Dealing with Saddle Sores

A listener reached out because he’s been dealing with bad saddle sores. Wrote him an answer admittedly based less on research and more with my own experience over decades with saddle sores. Thought I’d share what I learned with all of you!

Here’s what I wrote, just keep in mind it’s only my opinion, not medical advice:

In terms of saddle sores, besides the discomfort, I wouldn’t worry too much about them. Personally, I ride through them. If you’re getting a lot, that’s generally a sign you have a bad chamois, saddle, or your position isn’t great. Here’s my suggestions on how to address each:

  1. First, don’t make frequent changes. Initially, your body is going to react negatively to a new saddle or chamois, so constantly changing them will just make things worse.
  2. No one really uses chamois cream anymore. I’d stop
  3. Make sure you’re washing your chamois after every ride! I take mine into the shower after most rides and soap it off and then hang dry it. About every other week I run it in the washing machine. Just NEVER put it in the dryer. Always hang dry. (The dryer makes your chamois transparent.)
  4. Getting a good saddle in the right position is critical – I do not recommend messing with the saddle yourself. I’d see a good bike fitter. They’re not only going to figure out the right position but help make sure you’re on a saddle that’s appropriate to you.

In my opinion, having a high quality and clean chamois, that you’re riding on the right saddle in the right position will solve 90% of saddle sores.

In terms of dealing with existing saddle sores, hope you don’t get queasy:

  1. As long as the pain is tolerable, I personally keep riding
  2. Go to the pharmacy and get a can of Bag Balm or Utter Butter – it’s often behind the counter. Put that on your saddle sores every night. It’s an antibiotic ointment that works miracles
  3. If you have a really bad saddle sore, pore boiling water on a towel and then hold that to the sore for as long as you can tolerate. That will bring it to a head. Then lance it and get the puss out. Clean it off and let it dry out for a while. That night put bag balm on it before you go to bed. It’ll often be gone by the next day.

Finally be very careful about going to a non-Sports GP about your saddle sores. Often they recommend surgery. What I have seen with people who have gotten the surgery is that the end result is worse than the saddle sore. There’s often a scar left from the surgery that can be very uncomfortable to ride on and unfortunately never goes away.

Hopefully that helps!

I’ve had the uncomfortable question from an athlete, about hemorroids/piles. Is there any correlation between work stress and physical stress on the bike, or even perhaps poor hydration and diet? I think this person’s spouse is looking for an excuse that it’s cycling causing the problem.

I said to liaise with a GP, but reading @trevor reply about saddle sores, I’m wondering if they too should be speaking to a sports-specific GP.