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FAQ ~ Saddle Sores

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One way to avoid chamois friction
Mario and I go head to head

I'm having a little trouble with saddle sores, is this a common thing, is it "normal", or am I doing something wrong?
Quite a few riders, who will all remain anonymous!

First off, it warms my heart that people are "comfortable enough" with me that we can share such discussions; especially the ladies.

Again, these are non-medical opinions and based on anecdotal evidence, with a little empirical research.

Saddle sores fall in to two camps.  First we have "localized chaffing", more a friction-type affliction; and secondly we have pustules, not nice!  These are caused more by blocked pores and saddle pressure.

First we'll cover chaffing.  Prevention is much better than cure, so lets try and stop it happening in the first place. 

What might be causing it could be slightly rucked, ill fitting, or worn, shorts. There is always going to be movement between bum, short and saddle.  But if it becomes too much, that creates friction which leads to heat, a "burnt" skin layer and, when mixed with sweat, a rash as much as anything else.  Just to clarify, the bum isn't the problem, the main "saddle sore" area is the perineum.

If not "protected" this often turns in to a sore, that becomes inflamed and much more sensitive.  So let's stop that happening.

bib shortsBuy the best quality BIB shorts you can afford.  Shorts without shoulder straps have no place in yours, or anyone else's cycling wardrobe. 

For our team shorts we went for the top quality, Decca pro level items, as worn by the Katusha team.  You don't compromise on this stuff.

Lubricate your "middle soft-tissue" area with something either designed for the job, (chamois cream) which is expensive, or Savlon, which is not. 

Under no circumstances whatsoever, use Vaseline!  It's petroleum based and will eat your sensitive, technical short material alive.

If it's not a chaffing problem, then it gets a little more serious.  Pustules are often pressure sores that have gone wrong!  And obviously, sometimes you have to release the pressure. 

savlonHot shower, sterilized pin, mirror, tissues and a steady nerve.  Don't spend too much time wondering "isn't nature marvelous". 

Just get in, get the job done, get the antiseptic cream (Savoln or Zinc & Castor) on it and get yourself a cup of tea and sit quietly for a while.

Position can also be a problem.  Surprisingly, a lower saddle is more of a problem than a higher one.  Low saddles can cause pressure sores, high saddles can cause friction-chaffing. 

bike fit

It's also possible you could be sitting too far back, or too far forward.  Get your position checked out by someone who knows.

You should be sitting on your sit bones.  They are designed to take the pressure.  You shouldn't be "balanced" on your perineum, which is not.

Saddles are obviously another factor to consider, as there are so many types these days, not all will fit you as you would like.  If you get the chance, ask around, swap around, or check the one you have for deformations.  They do wear out!

The Low Down
Never wear the same (unwashed) shorts two days running.  Shower as soon as you can after getting off the bike, but obviously after you've uploaded Strava. Apply a cream before you go out.

If it gets serious, and you will know when that point comes, get to your doctor and get it sorted.  Saddle sores are not normal, you shouldn't be having them on a regular basis.  The last thing you want is a cyst or boil forming.  So get it sorted.

And be careful of some of the specialist creams.  One of our riders, having never suffered, all of a sudden began to have serious troubles.  When asked "what's changed" they said nothing, absolutely nothing.  Same kit, same bike, same everything.

When pressed, we tracked it down to a new chamois product, as they'd ran out of their usual one.  The new one was very oily, very expensive and was clogging the sensitive pores. 

Changed the product, all sorted in a week.

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