If you ride long enough (or far enough) you're likely to encounter the pain the ass known colloquially as saddle sores. "Saddle sore" is a catch-all term for a range of skin irritations, abrasions, and even infections.
What are saddle sores?
Saddle sores can result from chafing between your butt and the saddle or chamois. Irritation of hair follicles can lead to folliculitis, an inﬂammation or infection at the base of a hair follicle. This can worsen to become a furuncle or a boil, which is much slower to heal and can result in a lot of recovery time.
Minor skin lacerations that would otherwise go undetected can be exacerbated by the motion of cycling and become ulcers. These small lesions act as a gateway for bacteria to penetrate deeper layers of tissue. If untreated, the ulcer will grow and can lead to a serious skin infection.
Riders in our General Discussion Forum are discussing their experiences with saddle sores and how they've been able to treat them or avoid them altogether.
One rider noted that they started experiencing saddle sores due to a worn-out saddle that flexed too much while riding.
Other mountain bikers point out that fit is very different between road and mountain bikes, especially with modern trail bikes with steep seat tube angles. Relying on the same saddle for both disciplines might not be the best approach, since your weight is distributed very differently across the saddle.
Related: Best Mountain Bike Saddles
Finding your proper saddle height can be key to preventing saddle sores.
Fit can be a culprit as well. A saddle that is is even just a few millimeters too high can lead to rocking of the pelvis, which in turn can lead to excessive motion between the rider and the saddle, leading to irritation.
"A year or so ago I raised my seat a little and liked the extra leg extension. However, I soon developed nasty sores (even while using my regular ointment). At first, I didn't realize it was the saddle height. But after a while, I dropped the saddle back and the sores disappeared," Mtbr member Pisgah wrote.
How to treat saddle sores?
When you have a saddle sore, the best treatments are topical antibiotics, such as Neosporin and Aquaphor Healing Ointment, combined with keeping the infected area dry, clean, and taking a few days off the bike so your body can heal.
If the infection is not caught in time, topical antibiotics might not be enough. Prescription antibiotics might be in order. In the worst cases, the infected area may become a cyst and will need to be drained of fluids or even excised via surgery to prevent the reoccurrence of saddle sores.
How do I prevent saddle sores?
Chamois creams can reduce chafing between the wearer and the chamois.
In terms of preventive measures, many riders rely on chamois creams such as Chamois Butt'r and DZ Nuts to prevent friction between their butt and the chamois.
Another great point made in this conversation is that riders should always get out of their chamois as soon as a ride is over to prevent the growth of bacteria. This is also a proven way to avoid bladder infections, especially among female cyclists.
Some mountain bikers take a very different approach, ditching the padded chamois all together in favor of breathable performance boxer briefs from brands such as SAXX, MyPackage, and Addias.
Have you experienced saddle sores? Click here to join the conversation.