How to Prevent and Treat Cycling Saddle Sores


When you think about it, cyclists get saddle sores for the same reason babies get diaper rash, mostly from chaffing, wetness and bacteria. So, it only makes sense for cyclists to use the same strategies moms do to prevent diaper rash. Accordingly, here is a modified version of Mayo Clinic’s online article on Diaper Rash adapted for cyclists:

• Remove wet diapers promptly. This translates to get out of your wet cycling shorts immediately after completing your ride. While it is tempting to relax with a cold beverage before showering, this is akin to sitting in a bacteria brew incubating an infection.

• Wash baby’s bottom with diaper change. Besides getting out of those wet shorts, get into the shower too. If you’re touring and a shower isn’t available, use a baby wipe to clean the area.

• Dry with a clean towel or let it air dry. Use a clean dry towel and give yourself some time to air out before putting on clean dry underwear.

• Give baby’s bottom time without a diaper. While this may not sound practical for cyclists, I have a friend who tells me that she has let her bottom air at night in the privacy of her tent when she’s touring.

• Consider using ointment. While I rarely get saddle sores, at the first sign of a potential problem, I immediately apply baby ointment to prevent further skin irritation.  This has always worked well for me.  While many cyclists swear by one brand or another, the active ingredient in most brands is zinc oxide. 

It should be noted that the Mayo Clinic doesn’t recommend anything comparable to chamois cream to prevent diaper rash. My guess is that although chamois cream is designed to reduce friction, a similar product is not used on a baby’s bottom because an anti-friction cream would also prevent a baby’s skin from airing and could also trap bacteria. For this reason I never used chamois cream. I do, however, use a powder like Anti Monkey Butt to reduce chafing and keep my skin dry while cycling.

Finally, while it seems every cyclist has their own remedies for saddle sores, if you can’t find one that works for you, you might consider asking your mom.  Even if she doesn’t ride a bike she does know what worked for you when you were a baby.  There is something to be said about a mother tested and approved remedy. 

Ken Whittaker


Why You Should Add Your Emergency Info to Your Phone’s Lock Screen Now

Emergency responders are not universally trained on where to look for emergency medical information. Their goal is to do as much investigating as possible to figure out what is wrong with you so they can provide the emergency care you need.

For this reason, I try to cover every place they might look for my information. I wear a wristband, carry a card in my wallet, and have it displayed on my phone’s lock screen. Getting your emergency medical information in the hands of emergency responders quickly could save your life.

If you don’t already have this information on your mobile phone, I would recommend that you do it NOW! Here are the links on how to get it done.

Use Emergency SOS on your iPhone – Apple Support

Get help in an emergency using your Android phone – Android Help

Don’t wait another minute! This could save your life.

Ken Whittaker


How to Eliminate Broken Spokes

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve never broken a spoke. Never, not even while cycling coast to coast across America on light weight 16 spoke wheels over some of the worst roads I’ve ever seen. I can’t say for sure to what I owe my good fortune, but I believe it has a lot to do with  maintaining properly tensioned spokes.

While nothing will last for ever, properly tensioned spokes are critical for strong reliable wheels and reducing broken spokes.  I’ve found that just because a wheel is true, it doesn’t mean the spokes are properly tensioned.  To illustrate, my Cannondale Synapse Neo 1 came new from the bike shop with a  spoke so loose that I could barely get a tension reading on it with my spoke tension meter. 

Even a true wheel can have spokes that are overly tight while others can be extremely loose.  Consequently, it is important to check spoke tension even on a true round wheel.  In my home shop I use a Park Tool TM-1 Spoke Tension Meter to check spoke tension.  However, if you are on a tight budget you can find low cost spoke tension meters online at sites like aliexpress.com.

But how do you check spoke tension while touring? Unless you are tone deaf, plucking the spokes is a quick and easy method to determine if the spokes’ tensions are  significantly different. I simply pluck all the spokes on the same side of the wheel. Similarly tensioned spokes will be close in pitch. However, if a spoke has a much higher pitch, it is much tighter than the rest. If it has a much lower pitch it is much looser. Therefore, it is easy to hear an unevenly tensioned wheel and correct the problem before you break a spoke.

Ken Whittaker


9 Ways to Avoid Getting a Sore Butt While Riding a Bicycle

One of the biggest complaints I hear from new cyclists is that they get a sore butt from riding a bike. Unfortunately, many new cyclists give up on the joy of cycling before they overcome the pain. Here are nine common and some not so common tricks I use to eliminate the problem.

1. Padded shorts – Padded shorts have become a cycling standard because they work by reducing soreness from cycling. A little bit of padding goes a long way, so don’t overdo a good thing. Your shorts don’t need to be Lycra. There are plenty of baggy padded cycling shorts available. However, tight fitting Lycra shorts don’t bunch up into a wedgie like baggy shorts can.

2. Go Commando – Lose the underwear when wearing cycling shorts. Cycling shorts are designed to be worn without underwear. Wearing underwear only causes problems such as bunching. While Lycra shorts may have a “freeing” feeling that may take a little getting used to, they also have a modesty panel built in so the “freeing” feeling is not also revealing.

3. Get a gender specific saddle – There are saddles designed specifically for men’s and women’s anatomies. Make sure you have a saddle designed to fit your anatomy that helps to relieve pressure where it counts.

4. Get off your butt – You can greatly reduce the beating your butt takes simply by taking your weight off the saddle when riding on rough sections of road or when encountering bumps.

5. Change Positions – Luckily, touring bicycles have drop handle bars that allow you to change your position on the bike easily. In doing so, you are also reducing the pressure on the same points on your butt.

6. Keep riding – Toughen up the tissue around the sit-bones by continuing to ride. Most seasoned cyclists do not experience a sore butt except on very long rides because they have toughened up this area over time.

7. Wax the saddle – This is a secret I’ve used for years but I find many cyclists don’t believe me when I tell them. While it is a common practice for riders with an unpadded leather saddle to wax their saddle, I’ve found that it is just as useful for padded saddles as well. I use spray furniture wax on my saddle. A waxed saddle helps me to easily slide to a new position. Frequently changing my position on the seat helps prevent pain caused by remaining in one spot too long.

8. Massage – It’s always worth a laugh when I tell a new rider to get a butt massage. However, I find that massaging the sore area after my ride eases the inflammation, improves blood flow and reduces the soreness in my butt for me.

9. Reduce tire pressure – While cycling across the United States in 2015, the chip seal road surface throughout most of Texas was a jarring experience not quickly forgotten. To reduce the beating on our bodies at the contact points at the handlebars and saddle, we reduced the air pressure in our tires by several pounds per square inch (PSI). Let your tires absorb some of the beating rather than your butt.  Thankfully,  with today’s tubeless tires you can ride in comfort with much lower tire pressure.

I hope these nine tricks help to get you back in the saddle again.

Ken Whittaker


Secret Healthy Cookies?

I hate to disappoint those looking for a secret healthy cookie. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any such thing as a truly healthy cookie. However, there are times when a cookie can provide cyclists with just what they need to keep from bonking. Let me explain.

When a cyclist bonks the glucose levels drain from their blood resulting in fatigue and light-headedness.  There are many sports products out there that can help restore glucose levels. Lately, my favorite has been Honey Stingers, particularly the Cherry Blossom chews. However, if I run out or forget to throw a few packs in my jersey, I can generally always find Fig Newtons.

Nutritional Value

Amount Per ServingHoney Stinger Cherry BlossomNabisco Newtons Fig Cookies
Calories160100
Total Fat0g0g
Sodium80mg95mg
Total Carbohydrates39g21g
Cholesterol0mg0mg
Protein1g1g
Fiber1g1g
While the nutritional values are similar, the Honey Stingers do have more carbohydrates with correspondingly more calories.

So why Fig Newtons? Figs are from nature and are high in natural sugars, minerals and fiber. You can’t say that about Oreos.

Ken Whittaker


What’s in your wallet?

In the event of an accident, an emergency medical information card is invaluable. Being able to provide first responders with a ready source of your medical needs could save your life during the “golden hour” of a medical emergency. If you can’t speak for yourself, your emergency medical information card will.

An emergency medical information card should include:

    • Full name
    • Birthdate
    • Current medications
    • Allergies
    • Chronic medical conditions
    • Emergency contact names and phone numbers

An emergency can happen at any time, so I  keep my emergency medical information on me at all times, not only when I’m cycling.

Ken Whittaker


How to Perfectly Align Bicycle Disc Brake Pads in Just Seconds

Disc Brake Pad Alignment Tool

Almost every time I remove the wheel from my bicycle, I struggle to realign the disc pads with the rotor when I reinstall the wheel. Even with thru axles, sometimes the disc brakes can be slightly out of alignment. As a result, I used to spend a considerable amount of time trying to tweak the alignment by eye.

But, not anymore. In less than a minute I can have the rotor spinning smoothly and the pads perfectly aligned.

Here is how:

    • Simply place the disc brake alignment tool over the rotor,
    • loosen the brake mounting bolts,
    • rotate the rotor until the alignment tool is positioned between the rotor and the pads,
    • squeezing the brake lever,
    • and retighten the brake mounting bolts.

That’s all there is to it. Everything is in perfect alignment.

While a common hack is to use a folded business card to do the same thing, it doesn’t make sense not to have this little gadget handy in your tool kit. You can find the tool online for about 50¢ at sites like aliexpress.com or spend a bit more and get it the next day from Amazon.com. Either way, it is a valuable addition to your tool kit. Also, I prefer an alignment tool with the hole (as pictured). I can slip a pin through the hole in the tool and a hole in the rotor if necessary to hold the tool in place as I rotate the alignment tool between the pads. Works like a charm ever time.

Ken Whittaker


Substitute for Sunscreen

I’m a big believer in sunscreen, however there have been times when it isn’t readily available or practical. For instance, when I ride trails and camp at night, sunscreen attracts dirt like a magnet. Without a shower available at the end of the day, this can become a bit of a dirty sticky mess.

In those instances, I tend to use sunwear like sun sleeves. legs and headwear to protect my arms, legs, head and the back of my neck. This way, I only have to apply sun screen to protect the exposed area like my face and top of my ears. This greatly reduces the amount of sunscreen needed and helps to keep me cleaner while still protecting me from the damaging rays of the sun.

Another advantage of sunwear is that it is super light when compared with a large bulky tube of sunscreen, it isn’t washed off by rain or sweat, it can be used again and again, and it doubles my protection if I do use it with sunscreen. I also feel like sunwear keeps me cooler on hot days, yet warmer on cooler days, if that is possible.

Ken Whittaker


Free ROAD iD – Live GPS Tracker App

As we already know, it’s getting a lot more dangerous on the roads for cyclists However, there is some comfort in being able to provide our family and friends with our live location information while cycling. As I mentioned in my post DIY Garmin Charge Power Pack Hack, I use Garmin’s Live Track function while I’m cycling. However, you don’t need an expensive bicycle computer/GPS for live tracking.

The makers of ROAD iD offer the free ROAD iD – Live GPS Tracker App that can provide a real-time eCrumb trail of your location and an optional Stationary Alert if you are inactive for a set amount of time. Your loved ones can have peace of mind while they monitor your status when you’re out on your next cycling adventure.

I use this app when I am cycling, walking my dog, hiking or any time I want someone to know my location. It has worked faultlessly for me. And you can’t beat the price . . . FREE!

Ken Whittaker


How to Remove Tubeless Tires from the Rim

Installing and removing tubeless tires from a bicycle rim has become a whole new skill set for me. Tubeless tires are designed to fit very tightly in the bicycle rim. So tight that they can be inflated and ridden without sealant and still hold the tire pressure. Needless to say, when it comes time to break the bead to remove the tire from the rim, it can be a bit of a struggle.

Park Tool PTS-1 Tire Seater

Surprisingly, I’ve found that the Park Tool PTS-1 Tire Seater works very well at doing just the opposite of its intended use. While it sat in my tool box unused in the days of riding tube tires, the Tire Seater has become my go to tool for unseating tubeless tires. The narrow curved jaws slide in close to the rim and the pliers allow me to apply significant pressure on the tire to break the bead from the rim.

Unfortunately, the Park Tool PTS-1 Tire Seater is not the type of tool that you can throw in your seat bag and take with you on a ride. However, I’ve been riding tubeless tires on my road bikes for several years and I’ve never had to remove a tubeless tire along the roadside yet. Let the Luddites with tubes stop and fix their flats along the roadside. The sealant fixes my punctures while I’m still riding.

Take note Park Tool, there is a BIG opportunity here.

Ken Whittaker