9 Useful Tips to Prevent (and Treat) Saddle Sores

Jan Poshenko
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What is a Saddle Sore?

A saddle sore is a condition caused by the contact of your saddle against your skin. It causes irritation and can open the skin to the risk of infection. It is caused by moisture pooling. It can be tremendously itchy and uncomfortable.

What Causes Saddle Sores?

There are many things that can cause saddle sores. The two main causes include staying in the same position for too long, and pressure on the saddle flap rubbing against your skin.

The first cause is just as it sounds. When riding, you have to constantly shift positions and make sure that you stay immersed in your saddle.

The second cause is due to two things. A saddle flap is an area behind the saddle that is not covered in padding. This is also where the flap is attached to the saddle at the back.

This can cause rubbing and friction between your skin and the flap. The second problem is that when a saddle is not properly adjusted …

It can shift and lead to pressure in the groin area, which can also cause the saddle flap to rub against your skin.

5 Tips to Prevent Saddle Sore

Bib Choice and Hygiene

If you are planning a multi-day ride with a long day in the saddle each day, it’s a good idea to invest in a good riding bib or two. Bib shorts are designed to keep everything from rubbing, and are made with a comfortable, durable material that is breathable. This will keep you better hydrated, which is always a good thing.

If your saddle sore is a recurring problem, it may be time to find a more forgiving saddle. If your current saddle already has a good padded seat, you may want to consider a bib.

Get A Professional Bike Fit

If you have yet to see a professional bike fitter, you should definitely do so before you spend a lot of money on a bicycle. There are so many bikes for the taking, so why limit your chances at riding bliss? Get a professional to determine if your seat height, saddle, and handlebar fit are right for your body.

Keep Your Seat Height Low

This is probably the best tip for preventing saddle sores. Not only can high seat height cause a large area between the saddle and the bottom of the inseam to be covered by pressure, but also, the higher you are when pedaling, the more force is being used to pull you up a hill and the more calve fatigue you will have.

Keeping your seat height low makes it easier and more enjoyable to ride and eliminates some of the kinetic chain problems that are associated with improper bike fit.

Adjust Your Saddle to Eliminate Hot Spots

If you experience one specific area that is always red and painful after a long ride, you need to make some saddle adjustments. Refer back to tip 1, but also check for relief by tilting the nose upward, backward, or downward. If you can find just the right amount of tilt, you will greatly reduce the pressure on that hot spot.

Saddle Choice

One of the biggest considerations when choosing a saddle is the type of riding you’ll be doing. For example, if you plan to use your saddle to ride your horse in the city, you’ll want to make sure your saddle can handle all the bumps. However, if you’re going to be using it for trail riding, you’ll want a saddle that is designed for comfort on a bumpy terrain.

If you’re buying a used saddle, you need to make sure it’s not too worn out. Saws are notorious for wearing out faster than other parts on a saddle, and if you’re searching for a used saddle to buy, you want to make sure it’s not just sturdy, but in good condition too.

When it comes to saddle height, most people fall into two camps: those who want a low-rise saddle and those who want a high-rise one. A low-rise saddle is lower to the horse’s back and allows for a more flexible seat.

A high-rise saddle, on the other hand, will give you more stability and a more secure hold on the saddle. The right saddle for you will depend on the type of riding you are doing and what you prefer.

Use Chamois Cream

To prevent saddle sores, you should use chamois cream. It may be the best prevention for chafing.

Choose the cream which is free of alcohol. Apply the chamois cream where it counts, both at front and back as the friction is greater in this area.

What is Chamois Cream? Chamois cream is an anti-chafing cream that is made from petroleum. It can be used in all kinds of activities where there is skin-to-skin contact. Whether you are on a bike, motorbike, horse riding or just running, you can surely use this cream to prevent saddle sores.

Increase Distance Gradually

For the past three months I have been consciously increasing my cycling distance to build up to a full 100 mile ultra-endurance race in 2 weeks. I increased the distance as much as I could without causing any setbacks. I’m reviewing the tools and techniques I used. I will be explaining what worked and what didn’t. I hope people find these techniques helpful.

So the first thing I would suggest is to increase your cycling distance gradually. Nothing drastic like forcing yourself to do an extra 100 miles in 1 week. Just add 5-10 miles a week and do it for 2 or 3 months. Find the maximum distance that you can do without causing any setbacks.

4 Tips to Treat Saddle Sore

One of the biggest complaints of cyclists is how uncomfortable the seats are, and the most common place to have saddle sores is on the sit bones. Here are four tips to treat your saddle sores:

Tip 1: Replace your saddle. Most of the time, the saddle is the culprit when you’re dealing with saddle sores. If you’re getting a lot of saddle sores, it’s probably time to replace your seat.

Tip 2: Adjust seat height. If you ride your bike mostly for exercise, you’ll be more likely to have saddle sores if your seat is too high because you’ll be fighting body weight as you pedal. If your seat is too low, you’ll be sitting too far forward and your sit bones will be in constant contact with the seat. Make sure you adjust your seat height so that you’re sitting on your sit bones.

Tip 3: Change the seat. You may find that holes in your seat irritate your sit bones. If you’re cycling every day, you may find that changing the seat helps you get rid of your saddle sores.

Rest Up and Keep the Area Clean

One of the most common causes of saddle area irritation is the friction caused by chamois and other cycling shorts. Bicycle shorts are made of stretchy materials like Lycra, nylon, or polyester, which stay tight against the cyclist’s legs so they don’t get tangled in the bike’s chain. When riding a bike, the shorts tend to rub up against the chamois, pushing and pulling on the body. To prevent or reduce saddle irritation, cyclists should wear cycling shorts made of a softer material and/or wear padded cycling shorts underneath any other shorts they wear on their bikes.

It is important to rest both the saddle area and your body for a day or two once you develop a saddle sore.

The body needs to regenerate and heal from the irritation.

Any pressure on the area needs to be avoided to reduce the risk of further irritation.

Washing the area is an important task to do to prevent infection and to reduce healing time.

Friction caused by fungal irritation can be treated in the exact same way.

Use Anti-bacterial Cream

The best thing you can do to prevent saddle sores is to make sure that you keep your nether limbs clean. A simple but effective way to do this is by cleansing the area with anti-bacterial cream.

A lot of people wrongly assume that this will prevent them from sweating, but that's simply not true.

Any good anti-bacterial cream will have an antimicrobial, but not an antiperspirant effect. That means that it will kill the bacteria on your skin, but it will not prevent sweating itself.

In fact, preventing sweating is actually a really bad idea, because sweating is your body's natural way of keeping itself cool. If you don't sweat, you run the risk of overheating.

Once you have washed with anti-bacterial cream, you should pat your face dry and let your skin air-dry. Do not use a towel, as this can irritate your skin and even spread the bacteria from your legs to your face.

Wear Breathable Underwear

The first step to prevent saddle sores is wearing breathable underwear, preferably made of natural fiber. Synthetic materials tend to stick to moist skin so air doesn’t circulate and create a breeding ground for bacteria. And as you probably know to your chagrin, bacteria causes the worst of saddle sores.

Polyester is one of the worst materials for this specific purpose but is the standard material for underwear, in general, because of its lack of absorbency and resistance to shrinkage. Clothes with a bit more give can help reduce the tension on the saddle area.

Whether synthetic or fabric, the underwear needs to be comfortable, especially on longer rides. Far too many cyclists think that cotton underwear is the only choice because it’s infinitely more comfortable. But because it’s absorbent, cotton creates microclimate conditions where moisture isn’t easily dried. Trapped moisture on one side and friction on the other … voila! A place for saddle sores to grow.

See Your Local GP

If you’re experiencing saddle sores — or if you or your partner has been suffering from them — you may be tempted to turn to the internet for help. Unfortunately, many of the so-called home remedies for saddle sores are doing more harm than good.

Instead of trying to “cure” your saddle sores yourself, see a doctor or a pharmacist. And make sure you take the problem seriously, because it could indicate a major health problem.

Many types of skin infections can result in saddle sores, but can be treated appropriately by a professional. For example, people dealing with diabetes and people with compromised immune systems are more prone to skin infections and these infections can get inside the body via the skin.

In A Nutshell – Prevention is Better than Cure

Saddle sores are most commonly caused by chafing between the thighs. They are generally painful and can be embarrassing, but they are easily prevented and treated.

In a nutshell, here are the main causes of saddle sores:

  • Lack of lubrication on the skin
  • Too much friction
  • Poorly fitting bike shorts
  • Wet weather – saddle sores love sweat
  • Dehydration
  • Long periods in the saddle
  • Diabetes or poor blood supply
  • Vasculitis
  • Inappropriate or change of bike saddle

The best way to treat saddle sores is to prevent them. Here are a few tips to keep your tender parts looking and feeling great!