I get a lot of questions on how to protect your bum on a long, multi-day bike ride. Certainly, during the first ten days of this ride, butt blisters, rashes, and saddle sores caused more missed days than any other single factor. So here — collected for your convenience — are all the tips I’ve ever heard on how to protect your bum. I haven’t tried all of these personally but all were recommended by at least two biker buddies.
Get your bike – and your saddle — fit to you — before a long ride, it’s a good idea to go to a good bike shop and have your bike fit to you. It’s surprising what a big difference a number of small changes can make. Among other things, the technician will measure your sit bones by having you sit on a block of foam. I found out that my sit bones are 128 mm apart (who knew?) and that my saddle was too narrow. I bought a new saddle which is much more comfortable. It probably also makes me a bit more efficient since I can push against the saddle more easily.
Ride on your new saddle a lot — get your bum used to it.
Try a Brooks saddle — this is the “old school” leather saddle that you used to see on 10-speeds. I have a Brooks on my 1982 road bike and a more “modern” Specialized saddle on my Serotta. Clearly, I’m of two minds. The advantage of the Brooks is that its soft leather will — after a few hundred miles — conform to your contours. It’s like getting a custom-made seat. We have several riders on our tour who have Brooks saddles with more than 20,000 miles on them. I think these riders would give up their spouses before their saddles.
Get new riding shorts — the padding in old shorts starts to compress and wear out, leaving you with less protection.
Never wear underwear with riding shorts — this goes for women as well as men.
Use a lubricant — the whole idea is to reduce friction. My dermatologist says Vaseline is as good as anything. I’ve had good results with a product called Chamois Butt’r.
Never ride two days in a row with the same shorts — unless you’ve washed them, of course. Even then, I like to change to different shorts because each pair fits somewhat differently.
Get out of your shorts quickly — on the bike, your shorts are your best friend. Once the ride is over, they’re your worst enemy. They’re warm and damp and don’t get much air circulation — a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of nasty critters. Get ’em off and get in the shower.
Go commando — once you’re out of your riding shorts, put on a regular pair of shorts with no undies. You want air to circulate through the area. Tighty whities are the worst.
Kill the rash — if you get a rash, the simplest treatment is to mix hydrocortisone (over-the-counter strength) with Monistat 7 in your palms and then smear it over the rash. Why Monistat 7? Because every rash on your bum will have some yeast in it — even on guys.
Kill the critters that cause the rash — bacteria cause rashes so — when I’m on long rides — I like to wash my bum at least once a day with Hibiclens, a surgical scrub that kills most everything. You can buy it at most drug stores.
Stop the swelling — if you get some swelling, trying smearing Preparation H on the affected area. Preparation H has stuff in it that reduces swelling.
Wear two pairs of riding shorts — I haven’t tried this myself but some friends swear by it — two pairs of shorts provide more padding and cushion you better. Other friends say that you just get pinched in all the wrong places.