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How To Prevent Bike Chafing: Tips For Cyclists

Bikepacker on fully loaded bike pedaling down long, flat dirt road in eastern Washington

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If you’re an avid cyclist, you’ve probably experienced some degree of bike chafing and/or saddle sores on a ride. It’s not fun and it can make a ride miserable or even unbearable. So how do cyclists prevent chafing?

There’s no one guaranteed answer, but in this post, I share a few easy tips that might help reduce the likelihood of saddle chafing and hopefully prevent those painful little saddle sores from developing and getting worse.

Follow these easy tips on how to prevent bike chafing (& what to do if it happens) so that you can spend more time in the saddle!

What causes bike chafing & how do saddle sores develop?

First, let’s talk about what’s happening down there. When you start to feel that burning sensation in the nether regions, it’s probably because there’s an undue amount of friction between the bike saddle and your chamois (aka padded liner). Chafing typically presents itself in the groin area, butt, and inner thighs.

The cause of bike saddle chafing can be a number of things including poor saddle fit, cycling shorts that are too loose or too tight, sweaty chamois, or you’re simply a long bike ride where things are getting a little dry…

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Bike chafing usually isn’t a big deal other than being uncomfortable and maybe forcing a rest day or two, but when chafing isn’t taken care of properly, it can lead to saddle sores, which can then lead to infection.

Saddle sores are raised, inflamed, pimple-like welts and they develop after many hours on the bike with lots of harsh friction between the saddle and your skin.

Becky riding mountain biking along singletrack trail next to lake in Kansas
Chafing occurs when there is friction between your skin and shorts

Tips to help prevent Bike chafing & saddle sores

There’s no one guaranteed trick that will prevent chafing for you, but these tips are a great place to start.

1. Check saddle fit & Seat height

If you find yourself frequently suffering from chafing, two of the first things to check are saddle fit and seat height.

Saddle Fit

Every rider has a different riding style and seat position not to mention body type, so it’s suffice to say that not all saddles are going to fit the same. A good-fitting saddle should balance you comfortably and evenly on both sit bones while allowing for easy movement as you pedal.

One of the best measurements you can take to determine a good saddle fit is the distance between your sit bones. This will help determine how wide the saddle should be. I found this article to be very helpful in figuring out how to approach saddle fit.

Seat Height

Seat height can also make a big difference when it comes to chafing. If your seat is too high, your hips will rock back and forth and cause chafing between the inner thighs.

If your seat is too low, your body position will be off and, again, you might experience unnecessary friction. To find your perfect seat height, use the 109% method.

Becky on mountain bike riding singletrack trail in Ridgway Colorado with mountains in distance
A seat height that is too high or too low can cause chafing

2. Apply chamois cream

Chamois cream is a cyclist’s best friend. If you’ve never used it before, chamois cream is basically a lubricating lotion that you apply to your nether regions to help prevent friction and chafing. It’s usually a mix of oils, shea butter, aloe vera, and other soothing ingredients. Some even come with a bit of anti-bacterial properties such as tea tree oil to help prevent saddle sore infections.

Chamois Butt’r Creme is my go-to cream because it’s made from natural ingredients and doesn’t have any harmful perfumes or dyes.

Other chamois creams to check out are:

3. Invest in new & quality chamois

I have a habit of wearing clothes until they basically can’t be worn anymore and while this is a fine tactic for any other cycling apparel or normal clothes, it’s not a good approach to chamois. The padding in chamois gets worn down over time and that can cause the chamois to move back and forth as you pedal, which increases friction and can cause chafing.

When you notice that your chamois pad has lost its thickness or the elastic spandex is not so elastic anymore, then it’s time to upgrade to new chamois.

It’s also important to note that not all chamois are created equal. As with bike saddles, there’s no one right answer for the perfect chamois, so it’s a good idea to try a few different pairs on to see which ones feel the best for you.

4. Wash your chamois after every use

Now you may be thinking, “who doesn’t wash their chamois after every ride?” and while that may be the case, it is an important reminder because dirty, sweaty chamois can wreak havoc on your tender areas.

The salt and sweat can be abrasive to already chaffed areas and the bacteria that may be growing in those day-old chamois can cause infection to saddle sores pretty quick. So please, wash your chamois.

If you’re on a bikepacking trip or a multi-day mountain biking trip without access to a washing machine, then at least try to rinse them off in a river or lake before pulling them back on.

Becky rinsing off in river on Cross-Washington Mountain Bike Route
Rinsing off in a river on the Cross-Washington Mountain Bike Route

Anti-Chafing Tips for Female cyclists

For the ladies in the crowd, here are a few additional women-specific tips to help prevent bike chafing and saddle sores.

1. Rethink Hair removal

That’s right, it’s a good idea to rethink how or whether you really want to remove hair down there if you’re a cyclist. In addition to excessive chafing, saddle sores can also be formed by ingrown hair follicles. So if you practice hair removal and you’re finding that you’re getting nasty saddle sores, you might want to change strategies.

2. Always wipe after peeing

Even if you’re popping a squat trailside, it’s a good idea to wipe post-pee so that your vagina stays clean and dry. Chaffing can happen when there’s extra moisture in the chamois, so paying extra attention to wiping can help prevent chaffed skin, especially on long rides.

PRO TIP

For a to-go pee kit, double-bag two small baggies before heading out on a ride. Inside the inner baggie pack a few wet wipes and then use the outer baggie for used ones.

Also, do not leave your TP next to the trail. Please pack it out!

3. Try a women’s specific Saddle

If you find biking painful or uncomfortable, I highly recommend trying a women’s saddle. Women tend to have wider sit bones than men, so we benefit from a wider saddle.

Terry makes some of the best women’s bike saddles out there and if you’re not sure which one to get, just reach out to customer service and they’ll help match you with the best saddle for your body and riding style.

I have both the Terry Corta and Terry Century saddles.

Becky riding down singletrack trail on mountain bike in desert landscape around Phoenix, Arizona
A women’s-specific saddle can help prevent chafing and make you more comfortable while riding

4. Use A Womens-Formulated Chamois Cream

There are several women-formulated chamois creams that are worth a try if other creams aren’t working for you. I’m not convinced women-specific chamois creams aren’t a marketing ploy, but even if they are the same, any chamois cream is better than none!

I like the DZ Nuts Bliss Women’s Chamois Cream because it’s not greasy or sticky and it lasts for long rides.

5. Use a salve

If you find that your chafing is more internal than external, use an oilier salve like the Good Goop Ointment inside your… lips. An ointment doesn’t absorb as readily as a chamois cream, so it can help keep things from getting dry and causing friction when you pedal.

I hope these tips on how to prevent bike chafing help you have longer and more comfortable rides in the saddle. If you’re a cyclist and have your own tips for keeping saddle sores at bay, please leave a comment below!

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Learn how to prevent bike chafing with these easy tips. Say goodbye to saddle sores and spend more (pain-free) time on the bike!
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One Comment

  1. Thanks for mentionig that women might need a wider saddle to accommodate their hips. I used to bike a lot, but I haven’t done it in about six years. I’d really like to try biking again, so I’ll have to get fitted for a new bike asap.

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