How to prevent saddle sore

No matter how long you have been riding, you have probably heard people talk about their butts being sore. From minor bruising to full-on abrasions, saddle sores make riding miserable. To help alleviate a sore bum there are a few things you should try.


Buy padded riding shorts. While many new riders will try to “get away” with padded briefs, essentially underwear with padding, which are worn under baggy shorts or even a skirt, these will actually bunch up and be quite uncomfortable. It is best to buy a pair of Lycra padded shorts. Women, buy women-specific shorts as the padding is cut to fit each sex’s anatomy and typically, men’s pads are not padded enough where the pubic bone is located. Lycra shorts are meant to be skin fit. This is what helps to hold the pad in place. If you do not like the idea of a tight waist, look for a pair with “bibs” or built-in suspenders.


Do not wear underwear under your bike shorts. No. Never, ever.. Lycra shorts are designed to be worn sans underwear, jock strap or anything at all. When you pull them on, ensure that the padding is pulled all the way up. Do not let the crotch “bag” at your thighs.


Use chamois cream. It is used on both the inside of the padding in your shorts as well as on your bottom itself.  It is intended to be a lubricant between your skin and the padding which helps to minimize friction. Be sure to thoroughly wash away the lubricant after riding.


In addition to buying the correct shorts and treating your skin with chamois cream, check to see if the saddle on your bike is the right one for you. 

More padding is not better. Saddles that are too padded just provide more surface area on your bum for friction. Look  for a saddle that matches the width of your sit bones.  Your body weight  is held by the ischial tuberosity (sit bones). They are the bottom of your pelvis and saddle some in different widths to accommodate them. A few brands use jean size, and one brand has a fit device which lets you know the exact width of your sit bones. If you are fitted properly, you will be comfortable with all your weight on your sit bones and not on your arms.


There are dozens of styles --  flat with virtually no padding, curved noses nose (front), large cutouts. If your discomfort is primarily on the front of the pelvic bone and soft tissue (for women), try a saddle that has a nose that curves downward. The cutout helps to alleviate pressure in the center. It’s all about your individual anatomy, no two persons are exactly alike.  

If you have a persistent saddle sore, please see your doctor. He or she can have a formulary mix up an anti-microbial/lidocaine (or other combination) cream that will help them to heal while reducing pain. Don’t let saddle sores linger. If not treated they can become painful cysts which will keep you off the bike. Prevention is the name of the game when it comes to being comfortable in the saddle.

1 comment

  • Wayne Ferguson

    I discovered my sore butt and environs was due to difference in leg length. Following a hip replacement, it turned out that one leg was now appreciably longer than the other one. An extra shim on the short side cleat rectified the problem.

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