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


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