Sunday, March 12, 2017

Are You "Saddle Sore"?

Unless you are one of a very select (and small) group of cyclists you have experienced issues when it comes to finding the right combination of a bike saddle, and cycling shorts. Those issues can include chaffing, numbness, and the dreaded saddle sores.

When I first started riding and training for triathlons some 32 years ago things were very different. The cut out, or relief channel in a bike saddle wasn’t around. It was unbelievably uncomfortable down there on a bike. The first saddle that made it a little better had somewhat of a groove down the center. Then I found one with a cut out, it was a Profile saddle and it was soft and squishy, but there was a hard plastic piece around the cut out to help it hold its shape. That thing felt like it was slicing into you. I pulled out the plastic piece and it was a little better. Then the saddle sores started, at the place where your body and leg come together.

That plastic piece was mean!

Years of dealing with saddle sores... Vaseline, Chammois Butt’r, Aquaphor… I tried a lot of different things. Still I had saddle sores. I had friends who said they would use their fingernails to basically pop them…yikes! My solution was using the sterile lancets that you could get in the diabetic supplies in the drug store, and open them up. It was painful, and gross. I would use Stridex or Clearasil wipes to clean the skin before and after, and then put Neosporin on them, and hope they would heal.

Ironman training was the worst, because it wasn’t like you could lay off riding and give them time to heal. We used moleskin or bandaids to try and protect the skin. We would wear tri shorts and bike shorts on top of them, so that the friction was in between the two, kind of like those double layer blister free socks that used to be on the market. And it never failed that I would start the race with a saddle sore (or two) …112 miles of pain, no fun.


I’ve posted before that I’ve ridden a Cobb saddle for a long time, back from when they were still being handmade, and progressing to what would become the original V-Flow. And still I had issues with saddle sores. It wasn’t until last year when I bit the bullet and started exclusively riding in my Cobb Mobb team tri shorts for all of my rides that the problem went away. I would use them for short rides, but was nervous about riding long in them. Then I went for a 50+ mile ride and they didn't let me down!

It was the shorts! Now, I have tried lots of different shorts over the years, too. I definitely found that the zigzag stitching created a problem. Even around the back of the “chamois”, it would rub on my skin and create sores. I tried shorts that had the chamois had 4-way stretch, laser cut edges, no stitching, and still had problems. The thick padding and/or the rough stitching was the culprit!

Women's Shorts:  Why Cobb Shorts?
“There are a number of problems that come about when riding in a thick padded cycling short.

One: they bunch up into the relief channel, or general crotch area, of the saddle. This brings pressure (and maybe even pain) back to the area where the crotch relief was supposed to be. Two: they bunch up on the sides of your legs and in the creases where the leg meets the crotch. This can cause inner leg chafing and saddle sores due to the increase in friction in that area. Three: thick pads hold in sweat and reduce airflow to the crotch area, causing hot spots and can lead to some unwanted bacteria. I don’t have to tell you why all those things are unfavorable! Thin, triathlon chamois improve the airflow to the crotch, they don’t hold in sweat, and they don’t bunch up in unwanted areas.” 

So what is the difference between Cobb shorts? What makes them special? First they are 10 panel shorts, so there is no seam down the middle of the shorts in the crotch, and are sewn with 4 needle stitching. The benefit of this is a very flat and smooth seam. Second, the shape of the thin pad is not your typical hourglass, the sides are actually down your leg a bit, not right at the point where your leg meets your body. And third, “the panels are aligned so that they pull outward away from the crotch to align in the gap in the upper thigh area (where the crotch meets the leg). This way, the shorts do not wad up in that gap area.”

BINGO, that had been my problem, all that fabric would bunch up and rub and crease and cause the saddle sores. My 31-year saddle sore problem had finally been solved! (The other benefit, was no more greasy shorts from the products! Bonus!!)

Now many of you have just started riding and racing, I’m sure that is why I see so many questions about saddles, and discomfort. And luckily for you there are so many advancements in products, and research that you don’t have to go through years of discomfort.

Oh, if you want to give the Cobb shorts a try there are a couple of really good deals on the website right now. There is a super cute women’s set of shorts and tank – It says “Look Like A Beauty Train Like A Beast”! And there is also just the shorts that you can purchase separately, both are on sale! Oh and for you guys, the same thing applies to you! And there are men’s shorts as well! Cheers!

This is my friend Rachel, if you call Cobb to discuss your female comfort issues, you get to speak to a woman. So much nicer to have her to talk to than talking about your "girl pain" with a guy....

I was going to continue on in the post about saddles, but I think I’ll do that in a separate entry. Don't forget to check back!!

If you feel like doing a little reading there are many great articles on Comfort Issues on the Cobb Cycling website: