May 2012 Training TipsWe had a glimmer of hope that spring weather was really getting closer this past weekend… the air was warm, the skies were blue, and it felt like a good time to really get out and put in some time on the bike! I hope you were able to enjoy some time outdoors and that your training for the 2012 Courage Classic is going well.
I received an interesting email from a 3-time Courage Classic participant this week that raised an interesting question about a common problem that cyclists of all levels may experience. This particular problem is not for the faint of heart…so bear with me as we discuss an anatomic region that doesn’t often get a special amount of attention!
This particular cyclist had been an experiencing an intermittent problem with a painful mass in the area where his “hind quarters” came in contact with his bike seat. The mass would come and go depending on how much he was riding, but would cause a significant amount of discomfort after multiple longer training rides.
“Saddle Sores,” as they are known in the cycling world, start as an area of friction on the skin surface. A saddle sore may start as a very small abrasion or an area of raw feeling skin. Unfortunately, some of these minor appearing problems may progress to a very solid and painful mass (an abscess) that has formed due to a significant accumulation of bacterial growth. Saddle sores can occur in riders who are not used to the time spent on a bike seat, but they also occur in the most seasoned professional bike racers who spend hours on their bikes every day. There is no good scientific evidence to show who will get saddle sores, but there are some good ways to avoid the problem in the first place.
Remember that clean and dry skin is the best way to protect the sensitive areas that spend time against a bike seat. Make sure you start your day with a clean and dry pair of cycling shorts. Keeping friction to a minimum is also a big factor. “Bib shorts” incorporate suspenders that sit over the shoulders, and don’t allow as much friction through the groin region on long rides, which is the primary reason bib shorts are standard within the professional cycling ranks. Using a good quality pair of cycling shorts with comfortable padding on a bicycle seat that is comfortable and form fitting will also decrease your risk of developing a saddle sore. Lastly, consider using “chamois crème”, a special type of lotion that provides a nice barrier layer over the skin and decreases friction. Chamois Butt’r® is my personal favorite. If you have never used or applied a chamois crème before, it does take a little getting used to…apply it liberally to the inner thighs, lower/inner buttocks, and the “perineal” area (sorry to get graphic… this is the area between the genitalia and perianal region). Your local bike shop is the best place to pick up some chamois crème.
Make sure that you remove your sweaty cycling shorts as soon as you can after a ride. Sweat will dry as salt crystals, which can be additionally abrasive and enhance your risk of developing a saddle sore. The Courage Classic has great showering facilities, so make sure you take advantage of this as soon as you can.
If you can, travel with a clean pair of cycling shorts for each day of the Courage Classic. Also, in case nobody has told you yet…you don’t wear underwear with cycling shorts, as this actually will create more chaffing and abrasion to the skin!
Should you develop a saddle sore, make sure you keep a very close eye on it. Continue to keep the skin clean and dry. Some topical antibiotic ointment is also helpful. If the size of the sore increases, starts to drain pus, or you see reddish/pink streaks from around the saddle sore, seek medical attention immediately.
As always, keep an eye on all the activity around you on the road while training for the Courage Classic. Training with ear buds can keep you motivated and spinning your legs at a higher pace, but remember that ear buds can prevent you from hearing important signs of trouble around you while training on busy roads (oh yeah… and they’re not allowed during the Courage Classic).