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Saddle Sores

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Old 10-10-18, 12:11 PM
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blowboat
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Saddle Sores

So, last week I did the Cycle North Carolina "Mountains to Coast Ride"...a 482 mile ride over 7 days from Black Mountain to Oak Island. In part I did this ride because of a desire to get into bicycle touring and I had read several people who said fully supported bike tours are a great way to enter the bike touring world. Living in the coastal area of North Carolina I was concerned about the days riding in the mountains...but I found a good gear and cadence and really got through the big climbs with no real issues.

The big surprise was the development of saddle sores. Over the last 3 or 4 days I was in pretty severe pain when riding. This is a saddle (Performance brand, but don't remember which one) that I have had for a number of years with no issues. Being fully supported I was able to carry a completely different kit...with padded bib shorts...for each day. We had a shower truck shortly after each day's ride I was able to shower and get cleaned up. And yet, I developed very painful saddle sores...no broken skin but bumps, kind of like pimples.

Having never experienced this I can see how they could be a major issue on a tour. How to you combat them? When you develop them, how do you best treat them? (Particularly if taking a day or to off is not an option.) Not sure if the information I have provided is enough to get answers, but if not what else could I share that would help? Other than the first day, which happened to absolutely pour on us for 50 out of 63 miles, I used chamois cream each morning...sometimes reapplying about half way through the ride.

- PJ
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Old 10-10-18, 12:53 PM
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I'm extremely particular about my saddle and shorts for long rides. I've tried a bunch of modern-style plastic-base, foam-covered saddles and they just plain don't work for me after more than 1/2 day of riding. The only thing that has ever worked for me on an 8+ hour day ride or multiday ride is a Brooks B17 Imperial (Imperial is the one with the cutout in the middle). This is probably why just about every bike tourist I see riding PCH has a B17 or similar saddle. I've also heard good things about the C17 Cambium, but have not tried one personally.

I think you need to experiment with different saddle types. Perhaps the B17 won't work with you, but there are all sorts of different saddles out there which work for different rear end geometries. It may just be a matter of getting the width right.

Another thing...IMHO padded shorts are only useful for reducing the discomfort of crummy plastic-base saddles. Back in the day when tensioned (Brooks-style) leather saddles were king, nobody used padded shorts. I have a couple of pairs and find them to actually increase discomfort after a long day in the saddle. Sadly, most of the bike-shorts brands have now switched over to horrid padded shorts.
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Old 10-10-18, 12:54 PM
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This is from one of my previous posts:

Dale, I just returned from a tour that I rode the first 3 weeks with a "saddle sore" When I reassembled my bike at the start of the tour, I installed my saddle off-center a few millimeters. On the second day, which was long and hot, I got a blister that formed and broke before I figured out what was going on. I adjusted my saddle position and used what I had: triple antibiotic, and A&D Salve. This allowed me to ride with manageable discomfort.

What really helped clear it up was a cream I got at a French pharmacy. It is NOK, made by Sports Akileine. I was riding with little discomfort by the middle of the second week, and it was mostly healed in 3 weeks. I continued to use it for the rest of the tour. My daughter also used it successfully to prevent issues from a "hot spot". I think it is available in Canada. If you find some, I'd recommend giving it a try. It is designed to prevent chafing. The cream helped me, but adjusting my saddle helped more

https://larima.ca/en/sports-akileine...chafing-cream/
A&D Salve has worked really well for us a a preventative treatment. If I' would have used it prior to riding I would not have had a problem. The NOK worked well. Don't use creams with zinc oxcide in them: it will just exacerbates the problem.

Last edited by Doug64; 10-12-18 at 10:53 PM.
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Old 10-10-18, 01:55 PM
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blowboat
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So perhaps this a lesson in the difference between how comfortable a saddle is on a four hour ride and an all day ride?

I may need to check on that salve!
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Old 10-10-18, 02:15 PM
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It's been recommended, but I've never used it: https://www.chamoisbuttr.com/

For me, yes, at four hours a saddle may feel tolerable, but may be less tolerable for longer. So finding your "all-day" saddle could be one way to help. I find, too, that if a saddle is comfortable enough, I don't need padded shorts, at least not for a day or two of riding. What I have had luck with is rotating a padded pair of shorts in every few days. That way even if I'm biking day after day, every few days I change up the pressure points a little.
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Old 10-10-18, 05:28 PM
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My wife and I tend to ride at leadt 4+ hours at a shot. I ride on a Brooks B67 which is a little wider and has springs to soften some of the road bumps. My wife rides on a plastic saddle made for women. She rides only with bike shorts and complains aboud road rash around the third day. I ride is regular shorts and if i keep an eye on saddle position have not had trouble with saddle sores or peranual prrblems.
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Old 10-10-18, 05:43 PM
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blow, as always , answers to this topic are completely person related, but who knows, could it have been soap and not rinsing out enough? As previously brought up, small seat position and / or bike short and /or specific seat issues can all be the cause of it.
Also of course not having done so many hours riding before, as long days riding will always tend to show up small issues that didnt show up on shorter rides, just as long loaded rides will show up position issues vis a vis muscles, knees etc as we are working so much harder on a fully loaded bike than unloaded.

realistically, you are going to have to methodically try diff changes to see what and where the issue was.
Ive ridden for many years and now have both seats and padded shorts that work for me and dont have any issues like this even riding long days, day after day, even for months--but I am aware than improper cleaning, an issue with my shorts or seat, can always have the possibility of having a saddle sore (thankfully very few experiences with this personally).

diff bike shorts with diff padding fit diff people differently, and I might as well bring this up, do not wear underwear under padded bike shorts.
diff seats and slight position changes affect diff peoples bottoms differently, so there is no end to suggestions of fixes, not internet easily fixed answers here alas.

good luck with figuring out what it was, as mentioned, often its just a little thing--one reason that when one has a setup that works, bike, seat, bars position, padded shorts etc etc that works, one doesnt screw around with diff settings once you find the variables that work for you and all your comfort.
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Old 10-10-18, 05:53 PM
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Pics?
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Old 10-10-18, 08:19 PM
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blowboat
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I'm thinking I'll save everyone eye problems and forego posting any pics! 🤣
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Old 10-10-18, 08:36 PM
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I use Chamois Glide on the portions of my butt which will be under pressure. On my first tour, in my excitement, I failed to do this the first two days, by the evening of day 2, I had severe chafing and feared I'd have to abandon my ride. After applying Chamois Glide to the affected ares, it was like a trip to Lourdes ... the lame could walk again (or in my case the chafed could sit and pedal again). I continue to use it with every ride and have relatively few problems in that regard.

Regarding your saddle, everyone is different. Some here swear by the Brooks saddles. I never had much luck with them, I swear by the Terry Liberator Y Gel saddle. One of my riding partners tried over a dozen saddles before finding one he liked ... and it was designed for a woman's anatomy. Go figure...

Happy (saddle) hunting!

Dan
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Old 10-10-18, 08:53 PM
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djb
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Hey cybersnow, sorry to hear that your wife always crashes on the third day.

dumb joke aside, road rash is the term for scrapes and whatnot from coming off and sliding along on pavement.
even when I had motorcycles 35 years ago, we used that term.

hope she has found the setup and clothes that help avoid it.
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Old 10-11-18, 02:50 AM
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Originally Posted by blowboat View Post
So, last week I did the Cycle North Carolina "Mountains to Coast Ride"...a 482 mile ride over 7 days from Black Mountain to Oak Island. In part I did this ride because of a desire to get into bicycle touring and I had read several people who said fully supported bike tours are a great way to enter the bike touring world. Living in the coastal area of North Carolina I was concerned about the days riding in the mountains...but I found a good gear and cadence and really got through the big climbs with no real issues.

The big surprise was the development of saddle sores. Over the last 3 or 4 days I was in pretty severe pain when riding. This is a saddle (Performance brand, but don't remember which one) that I have had for a number of years with no issues. Being fully supported I was able to carry a completely different kit...with padded bib shorts...for each day. We had a shower truck shortly after each day's ride I was able to shower and get cleaned up. And yet, I developed very painful saddle sores...no broken skin but bumps, kind of like pimples.

Having never experienced this I can see how they could be a major issue on a tour. How to you combat them? When you develop them, how do you best treat them? (Particularly if taking a day or to off is not an option.) Not sure if the information I have provided is enough to get answers, but if not what else could I share that would help? Other than the first day, which happened to absolutely pour on us for 50 out of 63 miles, I used chamois cream each morning...sometimes reapplying about half way through the ride.

- PJ
So one thing I've learned via my own struggles is that sometimes saddle sores are caused because of instability on the saddle. I'll expand on that in a bit.

So obviously you have the typical chafing induced saddle sores, where a saddle that is too wide, too high, wrongly tilted, wrong shape or too soft or some or all of the aforementioned things combined. Some times these things only present themselves after you really stress your bum during an intense riding period such as tour. Then the obvious answer is to rectify the issue by changing the saddle position or changing the saddle. These kinds of sores can be either abrasion or pimples.

Then you have compression issues, where the saddle is too hard and shaped to increase the point pressure issue and thus the skin can't take the pressure. These kinds of sores present themselves at the sites where most pressure is added and are usually extremely painful just because of that.

Then there are the grimy chamois sores which are pretty random and are due to follicle infections.

And the one quite overlooked issue is the front to back instability saddle sores. These are caused by stretching. If you are unstable on your saddle and slide forward even slightly, if your, shorts, chamois and skin act together to grip the saddle to stop you from moving forward on the saddle and you get ´'anchored' it'll cause stretching of the skin down there. Now skin can't take much of that. In fact the skin is extremely bad at prolonged stretching. I've had shorts which had too grippy silicon leg grippers and they caused actual blisters when the skin was stretched. Same thing with medical tape I sometimes use to attach my BG sensor to the skin. And I've noticed that if I don't have a saddle that has a forward support, ie. a nose that curves up the anchor the pelvis in place, I'll get saddle sores no matter what I do, no matter what lubrication or shorts I use. I don't know why I scoot forward no matter what but I'm assuming it has something to do with muscle imbalance in my legs (massive quads, not so massive hamstrings). After I got a Selle SMP dynamic that offers that pelvis anchoring front support my saddle sore issues were much improved and it no longer mattered what chamois I used (I used to be extremely picky about them).

Much to think about but try to determine whether it is lack of lubrication and chafing, wrong saddle, saddle in the wrong position, wrong chamois or maybe instability on the bike.
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Old 10-11-18, 07:39 AM
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blow, elcrux's comments touch on the myriad of things that can be factors, and touches on the importance, or specifically, the advantage of riding regularly and becoming more attuned to the details--no different than any activity.

when I think back 20 years or whatever, I never really gave much thought to a seat or bike shorts, whether it worked or not.
I guess just part of finding improvements is good old trial and error, but it certainly helps the more often one rides and rides regularly to help figure out some of the small details of where discomfort is coming from.

and yes, supported trips are a great way to start, although 110km 70mile days are nothing to sneeze at, especially if hilly, and a lot more seat time than most riding that we do recreationally, a lot more time to show up small fit or equipment or clothing issues that become bigger issues as you and most of us have experienced at some time.
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Old 10-11-18, 09:27 AM
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@blowboat, have you done day-long rides (century or similar) before? If so, was your saddle been comfortable on those rides?

I'm having trouble untangling possible effects of long days in the saddle from consecutive days in the saddle. If you have similar symptoms (though not as extreme) after 8 hours in the saddle, you've either got the wrong saddle or you need to ride more to toughen up before the big ride. If it's just consecutive days, well, start with the chamois cream the very first day; otherwise, you'll damage the skin and it won't have a chance to recover.

I will say that it's much easier to vary your mileage if it's not an event ride or supported ride; you simply say, my butt is sore, I'm going to camp or get a motel after 30-40 miles today instead of pushing to 75 miles.
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Old 10-11-18, 10:57 AM
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Carbuncle sores? like pimples, are a bacterial infection of the skin pores,
the bacteria is ever present on the skin..

reducing that bacteria count has been my approach,, hygene..
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Old 10-11-18, 12:15 PM
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Wilfred Laurier
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I had been using the same minimal 'racing' style saddle on my bike for a couple years, including a few 100+km rides this year, and never noticed a problem. By about the 4th day of my tour this summer I was in significant discomfort. I realized that two 100km rides two weeks apart are not the same as 4 100km rides over 4 days. I got comfortable riding longer distances while standing up, but gave4 in a bought a new saddle about 2/3 of the way through the tour as I could not bear the pain anymore.
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Old 10-11-18, 01:37 PM
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blowboat
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Carbuncle sores? like pimples, are a bacterial infection of the skin pores,
the bacteria is ever present on the skin..

reducing that bacteria count has been my approach,, hygene..
Suppose it could be hygene related...so what do you do? With this being a fully supported ride I was fortunate that I could shower every day and had a clean (and dry) set of bibs each day.
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Old 10-11-18, 02:00 PM
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Good advice above. Saddles are the number one fit item on a bike. And as you saw, what works for te first few hours may not later. This needs to be dialed in before the tour. Likewise the clothing going over that saddle. But, even if you do everything right, saddle sores happen. Even the pros with their high levels of hygiene and doctors as part of the team get them. Sometimes we have to ride on them. When I have to, I find the old remedy "Bag Balm" works really well if enough is applied. (I also almost never get saddle sores if I use it before they show up.)

You can find it at any old-school pharmacy. Ask. If they don't carry it, they will know who does. If you use it, be forewarned - it is totally not cool and you will hear a list of reasons why you shouldn't. Don't listen. Your butt will tell you why you should (and thank you.

Ben
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Old 10-11-18, 10:31 PM
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I used to get minor saddle sores on multi-day tours when I averaged better than 60 miles a day. At other times it would be just long term soreness with no sores, per se. I made two changes:

The most notable change was switching to a Brooks leather saddle. Mine is the Brooks Flyer, which is really just the standard B-17 with springs. My second change for multiple day tours was a daily pre-ride coating of the parts of my backside which contacted the saddle with a zinc oxide cream.

Haven't had a saddle sore or soreness sense. No lie.
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