Reducing saddle soreness - Conditioning

January 08, 2013

Pressure and friction are the primary causes of saddle soreness, caused by the smaller size of bicycle seats. Part one of this article looked at how you select the correct seat. In this part, we look at what can be done once you have the correct seat to help improve your cycling fun – conditioning your bum. 

There are seven key steps you can take to improve the comfort of your riding.

1. Ride more

Often all it takes for the pain to go away is to condition yourself to the demands of cycling. Just like trying anything for the first time, your body needs to get used to the physical demands of the activity. Remember the morning after your first gym session? Those lead arms and sand filled shoes…it takes more time to recover than if you do the activity on a regular basis. If the pain is still persistent after a couple of weeks riding, it may be due to a bad fitting seat or wrong bike positioning.

2. Change your shorts

Today’s cycling shorts have a built in padded area called a chamois. Not all cycling shorts are created equal. Better cycling shorts will have a chamois that is made out of multi-density foam and will stretch to fit your anatomy as you cycle. This is important, as your pants need to follow your anatomy as you pedal along. If the shorts don’t follow your body and stretch as required, they will rub and create chaffing. Look for shorts that have a flexible chamois and seams away from contact points.

3. Chamois cream

Chamois cream is a specially formulated cream that is applied either directly onto the skin, or onto the chamois before a ride. Chamois cream serves two purposes, they lubricate your skin so that the chance of chaffing is reduced, and they are anti bacterial, which help prevent saddle sores.

Personal tip on applying chamois cream: I don’t like sticking my fingers full of cream down my pants first thing in the morning…actually any time of day for that fact, so I put the chamois cream directly onto the short inserts. This way you also know you have covered the whole cycling short insert. 

4. Upgrade to a suspension seat post

Suspension seat posts have traditionally been associated with mountain bikes and “city” bicycles. Suspension seat posts have several centimeters of travel, which help to absorb road irregularities and prevent unwanted road vibrations from traveling through to the seat. These seat posts have not been widely accepted by road cyclists due to their heavier build.

5. Bike fit

A comfortable ride is more than just a good fitting seat. Getting fitted to your bicycle is a lot like buying the correct size shoe. Sure you can get around with shoes a size too big, but it’s not very comfortable. Bicycles are much the same. More and more bicycle stores are offering dedicated bicycle fits, which cover all key contact points: seat, pedals and handlebars. A correctly fitting bicycle will keep you comfortable and help prevent possible injury.

6. Stand up occasionally

It’s good practice to stand up every couple of minutes for several seconds to let blood flow more freely down south. Use hills and starts from traffic lights as points in your ride where you can stand out of your saddle.

7. Keep your shorts clean

I’m surprised how often I hear about people who will use their cycling shorts for more than one ride without a wash. For all of us, please wash your shorts after every ride. You wouldn’t go to the gym in the same undies twice in a row, so don’t do it cycling either.

Pro Tip: Wash your cycling gear in wash bags to prevent the lycra from stretching and use a gentle washing soap designed for delicates. Wool wash is ideal as it is gentle on lycra fabric. Normal detergents will cause your lycra to age prematurely and eventually sag, use wool wash…nobody likes a saggy bottom. 



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