For most mountain bikers, this time of year is the base season. This means that you should be spending lots of long, fun hours on the bike preparing your body to surprise you with strength in the season ahead. With long hours on the bike, however, come some other unwanted surprises: chaffing. Lucky for you, I have complied my list of 6 things a mountain biker can do to prevent chaffing.
- Pick the Right Saddle
- Pick the Right Chamois
- Practice Good Hygiene
- Strengthen Your Glute Meds
- Use Chamois Cream
- Adjust Saddle Height
- Pick the Right Saddle
Pick the Right Saddle
In this day and age, there are so many different saddles to choose from, and each touting some new technological advancement. It’s critical to pick the correct saddle for your own shape, size, and riding style.
There are so many different types of saddles that it would be impossible to detail each type in order to create a flow chart of style options corresponding to each body type and riding style. (Although that sounds like something each saddle company should do.)
Here are the top things to consider when purchasing your saddle.
Saddle Width: If you plan on riding a lot, then saddle width will be critical. It is best if you can go into a bike fitter and have them measure the distance between your sit bones. You will then find that every saddle you purchase will have a width measurement that should correspond to your sit bone measurement.
Men will usually have narrower sit bones than women which means that generally men and women will need to ride different widths of saddles. In fact, most women are riding on saddles too narrow for their body shape.
Saddle Shape: This can be a very complicated topic when it comes to picking a saddle. At the end of the day, you need to test out a variety of saddles and see which one feels the best to you.
A saddle that is too narrow can leave you unsupported and moving around too much thus creating chaffing. A saddle that is too wide can put unnecessary pressure on the inside of your legs and ultimately cause chaffing as well.
As a rule of thumb, people who are less flexible move around on the saddle more and will be more comfortable on a rounded saddle. A flexible cyclist is a bit more stable and will be more comfortable on a flat saddle. However, to make things more complicated a very flexible cyclist will actually be most comfortable on a slightly curved saddle.1
Without the right saddle shape, you could find yourself moving too much or not moving enough, which will create friction and result in the dreaded chaffing.
Hole or No Hole? It seems like when looking this up there are so many conflicting opinions. The idea of a hole is to help distribute the pressure evenly around the gentler areas of your downstairs.
When riding on a seat for a long period of time, the gentiles will sometimes swell thus creating extra pressure on the saddle. With a hole, the goal is that the swelling will have a place to escape. The counter argument is that the hole will actually pinch on that swollen area. That is why saddles with a channel instead of a hole were invented. Either way, the wrong type of saddle could result in the sensation of your downstairs area chaffing.
Check Your Saddle Height
Surprisingly enough, saddle height can actually influence the amount of chaffing that you experience on the bike. If your saddle is too high then you may be shifting your weight back and forth in order to reach the pedal on each side. This is very subtle and you probably won’t even realize you’re doing it. This constant shifting of your weight can cause excessive friction and result in chaffing.
If you think that this is the cause of your chaffing then you might consider lowering your saddle just a hair and see if it helps relieve your pain. When it doubt, get a professional bike fit.
Pick the Right Chamois
First of all, if you aren’t wearing a chamois, you need to. Even if you are wearing some cool baggy mountain bike shorts, you need to wear a chamois underneath. Yes, the pros are wearing chamois underneath their baggy shorts.
You need to only wear the chamois. You can wear anything on top of it, but when it comes to skin to shorts contact, the chamois goes directly on your skin. That means no underwear, no boxers, nothing. If you decide to wear something under your chamois you are asking to chaff.
Finally, find a chamois that is the right size for your body. If the chamois is too small it might not protect all the right areas, and if it is too big it may fold over and wrinkle thus creating unnecessary chaffing.
Practice Good Hygiene
While slightly different than chaffing, a common ailment of cyclists is the dreaded “saddle sore.” Saddle sores can be caused by chaffing and chaffing can make you more susceptible to saddle sores.
Saddle sores are often actually boils, which occur from staph infected hair follicles. The best way to prevent this dreaded cycling condition is practicing good hygiene. Clean yourself and your chamois regularly. It seems simple enough. What usually gets people is leaving their chamois on long before and after rides. If you and your buddies want to go out for a cold one after the ride, then please make sure that you brought an extra change of clothes.
Strength Your Glute Meds
Since cycling occurs entirely in the sagittal plane (moving forward) we often forget to strengthen the muscles that help us move from side to side. You’ll see a lot of cyclists that allow their knees to fall in toward the frame while riding. Some people even allow their knees to touch the frame while riding. This can cause chaffing on the inside of the knees and legs.
In order to eliminate the chaffing, focus on strengthening the gluteus medius muscle while off of the bike. This includes exercises such as clam shells, sidelying lateral leg lifts, glute bridges, and monster walks.
Use Chamois Cream
A lot of cyclists like to use chamois cream in order to help eliminate some of the chaffing. There are a plethora of creams and styles to choose from. The idea is that the cream helps to prevent friction and to prevent infection with a little anti-bacterial mixed in as well.
Apply a little bit of cream to your chamois before each ride and it should help keep chaffing and saddle sores at bay.
A great cream is Chamios Butt’r (Link to Amazon to read reviews and check the price) A cream can be make a world of difference, if you don’t use it, seriously consider trying it out. The below picture also links to Amazon to read more.
Be Proactive: If after all of these solutions you are still experiencing chaffing, it might be time to take a little break from the bike. Sometimes your body needs time to heal before you can really allow these strategies to fix future problems.
Most of these tricks are best utilized in a proactive manner in order to prevent chaffing and not to fix it once it has started. If you feel chaffing coming on, don’t stand by and let it happen. Kick the tricks into over drive. When in doubt, eliminate friction, moisture, and dirt. The only friction you should experience on the bike is between you and your competition.