Question: It’s getting colder and I’ve begun to wear tights. I’ve noticed that I tend to develop saddle sores when riding with tights, either the kind worn over shorts or those with a built-in chamois. Any advice? — Steve B.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Wearing tights over cycling shorts adds an extra layer of fabric in your crotch area. This material might wrinkle or slide and cause friction. Either problem can produce saddle sores.
Also, the extra thickness has the effect of making your legs shorter. It’s just like raising your saddle. So you might be rocking a bit on the saddle to reach the pedals, and this can cause crotch irritation. Generally, you need to lower the saddle about 2-3 mm in the winter to compensate for tights worn over shorts.
Tights with their own chamois shouldn’t require a saddle height adjustment (assuming you’re not also wearing cycling shorts underneath them). But if the chamois in the tights is different from the one in your shorts, that may be the cause of irritation.
Also, you must wash chamois tights after every ride if the pad is against your skin. Most cyclists routinely toss shorts into the washer, but because tights are bulkier and more trouble to dry, they may not get washed as often. Riding with a germy chamois is an open invitation to saddle sores.
One solution, at least until it gets below about 40F degrees, is to use leg warmers instead of tights. Then you can wear your regular shorts without an additional layer in the crotch.