How to avoid saddle sores

Saddle sores can force anyone off the bike, so how do you avoid them? GP and cyclist Andy Ward has the answers…

What are they?

Saddle sores can affect any cyclist from beginners to toughened pros. Legendary hard man Sean Kelly had to pull out of the 1987 Vuelta because of a saddle sore while leading the race. They start by friction on the skin causing an abrasion. This can progress to inflammation of hair follicles, causing small spots a bit like acne. Infection can then set in, leading to a full-blown abscess. Good hygiene and preventing friction are essential if you’re to avoid this condition.


Reducing friction starts with saddle choice. Not every saddle suits every rider – don’t go for the sleekest, lightest one on the market if it isn’t comfortable. Getting the saddle height right is important too: too high and you’ll rock around as you pedal, creating more friction. A good pair of shorts with a high-quality chamois might be the best purchase you ever make. Only wear clean shorts and change out of them as soon as you can after finishing a ride. Jump in the shower as soon as you can and dry yourself thoroughly – use a hair dryer on delicate areas if necessary. Chamois cream contains antibacterial agents and acts as a lubricant, preventing friction, so it could be a wise investment.


If you develop saddle sores, ease off cycling for a while. Antiseptic creams or sprays, such as Savlon Dry Antiseptic can help prevent infection setting in. If an abscess has formed, or if the sores themselves become infected (producing pus, looking red and swollen or hurting when you’re not sitting on them) consult your GP – you may need a procedure to drain them and will probably need antibiotics.

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