You’ve been ramping up your miles, training for a big event or logging some epic rides. But now you’re avoiding getting back in the saddle because you’re in pain. It’s not your quads that are screaming, or a dehydration headache, its a painful little saddle sore on your bum.
Saddle sores (and other issues “down there”) are common among female cyclists and yet are seldom talked about. Here are some tips on healing them, and how to avoid getting them in the future.
But First, What Is A Saddle Sore And What Causes Them?
A saddle sore is a (you guessed it) a small sore on your bum, crotch, or the insides of your thighs. It’s usually raised and red, pink, or purple. It looks a bit like a pimple, and may or may not have a head.
Saddle sores are caused by friction, pressure, and bacteria. In other words, some combination of your saddle and chamois are causing you major irritation.
Prevent Saddle Sores
Here’s what you can do to keep saddle sores from forming in the first place.
Change Out Of Your Shorts ASAP
As soon as your ride is done, even before you’ve popped that post-ride brew in the parking lot, take off your bike shorts and put on something dry. The moisture helps breed saddle sores as well as other nasty bacteria that can cause yeast infections. If it’s going to be a while before you can take a shower, wipe down with a couple of baby wipes as well.
Try A New Saddle (Or Change It’s Position)
If you are getting persistent saddle sores, your saddle is the most likely culprit. Try a new saddle–one that’s the appropriate width for your sit bones and isn’t too hard or too soft. For more help, read our article on picking good saddle.
We see a lot of women who opt for one of those big padded saddles. While this might help initially with bruising, it can actually make matters worse. A saddle that is overly padded is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to saddle sores.
If you ride A LOT and are putting in multiple big days in a row on the bike, you may also want to consider having two saddles you can swap between. This slight change to your pressure points and where the saddle makes contact can help relieve consistent chafing in the same spot.
Finally, make sure that your saddle is positioned properly. If you’re saddle is too high, or tilted to far forward or backward, the angle could be causing the probelm.
Get A Good Chamois
Similarly, chronic saddle sores could be due to your chamois. If you are riding with a thick one, try a thinner chamois. Or vice versa. I have a friend who gave up riding with a chamois altogether and managed to get rid of her saddle sores that way. Unfortunately, this requires a bit of trial and error since everybody is different.
Make Sure To Wash Your Shorts Between Rides
This may seem obvious, but if you’re lazy about laundry (don’t worry I am too), remember to wash your shorts between each ride. Otherwise, bacteria can build up in your shorts and cause infections, rashes, and yes, saddle sores.
I like having as many pairs of shorts as I generally wear in a week. Yes, it’s expensive to do that, but I’m never caught without a pair of clean shorts.
Slather On The Chamois Cream
Chamois cream can help reduce the friction between your bum and the saddle. Use a peanut-size amount of cream, and make sure to target the areas where you are prone to saddle sores.
Adjust Your Position On The Bike
While you ride, focus on shifting your weight every so often. You can spend a few minutes standing and climbing out of the saddle. Or, slide backward or forward on your saddle to change the pressure points.
Use A Glide Gel
If you’re getting saddle sores or chafing on the inside of the thighs, you can try a glide gel. (We like Lanacane*). Similar to a chamois cream, this provides an extra barrier between your skin and your saddle.
Healing Saddle Sores
Already have a saddle sore? Here’s what to do next.
Put On Some Calamine Lotion
On the way home from your next ride, stop at Walgreen’s for a bottle of the pink stuff. Calamine lotion is always my go-to remedy for drying out saddle sores that just won’t drain. Slather some on before bed, and chances are your sore will be doing significantly better in the morning.
Take A Bath
Draw a hot bath and throw in ½ cup of Epsom salts. Not only will the warm water and salt be good for your tired muscles, they will also help to heal your bottom side.
Use A Warm Compress
If you have a saddle sore that seems like it needs to drain, try using a warm compress.
Sleep In The Buff
Make sure that you are giving your saddle sore plenty of air. This might mean chilling at home in the nude, or sleeping sans pajamas. Your significant other can thank us later.
Take A Few Days Off The Bike
Although its probably not what you want to hear, sometimes the best thing you can do for a saddle sore is to take a few days off of the bike. Use the time for recovery or for some cross-training like running or weights. If you absolutely can’t afford the time of the bicycle, then swap out bikes or saddles so that the pressure points are different.
Go To The Doctor
If you have a recurring sore, or it is getting infected–you might want to consider taking a trip to the doctor. You should always seek medical attention if the sore is accompanied by a fever, chills, or pus.
2 thoughts on “How to Heal (and Prevent) Cycling Saddle Sores”
This is so helpful! I started cycling about 1 year and a half ago, and I started developing very frequent UTI’s and Infections. My doctor said it was due to cycling. About four weeks ago I went for a 30mile bike ride, I was hurting so much in my genitalia, I knew it was due to the ride. I spent about 2 weeks trying to heal on my own, but I was not improving at all, so I went to the OBGYN. She discovered I had developed a cyst and had to get it out right there surgically, it was very painful and very uncomfortable to move for the next 5 days. I decided to dig in the internet, because nobody talks about it on my running club or cycling club. I asked an experienced friend about discomfort in the genital area, and she said I was going to get used to. After reading your article, I know better now about things I can do! I am so excited to learn I can try new things to avoid getting saddle sores!
Hi there. Your site is great. I’m about to embark on a long cycling trip and appreciate the real advice. One comment—Can you not recommend Walgreens for supplies like calamine lotion? They won’t back down around women’s reproductive freedom. I won’t shop there and want to encourage businesses to NOT promote them.