How to avoid saddle sores

Cycling can be a nightmare for anyone who suffers from frequent saddle sores. These may be small blemishes or abrasions but they can be painful and distracting. They make riding difficult, and at times impossible. There have been instances where professional cyclists had to abandon races on account of sores that had turned into cysts.

The sores are caused by the constant rubbing of skin against cycling shorts or saddle surface. Bacterial infection sets in if the sores are left unattended for long time. Then they become painful, and difficult.

You need to take the following steps to avoid these skin abrasions:

-- Improving the bike fit: This is the first necessity. If the seat is too high, the hips rock on the seat while pedaling. It irritates the skin. An experienced coach can help in giving you the right posture.

-- Standing and stretching: You should lift yourself for 15-20 seconds while cycling. This reduces the pressure on the crotch and restores circulation.

-- Moving on the saddle: Sit towards the rear where your bones get maximum support. Also, frequent change of position relieves pressure on the skin. -- Choose smooth and soft shorts: Shorts with a one-piece liner and with flat seams prevent rashes due to rubbing. Shorts or chamois should be soft and padded. One has to experiment with brands to find the one that suits the individual skin. -- Selecting a supportive seat: Too wide saddles, too narrow saddles, too soft saddles have their disadvantages. One may rub the inner thighs, the other may not give enough support to your bones, or may press upward causing numbing pressure. Saddle choice is crucial and needs to be chosen according to individual needs.

-- Lubrication: Use some good ointment like petroleum jelly or balm to reduce friction caused by the chamois

-- Keeping clean: Always wear clean shorts for each ride. Keep the skin dry. Wash your crotch with antibacterial soap and warm water before lubing up.

-- Change quickly: After a ride, change your shorts immediately to prevent the bacteria from breeding and entering the abraded skin. Clean up with soap and water. Dry well and put on loose-fitting clothing to let your skin breathe.

-- Sleep without clothes: Air circulation keeps the skin dry and free of clothing contact as long as you are in bed.

You need to take medical help at the first signs of sores. Acne gel containing 10% benzyl peroxide is especially helpful. A course of oral antibiotics can also be tried. Rest, of course, is the best; it prevents the small abrasion from turning into a boil or a cyst.

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