Another Kind of Sore: My Road to the Century, Part VI

Tips from one rider's first time planning and riding a 100-mile route
Staff Writer

Alright readers, it’s about to get real.

Here’s the deal: I got saddle sores.  They can be caused by multiple things, such as friction from your bike seat, riding in sweaty shorts, hair follicle infection and excessive heat or sweat. They can also take several forms, including small red bumps or abscesses.

Although mine happened early in my training, I’m still feeling the effects. Saddle sores are painful and can hang around a long time, so the goal should be to avoid them altogether.

Here are a few things you can do.

Use lubricant: It's the first thing you should buy when you commit to ride a century. Cyclists swear by several different products, including Assos, BodyGlide, Bag Balm, and Queen Helene Coco Butter. Make sure to reapply the lubricant during your ride if necessary.

Build up your mileage slowly: Give your body time to adjust to sitting in the saddle for extended periods of time.

Buy cycling shorts: This is your next step after the lubricant.  Make sure you purchase bike shorts, and be gender-specific: men's and women's are cut differently.  Most serious cyclists opt for bib shorts—the kind with built-in suspenders. These fit better than traditional bike shorts and won’t shift while you ride.

Choose a good saddle: Saddle size and saddle cushioning can play a big role in comfort. While a large saddle can increase the area of contact and pressure, a saddle that’s too small will cause you to move around too much. Try out different bike seats at your local shop to find the right size and fit.

Take a change of shorts:  The longer the ride, the more sweat and bacteria builds up. So consider a change of shorts half way through the day. If you can’t do that, antibacterial wipes can be helpful. 

Post-ride procedures:  After your ride, take off your shorts immediately and wash up thoroughly with soap. If an area seems particularly irritated, consider using an antibacterial cream. Wash your shorts between rides.

If you get a sore, here are some suggestions:

Take a break from your bike:  Cross training can be a great way to take a break from cycling and maintain fitness. Consider logging time on the treadmill or an elliptical machine.

Use a donut: Donut-shaped foam pads, available in the foot-care section of drug stores, can help keep pressure off your saddle sore. Place the sore in the cutout. The adhesive backing will keep the pad in place.

Try an over-the-counter topical cream: Head to your pharmacy and look for an anti-inflammatory, numbing cream to help alleviate the pain.

If it’s really bad, see a doctor:  You might need a course of antibiotics, or more professional attention. 

Click here for more stories from the Lessons Learned Series.