Rash – Usually a short term irritation localised to the skin in contact with the saddle/chamois. Treated easily with rest and airing – heals faster with creams and ointments. Develops into a Saddle Sore.
Saddle Sore – A more serious, localised irritation which is usually centred into a blister or boil. Requires days or weeks off the bike and is prone to infection. Should never be ignored. Develops from Saddle Rash.
Now that we have these cleared up (ahem), let’s move on to how to prevent and treat saddle rashes and sores.
Proper technique and habitual protection of your undercarriage will usually prevent any of those nasty irritations from happening. However, even the pros (with the highest level of chamois integration) suffer terribly from Saddle Sores and Rashes during grand tours. Now, you aren’t (probably) going to be riding for 3 weeks, 6 hours a day. Even a slight change in atmospheric conditions can test the most sturdy of undercarriages, so let’s follow some general prevention points below;
Apply Chamois Cream to your Chamois and Undercarriage (Sit Bones) – This is an integral part of the preventive process. The more the better in this case, as special lubrication like 2TOM’s Butt Shield aids your sit bones on longer days in the saddle.
Get out of your cycling kit AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after your ride – Bacteria build up and thrive in your sweat and hot conditions so are perfectly suited to your undercarriage. Clean your kit and grab a shower ASAP or bring a change of clothes.
Emulate your conditions – If you’re going to be riding for days in a row, get some miles in before your trip or event and get used to the sort of discomfort you will likely experience!
Buy new cycling shorts or ensure your Chamois is not worn – Depending on the amount of riding you’re doing, a Chamois and short pair should not last more than a Season or Two at a stretch. If you’ve noticed you’re getting sores easily, check for wear and rubbing near your sit bones.
Frequent between standing and sitting – Relieving pressure on your sit bone, particularly on grinding climbs, can do wonders for your Undercarriage.
Check your Bike Position – If you’ve recently started getting pain after a bike fit or change, you may want to reconsider your saddle position. Change the forward/backward position and height until you find a combination that works for you. It can take some time but it really does pay dividends when you have optimum comfort.
Air it out! – Go to sleep (if possible) without clothes on. Air out your rash areas for natural healing to take place. It also soothes really well!
Apply Creams – You needn’t spend a fortune – Nappy Rash creams such as Bepanthen, Savlon and other Anti-septic, Anti-Inflammatory creams work brilliantly. There’s a lot of natural treatments like Tea Tree oil, so see which is best for you.
See a Doctor – If you can’t ride your bike and have identified a Boil or Blister on your undercarriage – see a doctor! Serious injury and infection can occur if SADDLE SORES are not properly treated. SADDLE RASH is usually harmless when treated, and is nothing more than a bit of chafing.
NEVER EVER USE HYDROCORTISONE CREAMS – These creams work incredibly well on other parts of your body for inflammatory conditions, but can cause thinning of the skin when used for over a month a time. Need I explain what happens if your undercarriage skin gets thinner? Always follow the instructions on medicines.
Take some days off – Don’t compromise the rest of your season because you’re desperate to get some rides in. Rest up and heal your undercarriage. A day off today can save 2 weeks off tomorrow!
In summary, basic hygiene and preventing these problems is the best treatment. Get a post ride routine in. Riders will pay a lot of attention to recovery shakes – but don’t think about the physical side of their bodies! Use cream after you shower and ride to build up your skin’s resistance to chafing. It’s easy to feel embarrassed about Chamois Cream and Undercarriage problems, but it happens to the best of riders. Even the World’s best riders have received Cortisone shots to minimise inflammation! You don’t want to get to that stage, so take action now.