Chafing is a common problem for cyclists, but few things can ruin the ride quicker than developing a rash or chafing in those sensitive areas, and you have to know how much chafing is normal. Not only can it be painful during the ride, but the time it takes to heal can keep you off the bike for days. Here’s how to avoid that painful chafing and rashes that can develop among cyclists.
The biggest factor in avoiding chafing is your shorts. They are in continual and direct contact with your skin, and if you are going to have problems, that’s usually where they start. Bad shorts are bad news. Poor quality and poor fit can cause chaffing so it’s worth investing in a good pair. Buy the best bike shorts you can afford. The pad will be better, the material will be better and the seams will be sewn (and located) in a way that will minimize friction and rubbing. Look for female-specific shorts with a good quality chamois (decent padding, breathability, no seams). Shorts should be snug and shouldn’t move around when you ride. You should not wear underwear if you are wearing "real" bike shorts with liner and chamois pad. And if you’re not wearing "real" bike shorts, well, that’s likely your problem if you are riding any length of time.
Make sure that your bike shorts fit you properly, and you’ll be able to ride longer and more comfortably - extra material means extra moisture and rubbing.
Bike set-up, can change your life especially for your saddle. An adjustment of millimeters can ease your pain almost instantly. A bad set-up can increase pressure on delicate tissue and result in chafing, because you’re sitting incorrectly. A proper bike set-up not only relieves chaffing but it can increase over-all comfort, lead to more power, and reduce the risk of injury. You can go into a bike shop for a proper bike fit and explain your problems, or, if you have already gone in for a fitting, try adjusting your saddle yourself. Most women prefer recording their saddles for each change with the front tilted slightly upwards but start with it flat and move millimeters at a time.
It may seem obvious, but a poor saddle can cause chafing. Saddle choice is very personal but many cyclists continue to ride on the one that came with their bike. Make sure you are on a female-specific saddle, and try one with a hole in the middle because no pressure, no pain. A good bike shop will let you test ride one first and guide you towards a saddle that suits your needs if you’re considering a new saddle. If you have to test ride several, and don’t be alarmed, and don’t be shy about telling them you are suffering from chafe, too. They are riders too. If you think you have the right saddle, make sure to set-up correctly.
There is a wrong cognition that some people think some of the big cushy seats they can pick up that supposedly offer a more comfortable ride. They are much wider and much softer, sometimes with gel-filled padding. However, we found that it’s the narrower, firmer seats that typically work much better. That may seem completely counterintuitive, but many riders find a wider seat rubs the insides of their thighs and thwarts the natural pedaling motion. More importantly, because moisture and pressure points are the main causes of problems, it offers a smoother area to support your behind with fewer pressure points and fewer opportunities for friction and rubbing having a narrower if you have a firmer seat instead of a wide soft mushy one.
If you will be riding for several days in a row, take care of your shorts to avoid problems with irritation. After a ride, get out of your shorts as soon as possible and wash up. This helps get rid of the bacteria that can cause skin irritation, rashes, and chafing.
Clean your bike short after cleaning your body. Use a spot detergent/stain remover on the chamois and crotch area and a pH-balanced detergent designed specifically for high-tech fabrics. And though this may seem obvious, don’t wear the same pair of shorts twice without washing. It may be tempting if you’ve "only" been them in an hour or so to hang them up to dry out to then wear again tomorrow, but don’t do it. This is a guaranteed way to give yourself jock itch or other skin problems. A sweaty chamois is like a rave party for bacteria and you don’t want them going on a bad trip in your groin region just cause you don’t feel like washing your shorts.
If you’re out riding and you feel your backside getting chewed up from your bike seat and/or your shorts, the best thing you can do is to change riding positions.
You can stand up and pedal, or else move yourself either farther back or closer up on your seat. Or you can even shift your weight from one side of the saddle to the other. If you’re actually in the middle of a ride, this is about the only way to ease the discomfort. Should you find yourself in this predicament, tough it out as a long as you can. Then when you’re finished, take advantage of the tips above to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
If you have done all of the above with no improvement, your chafe could be a sign of overtraining or you could just need rest period to get ahead of the chafe. Time off will let your skin heal properly. Try to keep the area dry at all times and ditch the skinny jeans and rock a cotton skirt to avoid other causes of irritation.