Combating Saddle Sores
By Kyle Schmeer
Kyle Schmeer owns Cycles BiKyle: One of America's best bike shops. "Your satisfaction is guaranteed at this super shop." - Bicycling Magazine.
On a personal note, I have known Kyle for decades and he is one of the most knowledgeable, friendly and experienced people in the bicycle industry.
See also on our web site: Saddle choice affects comfort, power and control
With all the misinformation out there about saddles there is a real need for accurate info from real riders and experienced staff. Everyday, we work with serious riders in demanding conditions. Through the years we have learned more than a few things about saddles and saddle soreness.
Top pro Tom Dumoulin had to abandon the 2016 Giro because of saddle sores. Kyle explains how to keep that from happening to you.
Saddle soreness is usually caused by bad fit. The overwhelming cause of saddle soreness, in our experience, is BAD FIT. 'Good' saddle soreness is the kind you get on your two sit bones when you ride distances longer than you are accustomed. If you are regularly experiencing any other saddle soreness then something is wrong. By trial and error, you may be able to hide a bad fit with a particular saddle design. But, our strong recommendation is to fix the root of the problem. Start with Kyle's world renowned fit then work from there.
"New" saddles designs with holes in the middle. These saddles aren't exactly new. We've used saddles like this for more than 25 years. Sometimes, they help a rider attain a more comfortable position. This is particularly true if the rider has a known problem such as a cyst or prostate swelling. But just as often, soft tissue falls through the hole and a ring of pressure builds around the hole. Most often, this is a temporary fix for a bad fit.
The most successful solution: We've found that the most successful solution utilizes a firmer saddle that stabilizes the majority of pressure on the two sit bones. The area around these two sit bones will toughen up in very short order. And if the fit is done right, soft tissue up front will not be pressured. Experienced bike riders are not masochists. They've settled on this solution because, with a well done fit, it works.
How soft is too soft? After a long layoff an extra soft saddle feels quite nice. But as soon as you start putting in some regular miles you will squish down into a soft saddle. Then, pressure starts squeezing up into soft tissue. That's bad. Gauge the firmness of your saddle by the amount of regular riding you do. The more mileage you do on a regular basis then the more firmness you need.
Gauge your mileage by your rear end. When your bum starts getting sore, stop that day's riding. If your fit is done right then you should experience only moderate tenderness and you should recover fully in a day or two. Build your mileage incrementally as your comfort allows.
Check your shorts. For longer rides, make sure you wear a high quality cycling short with a well designed chamois pad plus position-designed panels that precisely hold the chamois in place. If you are getting sore be sure to check your shorts for any bunching or twisting of the chamois.
Use a good chamois cream. In the team car before the start of a race we have what we call "glop" time. That's the time when all the racers reach into their jars of Assos chamois cream and start to "glop" the stuff on - to both chamois and skin. Don't go too thick. But, make sure the problem areas are covered. Assos is especially good because it's both a perfectly gauged lubricant and an anti-bacterial agent.
"W" stands for wide, not women. In our experience, "W" should stand for wide, not women. Pick the width of your saddle relative to your own size. If you are a man that's wide in the back then go for a wider saddle even if it is marketed for a woman. And if you a heavier rider, male or female, you will need a firmer saddle in order to prevent 'camel humping', an especially insidious problem. Petite woman - don't go for something wide just because the label says it's for women. You may be better suited for a shorter saddle, but not wider.
Don't get chafed. If your saddle is too wide then you will rub the backs of your legs raw. You want a saddle you can straddle comfortably while still supporting those all important sit bones. Best long term results come from a saddle that provides just enough width and no extra.
If you do get a saddle sore: Scrub yourself thoroughly. Phisoderm is an effective cleanser that is easy to find. Then, try one of these aids: A+D ointment, Desitin, Aloe cream, Bag Balm, or Comfrey root. If you develop an infection or an abscess, it's time to see your doctor.