Question: I’m a triathlete who has frequent problems with saddle sores. I wonder if they’re caused by a discrepancy between the width of my sit bones compared to my saddle. I measured my sit bones (hard to do!), and they’re about 100-115 mm apart. How should this measurement guide my saddle selection? — Barry B.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: It’s hard to know if saddle width is the main cause of your saddle sores. Usually, width problems show up as numbness or, worse, erectile dysfunction. A saddle that’s too narrow puts your sit bones over the sides. This allows excessive pressure on the penile nerves and blood vessels that run through the crotch.
You can certainly still get saddle sores on a seat that’s wide enough to support your sit bones correctly. And that’s what you’re looking for — bones supported on top. If you know your center-to-center sit bone distance, you can measure across the top of saddles to eliminate those that are too narrow (or needlessly wide).
For triathletes, a big issue is the low, aero-bar position often used. This rolls you forward so that weight and pedaling action is concentrated on the narrower front of the saddle. It’s hard to remain back where sit bones are supporting your weight and limiting pressure on the crotch.
A change in saddle tilt (1-2 degrees downward) may help lessen pressure, especially if your bars are a lot lower than the top of the saddle. Be careful — tilting it more will make it that much harder to stay back on the wide rear of the seat. Experiment!
You may also consider a saddle specifically designed for TTs and triathlons, such as an ISM seat.
Shorts Matter, Too
Be sure to ride in good-quality cycling shorts with a large, soft and lightly padded liner. Always use a clean pair of shorts for each ride. Wash your skin well immediately after you finish, and use an acne product containing 10% benzoyl peroxide (or a prescription gel called erythromycin) to treat pimple-like sores. A skin lube such as Chamois BUTT’r will help reduce the incidence of sore, abraded areas caused by chafing.
If you’re able to be completely free of saddle sores and abrasions, you’ll be the first cyclist in history to manage that. But if you use the above tips, I think you’ll limit how often you have a problem.
Ronald L Adams says
thank you for this very detailed and informative article. I am 74 years old and consider myself to be in pretty fit shape. I try to maintain 200 miles on my bike each week, but I do suffer occasscionally with saddle sores. I should say singular as I always seem to get one and in the same spot which is the crease on the inside of my right leg at the very top next to my testicles. Right now and several other times it becomes an open sore, some blood but never a lot. I do wear padded riding shorts and have tried wearing two pair. I have also tried wearing a pair of under armour shorts underneith the bike shorts. I have even tried mole skin and padded bandages. This one is about an inch long and an “open” sore. I was in a bad bike crash June of 2020 with several facial lacerations. My doctor and dermotologist had me using vinegar soaks then applying medihoney. Never heard of it but it certainly did the job in healing the open wounds. So that is what I am using now. I have decided to take a couple days off. I do not use clip on pedals, have in the past but use the new shimano pedals with the little spikes and I wear a pair of Hoka trail running shoes so with that said I rarely stand and pedal. I ran distance for 20 years 0ver 100 marathons and 35 ultra marathons. I think I wore the bottom of my feet off and one knee gives me problems. Ortho doc said if cycling does not bother either then stop the running which I have. I need to order more of the Medi honey and see it here on the ad on your site should I order from you thank you and any good tips I would love to hear My bike is what I call a “throw back” steel frame about 30 + years old a road bike Ron Adams