Lesson 6 of 12 from Uncategorized Skills, Ryan Leech Connection.
Summer temperatures mean a lot of things: Rides to watering holes and streams become a lot more fun, we have to focus on staying hydrated, we get to enjoy more hours in the sun before it’s dark, and all that extra sweat can lead to some … less than comfortable moments, specifically for your nether regions. This is especially true for mountain bikers since we tend to double our layers with a chamois and then a pair of baggies, trapping sweat and creating a sticky situation, compounded by rides that hit streams and mud puddles that splash up.
If you’ve never had any issues ‘down there,’ whether it’s a chafing, numbness or saddle sore type issue, you’re lucky. But you might not be forever. The best offense is, as we know, a good defense: so let’s keep our ‘undercarriage’ happy now, and reap the benefits of comfortable riding later. Why do I sound so passionate about this? Because I’ve talked to hundreds of men and women who’ve almost left cycling because of saddle-related problems. And so, I wrote a book about it. In writing “Saddle, Sore: Ride Comfortable, Ride Happy,” a few pieces of wisdom really jumped off the page for me. Whether you’re already dealing with some saddle sore issues, discomfort, or even just the occasional numbness or chafing, here are some of the best ways to ensure chamois-happiness and a better bike ride.
Invest in a Saddle & Shorts
Whether you’re shredding singletrack or racing endurance events, you really want a pair of shorts and a saddle that feel like they were made for you. One good pair is better than three crappy pairs, any day of the week (though make sure you wash it after every ride!).
And focus on fit, both in terms of saddle and shorts: “People don’t realize that if you find stuff that fits well, that can make cycling a much more comfortable experience,” explains Brad Sheehan, co-founder and lead designer at Velocio. Try before you buy, when you can, or at least don’t be afraid to return a pair that just doesn’t fit right. Look for something that’s tight, but not so tight that it’s hard to breathe, and with a chamois that feels like a reasonable size, not like a diaper.
You’ll also want a saddle that fits your pelvic structure will alleviate pressure and keep you safe from numbness and chafing, and your sit bone width is actually pretty simple to measure. Ask any local bike shop and they’ll typically have some kind of measuring device.
Repeat after me: You do not wear underwear with bike shorts. This, and I can’t emphasize this enough, is bad for you. The chamois is there to pad your seat a bit, but also to keep the bad bacteria away from your genitals. All underwear does is trap the bad stuff in there. Gross.
Do Laundry Right
Wash your bike shorts, carefully. This seems kind of obvious, but just make sure that when you’re washing your kit, the inside of the chamois is actually getting clean. Sometimes, it doesn’t get as squeaky clean during a wash cycle as you might prefer, especially in a big load of clothes. The second part of this is making sure that your shorts are getting rinsed enough. I’ve had a lot of people complain about getting rashes from their chamois, and nine times out of ten when I tell them to rinse their shorts an extra time in the wash, that solves the problem. Leftover detergent plus sweaty, exposed skin leads to irritation.
Use chamois cream when needed.
Chamois cream exists to fight the friction between your skin and your shorts. Not everyone needs it, and not every ride requires it, but it’s helpful, and not something to be afraid of. If you’re going to be out on the bike for a while training for a long endurance event, definitely apply a bit before you head out the door. At first, it takes some getting used to and feels kind of slippery, but you’ll learn to love it… Especially if you’re putting in big hours.
Drop Your Shorts
I devote a whole chapter in “Saddle, Sore: Ride Comfortable, Ride Happy” to this point because it matters so much when it comes to your in-ride hygiene and ability to avoid saddle sores. If you take nothing else from this book, take away the fact that when you finish a ride, your shorts come off immediately. This will go a long way towards preventing saddle sores and other skin issues! Mountain bikers are super guilty of this since we often drive to and from trailheads and don’t bother changing for the ride home. Do yourself a favor and take the 30 seconds to change! (Bonus points if you bring baby wipes and do a fast wipe-down as well, especially if it’s really sweaty or you used chamois cream.)
Treat Early, Avoid Problems
A saddle sore is easier to cure when it’s first starting (and it’s even better if you can prevent it altogether). Catching one early and taking appropriate steps to get rid of it can keep you healthy and even avoid needing surgery—for real. A day off the bike beats a season on the couch. Of course, you can still practice things like wheelies in your street clothes, and avoid doing any sitting on the saddle. Or, try a yoga video instead. There are tons of options that leave your nether regions in recovery mode while you keep training.
By Molly Hurford - RLC Coach & Ambassador
Have more questions? Check out Molly’s full book (in print or on Kindle) on Amazon.