– By Bruce Ketchum –
This is the time of year for many cyclists to reach their top training volumes. For some, though, the added time on the bike can be stressful on the tissues that come in contact with the saddle, often bringing on tenderness and painful sores. If not tended to properly, these sores can even be debilitating, preventing athletes from riding their bikes altogether. Fortunately, the risk of saddle sores can be minimized if a few simple precautions are taken.
Build up slowly and carefully
Increasing your time on the bike slowly and systematically is an obvious measure to reduce the risk of saddle sores. Build your training volume up carefully, remembering to schedule appropriate recovery periods to rest not just your leg muscles but your butt as well.
You get what you pay for. Skimp on the shorts and you won’t get the protection you may need. Ask some of the expert riders in your area what they recommend. You may notice a trend in their recommendations. Experiment with a couple clothing brands that are recommended most. Furthermore, replace those shorts after a season. No matter what the quality, cycling shorts will lose their cushion and get rough.
Use a good seat
It’s important to shop around and make the appropriate investment for a good quality bike seat. Again, get some advice from the top riders in your area. And visit several good bike shops and get their opinions. Find out if they have a good return policy on their bike seats. If you take care removing the packaging and taping the seat rails before using, most dealers won’t have
any problems with you returning a seat that doesn’t fit your bottom. Remember, the most expensive or lightest seats are not necessarily the best choice for comfort.
Start out clean
Always wear clean cycling shorts, making sure they’ve been laundered in appropriate detergent with colour-safe bleach and hot water. Drying your shorts in a dryer will further destroy any offending bacteria that the washer may have missed. To increase the lifespan of garments, many cyclists hand wash their cycle clothes and hang them out to dry. This isn’t recommended. Sure, using a washer and drying is a little harder on your clothing but it’s well worth the expense for that added hygiene and comfort. One good thing about using a dryer is that the chamois in the shorts tends to come out softer and more supple.
Start out cleaner
Not just your clothes but YOU should also start out as clean as possible. Using a fresh, clean cloth and plenty of soap, take a quick, hot shower before your ride to further minimize bacteria on your body. You may even
want to try swabbing yourself with some alcohol to be really aggressive against those little bugs.
Ointments and such…
Some cyclists like to use Vaseline and other lubricants to reduce friction. This may have some effect but you also risk trapping bacteria between the ointment and the skin. If you choose to use lubricating ointment, be sure to clean it all off well immediately after your ride.
If friction is the problem, you might want to try shaving yourself in that area to see if that is of any help. Not to worry, who’s going to see you? Besides, you likely already do your legs. What’s a minute or two more of
careful shaving down in between? The benefit may be striking. Not only are you removing hair that can act like sandpaper between you and your shorts, you also remove hair that can harbor those nasty bacterium.
No waiting around
One of the worst things you can do is sit around after your ride in your dirty, wet shorts. As soon as you finish, get out of your wet clothes and head for the shower. If you are really struggling with saddle sores, I suggest showers instead of baths because the water and dirt flow off you rather than you sitting in it. Again, use a clean cloth and lots of soap, and try to use the hottest water you can handle. A clean cloth is important
for cleaning because it works better at scouring the skin than just your bare hands.
If you know you’re going to be at an event that has no shower facilities, be sure to bring lots of water, soap, wash cloth and towel to clean up at your car or in a public washroom. You don’t want to spend several hours traveling home without washing up down under. That’s a sure way to bring on crotch troubles.
If you have the time and flexibility, you might find it useful to go in the buff for a while after your shower to allow your skin to breath and dry properly. Remember, bacteria like warm, moist areas to propagate. Grab some food and spread (literally!) in front of the TV for a little R&R. Careful, though. You may need to do some quick explaining if your roommate were to walk in on you. Sleeping nude is also a good way to keep yourself dry and aired out, allowing a chance for your tissues to heal up properly. When it is time to get dressed, as you guessed it, make sure you put on fresh, clean underwear and clothing. Like mom said, always wear clean shorts, whether it be on or off your bike.
Taking these steps should minimize the chance of developing saddle sores and may allow you to recover more quickly from any existing infections. If, however, you continue to suffer from sores that don’t heal, see your doctor for help. Your professional healthcare practitioner may prescribe topical medications for your condition and may choose to drain any deep cysts to
speed the healing process. Don’t try this at home without proper medical advice.