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

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
Total Fat0g0g
Total Carbohydrates39g21g
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

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

A Spoonful of Mustard

♪ ♫ A spoonful of mustard helps leg cramps go away ♫ ♪

Seriously, a spoonful of mustard can stop a leg cramp on the spot. I stumbled on this remedy somewhere several years ago and it really works.

Over the years, I’ve introduced family and friends to bicycle touring. Unfortunately, some of them have suffered from painful post-ride leg cramps. While I don’t know how or why it works, a spoonful of yellow mustard has proven to be a safe, effective, and readily available remedy for relieving leg cramps.

Besides working well, yellow mustard can be found as a condiment almost anywhere food is served.  If you suffer from leg cramps try this simple trick and keep a packet or two of yellow mustard nearby.

Ken Whittaker

Have a Coca-Cola

Like many cyclists, I generally carry a few packets of GU Energy Gel in case I bonk.  Bonking is when a cyclist drains blood glucose levels resulting in fatigue and light-headedness.  These 100-calorie packet contain carbohydrates to fuel muscles, sodium to replace electrolytes lost in sweat, and caffeine to improve alertness and reduce a feeling of tiredness.

However, sometimes I forget to throw a GU packet in my jersey pocket or run out on long rides. Unfortunately, corner stores rarely carry energy gels.  Luckily,  I’ve found a secret substitute that can be readily found everywhere and that works just as well for me.  My secret?  Coca-Cola!

Compare for yourself.

Amount Per ServingGU ESPRESSO LOVECoca-Cola Soft Drink
Total Fat0g0g
Total Carbohydrates23g 39g
Caffeine 40mg34mg
Note: I use Gu Espresso Love gel because I like the flavor and it contains a higher level of caffeine. Most GU gels with caffeine only contain 20mg.

An additional benefit of caffeinated sugary soft drinks like Coca-Cola is that they also contain water to help with hydration. However, this can also become a disadvantage and cause a bloated feeling if drank to quickly.

I’ve found that in a pinch Coca-Cola does live up to its 1905 slogan Coca-Cola revives and sustains as well as an energy gel.

Ken Whittaker

Bargain (Free) Helmet Cover

A few days ago, I posted that I used to carry a plastic garbage bag as an emergency rain coat.  While I would never recommend a garbage bag as a rain coat, I would, however, recommend a plastic shower cap as a light duty helmet cover.   And the price is right since you can generally score one for free during a stay at a hotel or motel.

Ken Whittaker

Wet Weather Kit

Day 40 Rainy Louisiana

Before I started bike touring, I wouldn’t even consider riding my bike if there was a remote chance of rain.  As a fair weather rider I never fully realized what I needed to keep pedaling comfortably in wet weather.  In retrospect, I cringe to think that I only carried a large garbage bag as an emergency rain coat. 

Inevitably, there will be rain and cold weather. And in many cases you have no other choice but to keep pedaling to reach your destination for the day. So, it pays to be prepared for anything that Mother Nature might throw at you.  Otherwise, you could find yourself in a deadly situation.

While nothing will keep you completely dry in the rain, a good wet weather kit will help to keep you warm, comfortable and protect you from hypothermia.  Hypothermia can occur when you are exposed to cold air, water, wind, or rain.   It is an emergency condition that can quickly lead to unconsciousness and even death. Surprisingly even exposure to water in the 70-80 °F range can lead to hypothermia. Needless to say, cold air, water, wind, or rain can be deadly business, so it pays to be prepared.

My wet weather kit includes:

  • Rain jacket
  • Rain pants
  • Helmet cover
  • Shoe covers
  • Lights and clothing with reflective material to make me more visibility to drivers
  • Dry bag with a complete set of warm dry clothes
  • A dry bag for electronic devices
  • And an emergency blanket

Don’t forget that wet weather can have a serious impact on your bicycle too. My wet weather kit for my bike includes:

  • Saddle cover
  • Fenders
  • Wet lubricant
  • And dry rag

Ken Whittaker