Saddle Sores: What They Look Like, How To Treat and Avoid Them!

Cyclists will encounter saddle sores at some point during their time on the bike. This is an issue that comes from friction, heat, moisture and pressure.

The good news is that saddle sores (sometimes referred to as saddle rash) are treatable, and there are a few things you can do that prevent them, or at least delay when they appear.

In This article, we will go into:

  • What Saddle Sores Look Like
  • What Causes Saddle Sores?
  • Saddle Sores Treatment
  • How To Avoid Saddle Sores

Are you ready for a comfy ride?

Saddle Sores What They Look Like How To Treat and Avoid Them

What Do Saddle Sores Look Like?

Saddle sores appear in your groin area or around the top of your inner thighs after or during a long bike ride. You will also get them in the area where your legs become your bum area.

So what do saddle sores look like? Saddle sores can appear as hard and painful lumps, painful lumps, fluid-filled cysts or even abrasions, similar to a friction burn.

A saddle sore can also resemble an infected hair follicle, which is the most common type.

You know you have a saddle sore when you have a tender area that is usually raised, pink or red and in a place that rubs your saddle.

What Causes Saddle Sores?

Saddle sores develop over time, starting with simple skin chafing on your buttocks, genital region and inner thigh. If you ignore the telltale signs, they can become open sores. This is when it gets serious, as it means the top layers of skin have been damaged.

Saddle sores are caused by excess friction between you and your saddle, which could result from a few things.

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For example, if your saddle is of poor quality or doesn’t fit you correctly, you can get unpleasant rubbing and pain. Therefore, it is best to buy a saddle that fits you properly.

You can get saddle sores cycling in poorly padded shorts or shorts with no padding at all. With poor or bad cushioning between you and your saddle, you will feel lots of discomfort pretty quickly, which will result in saddle sores.

Saddle sores can appear if you wear underwear under your cycling shorts. Regular underwear is not made to protect you from the constant friction from being in the saddle.

The other way that saddle sores will materialise is when you go straight into a long ride without building up to it. It takes time for your backside to get used to sitting on a saddle.

Saddle Sores Treatment – 4 Tips

Due to the nature of the different types of saddle sores, it can be tricky to determine the right course of action for saddle sores treatment.

But here are a few different ways you can treat them to relieve your pain and enjoy your time on the bike again. However, if you are unsure, you should consult a doctor or health care professional for the correct treatment.

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1. Take A Break

When a saddle sore starts to appear, the best thing you can do is have a couple of days off the bike. A break will give your damaged skin time to heal without aggravating it further.

If you have no choice but to ride, try to use a different bike. Alternatively, adjust your saddle to change the pressure points in those sensitive areas.

2. Soak Your Saddle Sores

If you get saddle sores, you should keep the affected area as clean as possible. You can rinse the affected area in the shower with fragrance-free soap to kill off bacteria that worsen the problem. Alternatively, you can take a cool bath with Epsom salts.

3. Give Them Plenty Of Air

You would benefit from wearing breathable underwear to allow plenty of airflow. You could even sleep commando-style to ensure the area gets a good airing.

Giving saddle sores plenty of air rather than suffocating them means that you are not incubating the bacteria, which worsens the problem.

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4. Use Some Ointment

You can treat saddle sores with tea tree oil and Vaseline. Apply the tea tree oil with a cotton bud to the affected areas, but don’t put it in broken skin. Once it has dried, put a thin smear of Vaseline on it to protect it.

You will need to do this every few hours, but remember to wash the affected area before you do.

It is worth remembering that men and women have different issues when it comes to saddle sores, so treating them may differ.

You can treat saddle sores yourself if they occur occasionally. But if they are a persistent problem, you need to think about what may be causing them. You may be able to diagnose the problem by adjusting your saddle, buying new shorts etc., which will save you a trip to the doctor’s office.

How To Avoid Saddle Sores – 7 Tips

Some people are more susceptible to saddle sores than others, but there are a few things we can all do to avoid them.

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1. Get The Right Saddle

It may be no surprise that your saddle could be the main culprit of causing saddle sores. Therefore, you need to get the correct one for you.

Your saddle needs to be the right shape for your anatomy. For example, some saddles are specific to men and women and come in wide or narrow profiles.

Different types of cycling have different saddles too. If you are a downhill mountain biker, you will need a different saddle to a cross country rider or road racer.

2. Set Your Saddle Height And Position

Once you have the perfect bike saddle, the next thing to do is set it at the correct height. When you sit on a saddle at the right height, your pedalling is more efficient, and you get less friction from it.

A bike shop with a fitting bike service will be able to help you get the correct height. They will also set your saddle position.

If your saddle is angled too far up or down, you will experience discomfort. This is also the case if your saddle is too far forwards or backwards on its rails, which can cause issues with your neck, lower back or arms.

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You may want to play with the saddle height and position yourself. This is fine, but don’t change everything at once. This will make it easier to diagnose the problem.

In addition to this, don’t make big adjustments. Fine-tune your saddle position in small increments to see if it gets any more comfortable.

But to bypass the trial and error, a fitting bike session will be more efficient. The fitter will calculate your perfect riding position to the millimetre.

3. Buy Some Good Cycling Shorts

A pair of padded shorts will go a long way to improve your comfort and reduce the likelihood of saddle sores.

Padded shorts have a chamois that acts as a padded barrier between you and your saddle. If you are a mountain biker, you can buy padded inner shorts to wear under your baggy shorts. Some mountain bike shorts have removable padded liners for seamless integration.

4. Wear Clean Cycling Shorts

Just like you put on clean undies each morning, you should also always put on a clean pair of chamois shorts. Apart from being unhygienic, the sweat and dry chamois cream in dirty chamois shorts increase friction.

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5. Don’t Go On A Big Ride Straight Away

If you are new to cycling or have waited patiently all winter to get your bike out, you may be tempted to go for a big ride. This may be a great way to blow the cobwebs out, but your undercarriage won’t thank you for it.

Start off with small rides to allow your backside area to get used to the saddle, your shorts and the motion of riding.

6. Apply Some Chamois Cream

Chamois cream is great stuff that prevents saddle sores by reducing friction between your skin and your shorts. Some of them even have antiseptic properties to help reduce the cultivation of bacteria.

7. Be Clean

If you are a reasonable human being, you will shower after your ride. However, showering before your ride can help with the fight against saddle sores.

Having a shower will keep the area clean and open the hair follicles. Which all helps with your comfort in the saddle.

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8. Remove The Hair Down There

If you are not familiar with keeping the hair down there trimmed and groomed, you may want to start if you want to spend time on your bike.

Hair can cause saddle sores, as it acts as a barrier between you and your padded shorts. This creates lots of friction and can increase your chance of getting ingrown hairs.

Now Get On The Saddle

With the varying nature of saddle sores, we can’t guarantee that these preventions and cures will be suitable methods for you. But you haven’t got anything to lose by giving them a try.

However, if your saddle sores are particularly nasty, you need to visit a doctor.

Once you get over your little problem, you will probably want to improve your cycling. If this is the case, check out these articles:

How To Cycle Faster: 9 Tips To Speed Up

How To Bike Uphill Effectively: 10 Uphill Cycling Tips

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One of BikeTips' regular content creators, Tom lives in the French Alps. When he isn't writing, he can be found charging downhill on a mountain bike or snowboard. Tom's other passion is fitness, which goes a long way to help him make the most of the Alpine lifestyle.

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