How To Prevent Chafing Once & For All!

These tips will help you steer clear of the skin irritation that can derail your rides.


Danielle Kosecki & The Bicycling Editors |

It’s normal for your bum to feel tender after your return from a long off-season or when you make a big jump in mileage. But there’s a difference between that type of soreness – which lessens as you adapt—and chafing, in which the skin on your butt or inner thighs is rubbed raw. Friction causes chafing, which can lead to saddle sores. Don’t let this problem get in the way of riding. Here’s how to prevent chafing and stop it from ruining future rides.

Treat The Chafing Issue

If you develop raw spots, clean them gently but well, then slather on an ointment, balm, or nappy rash cream. Don’t continue to mask the chafing problem, however. Troubleshoot to find the cause of the chafing: Your hips are rocking; your thighs are rubbing the nose of the saddle, and so on.

Keep Things Clean

First, always clean down under before and after rides. Chafing can be exacerbated by bacteria growth, which can lead to an even worse problem: saddle sores. You should always wear clean shorts when you ride and get out of your shorts as soon as you can when you’re done riding.

If you haven’t before, we highly recommend using chamois cream. It’ll help alleviate any friction in the areas you apply it. Don’t be stingy – it’s usually better to use more than less (you can apply it either directly to your skin or your chamois). And try out a few different kinds until you find one you like. Some companies make chamois cream specifically for women, and some even have ingredients with antibacterial properties.

RELATED: Saddle Sores: What Causes Them, How To Treat Them

Wear the Right Shorts

It’s worth it to invest in a quality pair of bike shorts, especially if you’re spending a lot of time riding. There are different styles available including bibs (which have straps that go over your shoulders to eliminate a waist band) and traditional shorts. Try out different styles, as a chamois can vary in shape, size, and material.

chafing
Photograph by John via Flickr Creative Commons

Change or Adjust Your Saddle

If that doesn’t help, consider changing your bike seat. A heavily padded saddle sounds like a good solution, but it can actually exacerbate painful saddle issues. As your weight sinks into the saddle, the padding can press into the sensitive nooks, adding pressure where you don’t want it. Lightly cushioned seats can be better, especially for longer rides.

So how do you set up your saddle for maximum comfort? The perfect saddle position puts a platform precisely under your sit bones without pushing you forward, back, or to the side.

To hit that spot, level your saddle and centre the rails in the seatpost clamp. Position your seatpost so that there’s only a slight bend in your knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke. (If you can, it helps to place the bike on a trainer, then have a friend stand behind you to watch your hips as you pedal. If they rock, lower your seatpost slightly.) Stop with your cranks at the three and nine o’clock positions and have someone hold a plumb line against the indentation below your kneecap; a free end of the plumb line should bisect the pedal axle. If it doesn’t, move your seat forward or back until it lines up.

Lastly, avoid messing with saddle tilt too much. A saddle nose that’s too far down will force weight onto your arms; too far back will put pressure in places you don’t want to feel it and could lead to chafing.

Get a Bike Fit

Having persistent issues, even after your saddle is set properly? It may be time to get a bike fit by an expert. Click here for a few tips to help with bike fit.

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