No doubt some giants of the road will be feeling pretty sore and tired this morning after yesterday’s stage on the rough French cobbles. Today they have to swing their legs onto their bikes again for another day at the coal face. Their nether regions will already have taken a battering, so another day in the saddle would seem very daunting. So what do the pro’s do to prevent the dreaded saddle sore, and what can you do to keep them at bay?
There is a lot of advice out there about how to deal with saddle sores, but as a Doctor will tell you, prevention is always better than a cure. Some tough riders have had to abandon major races because of these annoying and painful sores. And even though they are treatable, bad ones can mean rest and time off the bike. Which let’s face it, no cyclist wants. So preventing them in the first place should be number one priority.
So in chronological order, here is our list of points to cover to avoid saddle sores.
- Have you had a bike fit? The number 1 culprit for saddle sores is a rider’s position on the saddle, particularly saddle height. A saddle that is too high can be a major cause of sores, because the hips rock from side to side, causing unwanted movement on the saddle. It’s this movement that causes friction, and it’s friction that causes saddle sores. Also, particular attention should be paid to saddle fore and aft position.
- Before we look at inserts and pads, are your shorts fitting you correctly? A lot of riders tend to wear shorts that are too big. When trying on a pair of bibshorts, if they are good quality anatomically cut ones, then they should feel constrictive when you’re stood up normally. These type of shorts are designed to work when you’re on the bike, so will feel right when riding. Shorts that are too big can cause the insert or pad to move, resulting in friction when you’re pedalling. If your shorts are the right size and are good quality, the insert won’t move.
- Are your shorts’ insert of good quality and positioned correctly? Obviously, a premium, well-designed insert will be more comfortable but what most people don’t realise is comfort is also the result of where and how the pad is stitched into the shorts. Parentini is only one of three manufacturers who stitch their pads into the short in a certain way. When you hold up a pair of Parentini bibshorts, you will notice that the pad doesn’t sit flat, it folds up into an inverted ‘V’. The lycra around the pad stitching also appears ‘wrinkled’. This is deliberate. It’s manufactured this way, so that when you put the shorts on, your body weight presses the pad down, so that it’s in the right position when you’re on the bike, not off it. The insert is also deep stitched, so again there is no movement.Parentini also makes sure the fore/aft position of their pads are correct – so that the padding is in the most comfortable position – sitting under your perineum. Again, a good sign of your short being the right size is that there isn’t excess padding front and back when you’re sat on the saddle.When choosing a bibshort, it’s also worth bearing in mind your intended use for the garment. Parentini produces a range of inserts, each with their own specialism. For instance, the C6 HT Long Distance has a slimmer front edge, which benefits riders who race or train in aggressive saddle positions, and the C6 Fluo Elastic Carbon is a high comfort pad, ideal for long days in the saddle, in Gran Fondo’s etc
- Is your saddle right for you? Most saddle manufacturers now have their own techniques and systems of finding your perfect saddle. Most also have demo saddles, so find a dealer and try a few out. Ideally looking at your saddle should only be done during or after your bike fit.
- Are you clean! Hygiene is very important when it comes to preventing saddle sores. Always wash your shorts after every ride, and always wear clean shorts for a ride. And it goes without saying to always (if possible) shower and clean yourself thoroughly after every ride.
- How old are your shorts and saddle? Repeated riding in shorts, no matter how good they are, eventually compresses the pad material. Ideally, shorts should be replaced every two years, even if they look like new. So it pays to have a few pairs to circulate. The same goes for saddles. Padding material can lose its memory, and saddle bases sag, causing problems on your contact points.
- Do your shoes fit? It might seem silly to mention the furthest point from your saddle, but a shoe that is too big can cause your foot to slip forward in the shoe. The knock on effect of this is that you will move forward on the saddle, even if your bike fit is perfect. As we’ve mentioned before, you need to minimise any movement in the saddle area as this causes friction.
If you take on board these points (ideally in chronological order) then you’d be surprised to hear that you shouldn’t need to use saddle cream! I still use it, but that’s more out of habit and using the cream for its antiseptic properties (see Point 5 – Hygiene!). Although it’s worth pointing out that excessive use of saddle cream can attract dirt and dust, which can irritate and cause infection.
Now if you’re ever unlucky enough to get a bad saddle sore then our advice is to REST. This is important. Just like any other injury, your body will be glad of the healing time. Once cleared up, gradually ease yourself back into rides, upping the mileage and intensity over a few days.
If you’re looking for the ultimate shorts, then take a look at a pair that includes Parentini’s C6 HT Elastic pad. Not only does it feature a carbon composition, which aids sweat transportation (thereby keeping you drier and more hygienic) the pad is also elasticated, which means when you’re pushing down on the pedals at the 6 o’clock position, the pad stretches with your short material enabling the central part to remain static and minimise movement and friction. Clever stuff.