What we wear on the ride helps to keep us comfortable, especially as we’re racking up the miles. From butt butter to padded shorts, we’re on the look out for accessories to stay in the saddle with minimal pain. But all that gear for the underside is not always an easy topic to talk about since it can get a bit personal. I’ve addressed it here in this Versus article.
Admittedly, the “undercarriage” of a Tour de France rider is a strange thing to write about, but it needs to be addressed when on the topic of technology in cycling.
Saddle sores have plagued professional cyclists for years, but over the last decade, technology has helped decrease this issue in the pro peloton. It still exits–big time in fact–Greg Lemond had to drop out of a Tour because he had such a bad saddle sore. However, as with anything in sports products, improvements have been made and some new products have been developed. Let’s go through some of the positive changes we have seen in the last ten years–changes that have made riding the bike longer and harder much more comfortable.
For starters, the shorts the riders wear are significantly better. The chamois are anti-microbial and help to reduce bacteria build-up “down there”. The chamois are also thicker in spots, designed with no exposed stitching and have far fewer seams to irritate your crotch. The chamois themselves also breathe much better. The manufacturers have even added chamois with elevation changes to mimic the contours of your crotch much better.
Secondly, the modern seats are promoting better circulation and blood flow to the areas on which you sit. The seat manufacturers do a much better job of building the seats to fit better to the riders’ sit bones, putting much less pressure on the soft tissue areas that cause nasty irritations, numbness and saddle sores. Most seat manufacturers also make different width seats to fit the varying sizes and shapes of people’s rear ends. These advances have not only keep more saddle sores at bay, but given recreation athletes a much easier time adjusting to the “pressure” that comes with riding a racing bike.
Thirdly, the amount of good chamois creams on the market is huge. The new products coming out all have some sort of ingredient that removes moisture and most keep the area much cleaner. Most of the recipes also use natural ingredients that do a great job keeping the area bacteria-free and feeling fresh. Almost all chamois creams include a friction-reducer, an anti-bacterial agent, a moisture eliminator and a tingling product. These are not the technical names for these ingredients, but most of the products on the market contain some or all of these things.
Even with all the above improvements, riders will still have issues. It simply comes with the territory for those riding a lot. The two most important things riders can do to eliminate saddle sores are: keeping that area very clean before you go out for a ride and removing your shorts as soon as you are done riding and washing the area completely.
You can bet that all the athletes at this year’s Tour are doing everything they can to make sure saddle sores are not the reason they don’t have a successful Tour.
*Note: italicized text reprinted from versus.com