A Few Things You Always Wanted To Know About Saddle Sores…But Were Afraid To Ask

HemmelsRide2So there I was, stripped naked, one foot up on the tub, mirror in hand, contorting myself into positions that would make an adult film star proud… all the while hoping no one walked in and said something like “Uh, honey, that’s interesting,” or, “Dad, what exactly are you doing?”

What I was doing, of course, was looking for the source of some recent riding discomfort. Problem was, I had no idea what I was looking for. Sure, I’ve heard mention of saddle sores, but I always thought they were something like a serious case of rug burn, a rough spot that was scraped one too many times by an ill-fitting pair of shorts or poor seat design. Instead, all I found was a small red spot that looked kind of like a pimple. Maybe a spider bite or something. Never seen one? Scroll down; I shot a picture of it.

Just kidding. I wouldn’t do that to you. I also wouldn’t do it to me. Imagine the above scenario of wife or child walking in, but add me trying to take a picture into the mix. Yeah, that’s an image that would be burned into a family member’s memory.

So anyway, back to saddle sores. I didn’t know what I was looking for because I’ve always been fortunate enough not to get them. I used to ride without chamois cream; lately I’ve been trying it out. But either way, I stayed mostly comfortable down there. Numb, yeah, but not subject to anything as nasty sounding as a sore.

So needless to say, I set out in search of a few answers. There was a good article on saddles in a recent issue of Bicycling that defined saddle sores. Apparently, they come in various types — a simple abrasion, something called folliculitis, even an abscess that might need serious medical care. Yeah, that latter one sounds way too foul to me, too, and I know a simple abrasion when I see it. So let’s focus on what seems to be cyclist’s most common problem — folliculitis.

The name offers a hint as to what it is — folliculitis is essentially an infection of a hair follicle. We’ve all probably heard how to avoid the problem. Stuff like getting a good bike fitting, wearing quality padded shorts, standing on occasion, choosing the proper saddle, using lube, not hanging around in your nasty shorts after finishing a ride, blah blah blah. What I rarely seem to read is how to treat it once it happens.

Apparently, keeping the area clean is a good idea. I’m not going to argue that one, as the last thing I want is some nasty bacteria invading the small piece of real estate that is situated between two relatively important body parts. Beyond that, other suggestions include a basic over-the-counter acne medicine with 10% benzoyl peroxide. Yup, you can oxy-cute ‘em! Other suggestions include treating sores with hydrogen peroxide or witch hazel, both of which apparently are astringents. Prescription solutions are available should things turn serious.

Mine’s not too bad, so for now I’m still riding. If you take the same approach, trying changing your shorts or saddle. A certain stitch or rough spot could be exacerbating the problem. Lube appears to be a good idea, although I’ve read some stories of riders being told by their doctors to stop using lube. You can even try Preparation H, apparently. It should shrink swelling and reduce the pain. Some experts suggest dabbing it on a few minutes prior to applying your normal chamois cream.

I thought mine was already on the mend before today’s ride, but two hours in the saddle proved otherwise. Though I wore my favorite shorts, I can feel something has changed. Maybe the edge of the chamois has developed a rough spot or something. I won’t stop riding, but I’m going to pay attention to it. After all, I don’t want it turning into something worse.

I would, however, like to get back to checking out some butts other than my own…

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3 thoughts on “A Few Things You Always Wanted To Know About Saddle Sores…But Were Afraid To Ask

  1. I found many years ago that baby diaper rash ontiment worked pretty well. This is 40% zinc oxide cream, my wife likes the Desitin brand. First with our kids and now with the grandkids the stuff always seems avaialble around our house.

  2. Thanks for the informative article. Every now and then I get what I had been incorrectly referring to as a “boil” on the back of my legs (right where back of leg meets butt cheek) and until recently I didn’t know what they were. Even though I’ve heard the expression “saddle sore” before (usually in cowboy movies) it was only recently that I made the connection. They never cause me any discomfort while riding, and often go away on their own without ever really coming to a head. I wear the cheap Performance brand shorts (because I can buy 5 at time for $100) and so I’m not surprised this happens a couple of times a year. I’m seriously planning on upgrading to some quality bib shorts. It will be interesting to see if they make a difference. BTW, Neosporin works well for me on just about any kind of ooze-related issues…

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