10 Reasons For Bicycle Saddle Sores, And How to Prevent Them


A long bicycle ride is rewarding in a number of ways from getting good exercise to bonding with fellow cyclers to just enjoying a peaceful day with nature. Even the negative takeaways can actually be positive. Perhaps the only depressing aspect of a long bike ride are the saddle sores to the butt and thighs but they don’t have to be a given.

Here are the 10 main reasons for those saddle sores and how you can prevent them:

Poor Circulation of Blood

Even sitting at a desk for an extended period of time will start to cause soreness due to the lack of blood flow and these are on chairs that are wide, soft, and comfortable. The pain even greater when riding on a thin bicycle seat for hours at a time. There’s an easy fix, simply alter the way that you ride from standing up at times to taking breaks on long rides.

Underwear Lumping

Long cotton underwear has the tendency to roll and lump up over a ride and can cause rubbing and irritation. It’s best to go with a thin underwear with minimal seams if you must wear briefs.


One thing that promotes the increase in saddle sores after riding is the presence of fungus and bacteria in wet cycling shorts. Make sure to change into a dry pair immediately after biking and take a shower as soon as possible afterward.

Pressure on the Nerves

Rubbing and irritation over the course of a three hour ride is almost inevitable but you shouldn’t be experiencing problems just minutes into the ride. If so it’s usually caused by a poorly adjusted seat saddle that is either pointing too far up or down and needs to be adjusted.

Skin Irritation

The consistent pedaling motion against the bike seat is bound to cause some rubbing of skin which is virtually inevitable. Instead of prevention, perhaps the best method is protection by using a variety of lotions and creams before, during, and after the ride:

  • Chamois butter – geared specifically for cyclists relieves already irritated skin.
  • Preparation H – hemorrhoid crème also helps to shrink saddle sores
  • Tea tree oil – has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties
  • Vagisil – male/female cyclists use this feminine product because of antiseptic and pain-relieving qualities

Most of these ointments are available in health  / or pharmacy stores. Please get advice from pharmacist /doctor before applied them.

Sweat Puddling

Sweat that forms and soaks into a pair of underwear creates a wet grip that tears at the inner thighs. If you’re really serious about riding, the best form of attire is a pair of dedicated cycling shorts. Almost every long term rider makes the switch eventually just for the sheer comfort that cycling shorts provide.

Long Riding Times

An extended ride will eventually cause saddle sores even if you apply crème religiously and wear specialized bicycling shorts. If these are too much to handle perhaps altering the type of bicycling you do would be a better route. Instead of longer, low intensity workouts you can reap the same rewards from shorter, more vigorous rides but without the saddle sores.

Inevitable Pressure on the Rear End

While long rides will hurt the butt, there is also some toughening up of the rear end that will occur over time. Have faith and rest assured that your butt will strengthen to make the saddle sores less painful.

Soft Tissue Irritation

Your body is prone to saddle sores from biking as-is, there’s no need to compound this with a bike that is too small or too large and puts unnecessary extra pressure on the hips and thighs.

Inner Thigh Rub

A wider, thicker bike seat would be an easy way to alleviate any saddle sores, the truth is a seat that is too big can have adverse affects on the inner thigh. It’s important to find a seat that is ‘just right’ and not too wide to rub or too thin as to not accommodate the bones used in sitting.

Saddle sores are an unfortunate part of the rewards of cycling but with proper prevention and protection they can be easily managed to not affect your everyday life.

The most effective way for saddle sores prevention:

Image credit to John Devolle