Started cycling and experiencing butt pain, numbness or saddle sores?
My personal journal with butt pain
I’ve been cycling for just over two years and I’ve become well-acquainted with my butt during this time. The truth is, your butt always hurts in the beginning. Like with any new sport, your body has to get used to the “feeling”. You’re sitting for long periods of time on a tiny saddle that you don’t normally sit on and your body needs to adjust to that. Become one with it. And it will happen.
In preparation for long-distance races or even multi-day races, we do TITS training rides. This literally refers to time in the saddle, to prepare your body. I am both a mountain biker and a road cyclist and have done the Coronation DC twice (203km road race) and many three-day mountain bike races, like Tankwa Trek, Dr Evil, Storms River and Wines2Whales... And I can tell you that my butt is not a pretty sight afterwards. I always take pics – to the horror of my boyfriend (and riding partner) – so I can see the pain I feel. I’ve also been discouraged by team from sharing them here.
The truth is, with any endurance sport, your body takes somewhat of a beating. Nine-day races like Joberg2C even have bum clinics at the race village.
But there are ways to preserve your butt — or at least lessen the discomfort.
How to prevent saddle sores and chafing
1/ Wear good-quality chamois and don’t change up between brands too often. Find one that’s comfortable for you.
2/ Don’t wear panties with your cycling shorts. This will only cause more chafing.
3/ Use a lubricant designed for your bum. My faves are: BodyGlide Anti-chafe (I use this for my tri and wetsuit as well), Squirt Barrier Balm and Ass Magic Chamois Cream. If you’re looking for an all-natural product, check out Bee Natural Chamois Cream.
4/ Make sure your bike is set up correctly. Your positioning on the bike will not only affect how aerodynamic you are, but how comfortable you are. The correct position will also lead to efficiency gains.
5/ Get the right seat! Cycling brand Specialized gathered data from female cyclists to create a more comfortable, customisable women-specific seat so that we can perform better, sans pain and numbness. The Women’s Power Saddle has MIMIC tech, which responds to different types of pressure to create equilibrium with soft tissue and you can buy it in your sit-bone size (from R1 700).
I had my ass measured at Revolution Cycles in Cape Town. #LoveYourBum
6/ Shower as soon as possible. In 2018 I did my longest single-day race, the Attakwas Extreme. It took me 10 hours to finish. It’s a 120km mountain bike race in the Karoo and we had all weather conditions in one day! It took me a long time to get back to our accommodation and shower and I had worse rashes and even a pimple outbreak on my face because of all the sweat, mud and sunblock.
7/ I don’t shave or wax before a long cycling race. Sorry guys! This only causes more rashiness down there.
Anti-chafe tips from the pros
… And very experienced riders:
“I suffer from saddle sores and Bactroban is for the win! Don’t hang around in your pants after you work out – sweat and lycra are not a good combo! I also used Panamor at DC – it numbs everything so you only feel the pain when it wears off.” – Annah Watkinson, pro triathlete.
“Saddle sores are best healed with quick showering after your ride and applying Betadine surgical scrub. Try different saddles. You need about three weeks to give sit bones the ability to get used to the saddle. More padding is not always better.” – Brendan Stevens, road cyclist and mountain biker from Team Pure Savage.
Below: literally me in the shower after a stage race… The moment the water hits the chafe!
“Invest in a good pair of bib shorts with a good chamois. Don’t wear underwear with cycling shorts. Use anti-chafe cream – I love Ass Magic. it’s an amazing lanolin-based cream with amazing essential oils with antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Get a proper bike fit – and get saddle pressure points tested too to see if you’re sitting heavier on certain sections of your saddle. The Gear Change bike shop does great fitting.” – Mariella Sawyer, pro triathlete and dietician.