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I occasionally commute a 50miles round trip and by the end of it, things are usually not feeling very good down below.

I've tried a couple of different saddles, but they both gave me problems. One chaffed my inner thigh, and the other one seemed to not do my privates any good!

I'm wondering what tips have you got for getting comfy?

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    @Scott - please consider accepting one of these as the answer to your question. If none of these are the final answer, perhaps this question should be CW. Oct 17 '10 at 13:50
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    @neilfein - I've considered it. I think there are a few answers that are good, but don't consider that reason to CW it, as reasoned here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/55888/… Oct 17 '10 at 16:40
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    @Scott - I see your point. What information would someone have to provide in an answer for you to consider it the best answer? There is a lot of good information here, and people deserve credit for writing these answers. Oct 17 '10 at 16:59
  • @Scott - The title really does look like it's a typo of "saddle sores". Perhaps it could read "prevent chafing in the saddle"? Oct 17 '10 at 17:01
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    @Scott. - Looks like the bases are pretty well covered in the answers. - Saddle. Saddle height/fore-aft adjustment. Padded shorts or undershorts. Cream. Here's a Dr Mirkin link on a comfortable bike seat: drmirkin.com/fitness/8460.html and also this one: drmirkin.com/fitness/bicycle_seat.html Dr Mirkin often has good advice so hope it helps.
    – user313
    Oct 18 '10 at 16:22

15 Answers 15

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First, do you have cycling shorts w/ a chamois? If not, I would highly recommend them. As a note, they are your underwear (ex: do not wear undergarments and then put on the shorts).

Second, how did you choose your saddle? Was it fitted through some type of measurement system ala bontragers inform system or specializeds BG system? How much did you spend on the saddle and was it appropriate for the style of riding you are partaking in?

Third, does your bicycle fit you properly? Have you had it fitted?

So, there are a few points that you could answer to give me some help. I cannot recommend a saddle because everyone is different but I can recommend a brand that provides some type of measurement system for choosing your saddle. As well, if you are wearing cycling shorts a nice chamois butter might help with the chafing.

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  • @Scott, @tplunket, I will recommend a saddle. The Brooks B-17 is almost a standard among non-racing distance riders. Two of my bikes have B-17's, and I love them! Oct 5 '10 at 3:32
  • Regarding saddle size, start by going to a reputable bike shop that has a tool for determining optimum saddle size. From there you really need to try out different saddles until you find the right one (most shops will have "demo" saddles for you to experiment with).
    – jeuton
    Feb 12 '13 at 21:37
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get a good pair of padded bike shorts. I resisted for years, but after I got my first pair, it made a huge difference in comfort. You want the padding on your butt, not the saddle.

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  • Just to add....modern quality bike shorts have "shaped" padding that protects key areas of the anatomy.
    – user313
    Oct 4 '10 at 21:53
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The thing that causes saddle sores is friction. Moisture contributes as well.

Cycling shorts are probably a good idea, but if you don't want to wear cycling shorts (I don't for commuting, but my longest commute is half the distance of yours), there's three key things:

  1. A properly fitting saddle.
    In particular, there's a lot of problems with people wanting too wide and too soft a saddle, which tends to squeeze up into the more delicate areas you want to protect and to rub against the skin there more, making things worse. In other words, go with a smaller, harder saddle than you intuitively think you might need. Don't go for a totally hard saddle unless you'll always be wearing padded shorts, but you only need a very little padding, as your body already provides some padding if you're properly seated on your sit bones. Basically, the back part of the saddle should support you via your sit bones, and the front part should make it easy to keep the sit bones there. Problems with your privates are likely due to pressure on the perineum; proper saddle angle will help immensely with that, and you may find that a saddle with a cutout in that area will help. Many people swear by leather saddles, such as Brooks.
  2. Smooth underwear, preferably that doesn't hold onto moisture. This is half of what good bike shorts do, but if you pick underwear that doesn't have seams in the areas affected by friction and is fairly slippery, that can help a lot. You could even wear bike shorts (with or without a pad/chamois) as your underwear. A material like some of the new breathable polyesters will probably be better than, say cotton.
  3. Lubricate. There's products ("chamois butter") made specifically for it, but some simple skin moisturizer or petroleum jelly is something you might already have in the house that will help.
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You can always use some chamois cream. This goes a long way towards preventing saddle sores. I won't start a debate on what is best but you can speak to your LBS to find something.

I would also agree with the other comments on good cycling shorts.

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  • @Scott, @Richard - Chamois cream is particularly good in humid or wet conditions. Oct 5 '10 at 3:33
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I have to add this - though will probably get mauled for it...

Ride a recumbent (-:

Ok, I accept that this is probably not a practical answer to the problem - its also the case that recumbents have their own issues with being in the seat for extended periods of time (e.g. numb bums) but in terms of comfort overall I know which I'd rather cover 50 miles on.

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  • It's a valid point, but I think that it's safe to assume "on my bike" is implicit in the question. Oct 17 '10 at 20:37
  • I'm not sure I do think its safe to make that assumption - I think that it is more than reasonable to suggest that answers that suggest steps to be taken to improve comfort on the current bike are probably "better" than mine but that doesn't mean that more radical solutions shouldn't be considered. I'm a programmer, I have an inherent bias against making assumptions (-:
    – Murph
    Oct 18 '10 at 8:44
  • Hmm, he's changed the question...
    – Murph
    Oct 18 '10 at 16:29
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If you don't feel up to wearing just lycra, or if your commute doesn't have change facilities at the other end, then you can wear your bike shorts under your trousers as underwear.

Some manufacturers even make bike shorts that are designed to be worn as underwear. These shorts are typically made from a more breathable "mesh" fabric so that you don't get to hot.

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It may be that you need to change your riding position. The more your weight is on your hands and feet rather than your saddle, the less wear and tear you'll get on your saddle regions. Obviously there's a balance to be struck since putting too much weight up front is going to tire your arms out.

I don't know what kind of bike you're riding, but some change in the handlebar setup that puts your centre of gravity further forward might work.

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    I think that in general it is a bad idea to move weight forward for comfort however, trying a different position could be beneficial. Oct 19 '10 at 19:12
  • Agree changing fit for a bad seat or wrong width seat is counterproductive Dec 31 '20 at 1:12
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I'll go one further than everyone else and say get a pair of good bib shorts. My cheap-ish ($80) bib shorts are much more comfortable than my more expensive ($110) normal shorts. I doubt I'll ever buy non-bibs again.

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First thing, if you have sore or rawness from your commute - try this - http://www.buttpaste.com/BLButtPaste.php - best stuff I've ever used to help relieve pain and heal!

Second, padded cycling shorts are a must. I am a very large man, so for me this is the only place I can find gear in my size - http://www.aerotechdesigns.com Also, DON'T wear underwear with bike shorts. They will bind up and hinder moisture removal. Bike shorts will keep you dryer and more comfortable.

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Gold Bond

alt text

Never leave home without it. Great when riding all day. However, I would not recommend applying it to an already chaffed area.

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    Can't find this stuff locally. What exactly is it? A talcum powder, or something similar? Can you describe its function, may help generalise.
    – Criggie
    Jan 2 '16 at 5:30
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    @Criggie it is apparently talcum powder with menthol and zinc oxide.
    – Michael
    Jan 4 at 18:06
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One point you need to consider is that it takes time for you to get used to sitting in the saddle. If you only ride occasionally then you might have problems. I personally have found that as the season starts it takes about a dozen 1 to 2 hour ride to condition myself to riding. The mileage isn't the the issue it is the time spend riding. After those initial rides I'm good to go for centuries and other events throughout the season.

Having said that, getting the right saddle is important as well. You might need to try a couple until you find one that fits your particulars. But don't forget even then it will take a bit to see if things are right.

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  • A good part of that "breaking in" time is the time required to pull the hairs from your butt. Shaving your butt shortens breakin significantly. Mar 31 '12 at 12:46
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First of all, you must make sure that your bicycle is fitted properly. You need to make sure the frame size and saddle height and "tilt" is adjusted correctly. Your local bike shop can assist you with fitting the bike and saddle. It would seem that a wide and soft saddle would be best ( I did! ), but that isn't necessarily true. I found that a narrower gel padded saddle, ( Avocet ), was much more comfortable on longer rides ( this type of saddle will still break down and seem harder after a couple of years of use ), and recently purchased a Brooks leather B-17 saddle. These leather saddles need lots of breaking in and proper care before they're "comfortable", but you'll need to wear either padded cycling shorts or padded underwear beneath your clothing on all but the shortest distances with a leather saddle. Lots of "saddle time" also makes a difference.

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If it's soreness that is the problem, the angle of the saddle is often overlooked. Try tilting the nose (front) of the saddle down. Shape and model of saddle also play a big part in comfort on the bike. Every body is different and it may take some trial to find a saddle that fits your body right.

If it's rawness from rubbing, get some good chamois cream. :)

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Another point that has not been mentioned is the cut and fit of your padded shorts.

For shorter rides anything goes. Its the long rides where things become more exaggerated.

For Males, your shorts should be firm and close fitting around the outside of the thighs. Not so tight they interfere with circulation, but the fabric should be slightly stretched to remove all wrinkles.

The padded area or Chamois is sewn inside the shorts, and it should start directly under the testicles at the front, and then widen out. The two lobes of the padding should sit between your sitbones and the saddle. The chamois should be flat with no wrinkles or folds, and all stitching should be flat as well. The edges should lay flat against the shorts.

Finally the shorts should be pulled up. The shorts fabric should be touching the inside of your thigh from the bottom hem all the way up to the inside-top of your thigh where the skin turns down to the testicles. The fabric will stretch and move with you, and the thigh skin should not touch other skin. Your genitals should be "cupped" and pointing forward.

For Females... someone else needs to add a separate answer, for completeness.

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Have you actually had someone measure the distance between your sit bones or did you just try saddles without that measurement?

If it is the latter you should have a LBS measure your sit bones by having you sit on foam. From there you can find a seat that actually works with your body vs. putting pressure in places you do not like.

I would recommend a short nose saddle along with a cut out to alleviate any pressure on soft tissue. After making the switch to the proper width saddle that is also short nose with a cut out, I can do 50 miles at one stretch with basketball shorts. Before that even when I had on a padded bib, I never could get comfortable on long rides.

Certainly riding shorts or bibs help, but make sure it is not being used to cover up an incorrectly sized saddle. Also have a bike fitter eyeball if everything else looks right and usually if you buy the seat from them they will help set the right position and tilt for the seat.

Here is GCN's detailed explanation of it that elaborate on sit bones.

Hope that helps.

----- Addition

Here is a DIY method to measure your sit bones where you can - 1) Find a flat surface, 2) Put a wet paper towel on the surface, 3) Put a piece of paper over the paper towel, 4) Sit on all of the above, 5) Measure your sit bones from the water marks on the paper.

It is pretty much a similar process with memory foam many bike fitters use:

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    I am curious why the down vote. The OP mention issues other than chaffing that are symptoms with the wrong width saddle. Just trying different saddles is like throwing a dart at a board blindfolded. The look or padding of a saddle does not always match the comfort. Unless you know your sit bone width (e.g 155mm) just trying different saddles is like trying on different shoes that all could be the wrong size. Dec 31 '20 at 1:49

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