How To: Treat Saddle Sores

They're such a pain in the bum...

As much as we love getting out on our bikes and logging the miles,we definitely do not love some of the more uncomfortable truths that surround cycling. When it comes to riding your bike though, you have to take the good with the bad, sores, warts and all…

Saddle sores are more common than you may think, and why is this? Because not all cyclists will talk about them. Both men and women suffer from them in equal measures, but just like any other cycling related ailment, everyone can suffer differently.

Fear not. We’re here to hold your hand – or your bum – and waddle you through saddle sores. Everything from what they are, how you can prevent them, to the best ways to treat them.

What are saddle sores?

Pressure mapping across saddle styles

Saddle sores are quite hard to define medically because they do vary in nature. One thing we can all agree on, is that they are an irritation in the groin area from riding a bicycle. They are caused by a nasty recipe of heat, pressure and friction whilst riding your bike.

Sores mostly appear around the uppermost inner thighs, the “taint,” and that transitional ridge where leg becomes bottom. They can materialise as hard painful lumps, fluid filled cysts or even abrasions, a little like friction burn. The most common form of a saddle sore is likened to that of an infected hair follicle.

Because they can manifest in a variety of ways, there’s no exact science for treatment or prevention. It comes down to what your own symptoms are. However, there are some things which everyone can do to help prevent them.

How to prevent saddle sores

Whatever your saddle sore symptoms may be, there are a few thing you can do to improve prevention:

SADDLE & SHORTS: It’s no good having one without the other. If you’re going to invest money in a great pair of comfort chamois shorts, be prepared to invest the time and money into finding a good saddle to match.

INCREASE DISTANCES GRADUALLY: If you’re new to cycling, or you’re about to break in a new saddle, then start with shorter journeys. Your pelvic area needs to get used to saddles, shorts and the motion of cycling, so ease your undercarriage in.

CHAMOIS CREAM: Every cyclists best friend is a good chamois cream. This will reduce the friction between your skin and your shorts. Not only that, but many creams have anti-septic and anti-inflammatory properties to help reduce bacteria build up and irritation.

SHOWER: Before and after a ride, rinse yourself off in the shower. Remove any chamois cream, sweat and grim to help reduce bacteria build up. A hot shower after a ride will not only clean, but open the hair follicles as well.

HAIR REMOVAL: Although we like to keep ourselves well groomed down there, removing your pubic hair can often result in sores. You’re effectively taking away the hair barrier which moves between you and your shorts. Not only this, but cycling and seriously increase your chances to ingrowing hairs – ouch!

CLEAN SHORTS: As you would with clean knickers on each morning, wear clean chamois shorts for every ride. You don’t want to be sat in stale sweat and dried out chamois cream for 4 hours.

While we cannot guarantee that following these steps will forever fend off the bane of saddle sores, they are a good place to start.

More top tips for preventing saddle sores

In the same way as catching a cold, there will be of us who will be more susceptible to saddle sores, than others.  The magical unicorns among us (who may or may not exist) may never experience the nuisance of them, while others will have at least one at all times.

What can you do to treat them, once you have them though?

How to treat saddle sores

Treating saddle sores isn’t easy when there are a variety of symptoms, as mentioned above. Although there are some general guidelines that you can follow to help treat them. If you are concerned about sores, irritation or cysts, always seek the help of a healthcare professional.

KEEP IT CLEAN: If you have sores, irritation or abrasions, you want to keep your undercarriage as clean as possible. Quick rinses and hot showers with no fragrance soaps help reduce bacteria and sweat making the problem worse.

TEA TREE & VASELINE: You’ll want to get yourself a pot of Vaseline and a bottle of Tea Tree oil. Both are readily available in most chemists and pharmaceutical stores.

SWAB & COVER: Using a cotton bud, gently apply a thin layer of Tea Tree oil to the affected areas, but avoid broken skin or mucus membranes. Once it dries, layer up with a film of Vaseline. Repeat every few hours, ensuring to wash the area before re-applying.

KNICKERS: Ensure you wear breathable knickers, ideally made from natural fibres. Suffocating the groin will just incubate bacteria and can cause symptoms to worsen.

REST UP: Yep, you need to rest the area. This means staying off the bike, or seriously cutting down the time spent in the saddle.

By all means, we’re not healthcare professionals, but these few tips and guidelines are ones we follow ourselves.

If you experience persistent sores, or prolonged outbreaks, or anything that gives you cause for concern, always seek help from your doctor.

You may also enjoy:

Urinary Tract Infections and Cycling: Prevention and Treatment

Ride Every Day of the Month: Know Your Cycle


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