Are you sitting comfortably? Saddle sores are a serious concern for many cyclists; at best they can be a cause of discomfort, at worst they could end a ride or adventure.
After many long distance bike rides such as the #BlackForest400 and #7Countries7Passes, these are my lucky 7 Tips for preventing and treating saddle sores.
1 – Saddle Choice
Having the correct width and length of saddle makes a huge difference to the chances of encountering saddle sores. Too wide, the saddle will rub on your seat bones. Too narrow, you will sit on your perineum rather than on your seat bones.
Recommended reading: ‘How To Choose the Right Bicycle Saddle For You’
2 – Saddle Height
The height of your saddle plays a significant role in determining the pressure and friction on your nether-regions.
If your saddle height is too high then you do not put enough pressure on the pedals; increasing the pressure on your perineum / sit bones and also increasing the ‘rocking’ motion in the saddle that tends to lead to greater friction.
If your saddle height is too low, you tend to sit very heavily on your seat bones, with odd angled legs; this also increases friction and pressure.
A rough guide to setting the right saddle height:
- Sit on your bike next to a wall with both your feet clipped into the pedals (use your hand to steady yourself against the wall)
- Push your right heel down as far as you can: this will push the pedal to the furthest point of extension (Note: this is when the crank is inline with the seat-tube, not when it is vertical)
- If your foot is still pointing with the toes towards the ground then your saddle is too high. If your heel is significantly lower than your toes, then your saddle is too low. If your foot is just below or on horizontal then your saddle height is about right
- Repeat for the left leg, incase of discrepancies between leg length
3 – Bike Set-Up
In addition to saddle height you also need to consider saddle position and stem length as factors that determine saddle comfort.
If you are constantly finding that you are sitting on the nose of the saddle, then the likelihood is that your stem length is too long and/or your saddle too far aft. Equally, if you feel very upright in the saddle then you may be placing too much pressure on your seat-bones and lower back, and you need a more stretched-out position that could be accomplished with a longer stem and/or moving the saddle aft.
Be careful adjusting saddle position, as this also affects leg extension (a more aft-positioned saddle will extend the leg—so it may require a small drop in saddle height).
4 – Bib Shorts and Seat Pad Choice
5 – Chamois Cream
6 – Keeping It Clean
7 – Treating the Problem
In some cases saddle sores will occur however hard you try to prevent them. This is often the case if you have not built up your mileage steadily—so the constant friction and pressure inevitably irritates the skin. In these circumstances, you need to ensure you treat the problem properly to avoid prolonged or worsening infection.
Most saddle sores will subside with a break from riding, but severe cases that involve open blisters and possible infection need to be treated with antibiotics or anti-fungal cream. If you really have a severe case of saddle sores do not be afraid to visit your doctor and seek professional support.