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How To Stop Saddle Sores

Saddle sores can really ruin a good days cycling. The good news is it is really easy to prevent saddle sores, and soreness when cycling in general, for both men and women.

There are three main issues to look at when avoiding getting sore on a bike: Riding position, equipment and chamois  creams.

Lance Armstrong gets a Bum Butter product demonstration.

Riding Position

It really doesn’t matter how wonderful your shorts and chamois cream are, no amount Bum Butter will solve problems caused by a poor set up.

Saddle Angle: Different bikes require different saddle positions. As the bike gets more racey and head down it will put more pressure on your genitals. Less racey bikes with a more upright position will but more pressure on your sit bones. However a good starting place is a level saddles.

Fore/Aft: The fore and aft of the saddle again is very important. Too far back and it will put pressure on your balls or fanny. To far back will increase pressure on your sit bones. A good place to start is to set the fore and aft head centre of the saddle rails. Many saddles have marking showing the max fore and aft position. Stick it in the middle.

Experiment: Now you know that. Go for a ride and if you have pressure at the back try moving the saddle back. Too much pressure on your genitals, then move the saddle forward.

Go Pro: A professional bike fitting is easy to find nowadays. Pro shops have a jig for establishing the best position. However any good bike shop will be able to sit you on your bike, take a look and make well informed adjustments.

Equipment

Shorts:

Quite simply get some good quality padded cycling shorts. That is very important. Don’t wear anything under the shorts such as knickers (it is OK to wear Bum Butter). If you want to avoid the 80’s keep fit instructor look that bare Lycra creates, then pop some baggy shorts over the top. Cycling specific baggy shorts are best as they will not have a central seam right between your legs.

Make sure the pad in your cycling shorts is clean. Ideally wash after every ride. Most cyclists have several pairs of shorts that they will use in rotation. A sweaty pad can easily harbour bacteria, and that is certainly something you should avoid.

Saddle

Oh, this is a can of worms. I once gave my friend a Brooks cambium saddle for our ride across the interior of Iceland. It was my favourite saddle by miles. Two days into the wild volcanic desert of Iceland he described the saddle as an “arse hatchet”! The point being that choosing the right saddle is very important, and everyone gets on well with different saddles. For a more detailed look at choosing the right saddle have a look at this article. How to Choose the Right Bike Saddle • Average Joe Cyclist

Chamois Cream:

Why do we call it chamois cream? Pre the 1980’s the pad in cycling shorts was actually made of chamois leather. Nowadays we still call them chamois, but they are really just pads. Hell, go back far enough and cyclists would pop a beef steak down their shorts to act as a pad!

What is chamois Cream?

Bum Butter chamois cream is an antiseptic skin lubricant. It is applied direct to the area between your bum and genitals. A good smear around your genitals is also a good idea. Also apply it anywhere that you experience rubbing, such as on your inner thighs.

How does chamois cream work?

Bum Butter forms a barrier between your skin and your sweaty shorts. It is also very slippery so it reduces friction, so you won’t get saddle sore. What’s more the addition of tea tree oil makes it naturally antiseptic which prevents bacteria causing an infection. It works incredibly well. Check out this review from Road.cc.

What about the ladies?

Bum Butter is totally fanny friendly and compatible with female genitals. Bum Butter has been used my many top female cyclists, including Olympians Gold Medal winners. They gave me feedback, and introduced me to the term “flap mash”. For more information on female specific saddle sore issues, have a look at this great article from Cycling UK. “Are you an innie or an outie?”

Chamois Cream Do Not Do's:

E45 / Sudocrem: Don't use Sudocrem as a chamois cream. It may be good on a babies bum, but babies don't ride a bike all day. It is not slippery enough to be effective as a chamois cream. Sudocrem also makes a real mess of padded shorts and can be very difficult to wash out. Some shorts never really recover from Sudocrem use. The pad can absorb the cream and lose all its cushioning powers. Good cycling shorts cost £60-120, it's dumb to ruin a good pair of shorts by not using Bum Butter.

Vaseline: Never use Vaseline to prevent saddle sores or soreness when cycling. It is a petrol based product. You would not drink petrol, so why smear it on your most delicate body parts? Despite feeling slippery, it will not help you in anything other than the very very short term. There are also credible safety concerns with a German consumer organisation advising against its use. 

Campers and scouts use Vaseline as a fire starter, as it is very flammable. To illustrate that its not something you should put on your skin, watch the video below.