Author Topic: saddles and sores  (Read 12127 times)

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Offline mgholson

saddles and sores
« on: May 29, 2016, 09:23:52 pm »
This forum seems to have many wise people with good advice so let me ask about saddles and sores.  Not a pleasant topic but I appreciate some help.

From around 2005-2010 I had almost constant issues with saddles sores when riding.  Now these sores are perhaps different then what other people experience, I'm not sure.  They are like blister boils and very painful and usually don't have much damage on the surface.  They would usually pop up as soon as it got hot and I started riding more. 

I was riding about a 6 year old B-17 when this started.  I probably way over oiled it and used vasoline as a chamois cream.  The saddle was very soft and hammock like.  I eventually tried a Specialized BG2 which had big rubber elastomers under the sit bones.  Things just got worse until I was constant pain whether I was riding or walking. 

In 2010 I bought a selle san marco rolls and the sores started to heal.  Even though the sores were healing I found the seat uncomfortable as I was putting my weight on the sit bones, yes I know that's where weight goes, and my 250 pounds was all on there.  I tried a san marco regal and found it more comfortable. 

I came to the conclusion that the seats with flex like the B-17 and BG2 were acting like hammocks under my weight and I was rubbing the soft tissue with so much pressure that it was litteraly tearing the top layers of skin from the inner layers creating abscesses. 

In 2012 I bought a Specialized Romin and found it incredibly comfortable.  I remember doing long rides with no pain and irritation and almost feeling like I was missing something. 

This year I'm finding myself with the painful boils again even with the Romin.  The Romin now has about 10,000 or more miles on it.  It still looks good but I'm feeling that hammock effect under it. 

I tried going back to my regal but it just hurts. 

I recently did a 250 miles in 3 days on a Specialized Avatar my Dad loaned me, I had minor irritation the entire time, but no serious pain.  A few days later I did a century on my Romin and the boils are back with a vengance.

I'm strongly thinking of buying a new Romin, since it was so good back when I bought it.  I would really like to try a new B-17 and see if one would work for me if it wasn't so soft and hammock like. 

So questions. 
Do you think I'm correct in my hypothesis about the cause of my sores.
Do you find that saddles wear out?  I mean even if a saddle appears to be fine cosmetically it has broken down and not stiff enough to support the sit bones. 
« Last Edit: May 29, 2016, 09:27:16 pm by mgholson »

Offline John Nelson

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2016, 12:10:59 am »
I wouldn't blame the B-17. You abused it. You're not supposed to oil it at all. I have a five-year-old B-17, and it's still hard as a rock. It doesn't need to be soft in order to conform to your butt and be comfortable. Oil is for baseball gloves--not for saddles.

I endorse your idea to try a new B-17. Don't use anything except Proofide on it. Don't let it get too wet, and keep it properly adjusted.

Offline mgholson

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2016, 08:12:25 am »
I abused that B-17, well actually I murdered it.  To try to give it some spine I punched holes and tied it.  That didn't really seem to help.  Tightening it seemed to have no effect.   I eventually tried heating it in the oven.  After about ten minutes at 150 it had leached out alot of oil.  Later my wife baked something at 400 degrees.  A while after she took it out I popped the B-17 back in the oven, it had been off for several minutes and I thought it had cooled off.  In 5 minutes I began smelling something like burning steak.  I took the saddle out and found it had shrunk so much that it was bending the rails as it cooled it popped all the rivets and pretty much just fell apart. 

I bought a Selle Anatomica but the bike shop didn't sell me the clyde version.  It lasted about ten rides.  They gave me my money back.

I bought a B-17 Imperial and had the same problems. 

I would like to try a professional those things are  like rock solid. 

Offline zzzz

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2016, 08:19:41 am »
That sounds like a nasty problem to have.

It definitly is not a what is traditionally thought of as a saddle sore which is more like a pimple. That ugly little problem can be cured by a wash up before every ride with soap and water (do not use alcohol!).

There was 2 things that struck me in reading this, maybe they will help.

It's still relatively early in the riding season in most parts of the country. You said you recently rode 250 miles in 3 days and then a few days later you had a 100 mile day. Maybe you're in an area with year round riding and this comment is irrelevant but you should be building up gradually. This is true for sore sit bones but also because when you get really tired on a bike you start to use your butt as a fulcrum to push off of and that could be the cause of your problems.

The second thing is you mention a lot about seats and nothing about shorts. I've found really good riding shorts are worth the insane amount of money they charge for them. Assos has perhaps the most snob based campaign of any product I've ever seen and it pains me to give them this endorsement but their chamois is (at least for me) the best on the market. I don't wear bib shorts which is good because they charge 300+ for those but their 1/2 short is around $175. It's a stretch but you can make the good value argument for buying them. I have 2 pairs and I save them for long weekend rides and my tours where I put in 5-700 mile weeks for a month. They wear really well as my oldest pair is 6 or 7 years old and has still not worn thru despite probably being washed 50 times a year.

Good luck getting figured out.


Offline mgholson

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2016, 08:34:22 am »
Thanks for the advice.  Why no rubbing alcohol?

I've about 2478 miles in for the year at this point.  Probably around 1000 of that on the trainer over winter.  I rode about an hour a day on my good ol' Regal on a very upright bike with no saddle problems.

I know what you are saying about getting tired on the bike and bad form causing your to ride wrong.  I try to watch out for that.

I just bought some good shorts, Gore and Izumi, I almost sprang for the Assos but balked at the price.

So last Sunday I did the century on the Romin and defiantly could feel that I had damaged the skin.  Also due to the nature of the ride I wasn't able to clean up as soon as I'd like.

Tuesday night I did a 10 mile time trial and even though I was only on the bike for about 35 minutes I definitely made things worse.  Very low position just seems to make things worse.

I didn't ride again until Sunday, I did a 30 mile ride with my Mom, same saddle.  Afterwards the sores were the worse they've been so far. 

Offline zzzz

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2016, 09:37:12 am »
You have good bacteria and bad bacteria on your body that are doing their thing all the time. The bad bacteria down there is from you know where. But there's good bacteria that works against fungus that also lives down there. Alcohol kills the good bacteria while leaving the fungus unharmed and unchecked. I learned this the hard way.

The way you worded your reply, you may have thought I was talking about cleaning up after but the most important thing is cleaning up before.

So now you have some new shorts and it will be interesting to see if they make a difference. I can't help but think in reading your reply that you have a bike position problem when you're in the drops or even on the hoods. I assume you're down pretty low when doing a TT. Maybe you sit while climbing and you're using too high a gear?   As for the ride with your mom, that would generally poke a hole in my theory or maybe mom is hell on wheels and it reinforces it. Is there someone in your area that does bike fitting? There is (unfortunately) no test or certification to say you're qualified to do a bike fit and there's a lot of self-proclaimed experts out there but to have a 3rd party go for a ride with you and look at what your position is might be useful.

I'll add one other thing. I had some seat problems some years ago and I went back to the guy who built my bike for advice. He's one of the most respected frame builders in the country and recently passed 5000 frames over 40 years and I take his word as gospel on all things bike related. He said when it comes to seat comfort, shape is 90% & padding is 10%, that when I found a seat the right shape for my anatomy I would be set. I am not familiar with the Romin, Regal or the Specialized saddles you've used and how their shape compares to the Brooks that you killed or the Sella (thats a lot of seats) but you may keep that advice in mind if you go out shopping for another seat.


Offline dkoloko

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2016, 09:47:28 am »
I have your problem. Among the saddles mentioned in this thread that I have tried are Brooks B-7, narrow and regular, Brooks Professional, and Selle San Marco Regal and Rolls. I have not used a Specialized Romin, but I have used other saddles with similar trough, such as Fizik Arione . I am currently using a Selle Anatomica that I have yet to use on an extended tour.

I do not think you will cure your problem by buying a new B-17. A doctor, specialist, recommended against using Vasoline; clogs pores. My doctor recommended 1% Hydrocortisone, available without a prescription, which I use. Does not eliminate the problem, but reduces chance of eruptions, and gives more comfort when riding if eruptions have occurred.

I have not found "That ugly little problem can be cured by a wash up before every ride with soap and water (do not use alcohol!)." This does not mean I am saying you should not keep the area clean; recommend that. I am saying, in my experience, cleanliness will neither prevents or cures the problem.

I have not found shorts the answer. I have used Assos shorts, both regular and bib, among other brands. Assos are tough and fit well, but I haven't gotten more wear from them than much cheaper shorts, and I have find the padding too thick for my comfort.

Offline mgholson

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2016, 10:53:52 am »
What's funny is that I started riding longer distances when I was about 14, I did my first century that summer.  I didn't own a pair of bike shorts until I was maybe like 18.  I never had these sores back then.  Thing was that I suffered on just about every ride past 40 miles with a sore rear, probably because the saddles I used back then were the standard hard plastic shell with padding that had no flex.  I had really sore sitbones after longer rides, but never damaged skin boils, saddle sores. 

The older guy that lead most of the rides got into Brooks saddles and bought several.  He loaned me a Professional to use for about a month so I could help break it in.  Was so comfortable.  Later he loaned me a B-17 to put some miles on for him, was even better.  That's why I bought my own a couple years later.  I remember that seat being super comfortable for about the first 3 years.  I started getting the bad boils in 2004. 

So went to the doctor several times for them, as they weren't healing and so large and painful that it hurt to even walk.   it was waste.  A GP sent me to a dermatologist.  The dermatoligist sent me to a urologist.  The urologist checked me out for 5 seconds and started laughing,  "These are infected hair folicles.  Why are you here?"  he said.

"Good question." 

A couple years later I tried again, this time doctor sent me for an ultrasound.  "Yeah got the results back those are just abscesses under the skin."

"Yeah I knew that," I replied I get them from riding like I said.

"Well stop riding," he replied. 

Anyway, looking at my records I bought a Romin in april 2012.  That year I put on over 6000 miles.  About 2500 more than usual. 
« Last Edit: May 30, 2016, 12:59:48 pm by mgholson »

Offline dkoloko

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2016, 12:30:46 pm »
I had no problem with saddles I mentioned on day rides. Touring, riding daily, eight hours or so, weeks or months, I have the problem you have. Last tour, two months, had the blisters, but none exploded, would would have acerbated problem. Newest saddle, mentioned, or topical medicine doctor says he can prescribe for me may inhibit getting the saddle sores next tour. Have to wait and see.

Asked, earlier, there be separate Forum for medical issues. Got reply good idea, but not initiated. Could be well received.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2016, 01:06:10 pm »
I have found that as I get older (67 now) I get overuse aches and pains from doing too much of the same sport over and over.  My main three sports are road biking, hiking and rock climbing.  Every time I get too intense about any of these, I get both physical and burnout problems.  I have learned to rotate all three, and include time off.  (I do, however, have to keep relearning this lesson.)  I don't know if this is your problem, but we do have to moderate when the body says we're overdoing it.  That said, most of my bike problems were solved with a Terry Liberator saddle (only about $50), midlevel Pearl Izumi shorts ($100), and a fit by a reputable bike fit guy ($150).  The fit especially, made a tremendous difference.

I know that for some, the idea of slowing down or taking a real break from riding ( more than a day or two) is anathema for some.  I have overdone it to the point of having no choice but to take a longer break.  Experiment with yourself and you'll figure it out.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline paddleboy17

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2016, 12:49:57 pm »
Selle Anatomica saddles function like twin hammocks, one for each butt cheek.  Their synthetic leather stretches, so Selle Anatomica saddles are more of a consumable than an investment.

With a traditional Brooks saddle, you have a solid mass with a dent for each pelvic bone.  The saddle reshapes to match the profile of your body.  When you add a cutout to a Brooks saddle, some structural integrity is lost.  That is why the Brooks Imperials come laced.  If you remove the lacing, then I think you get some hammock action, but not nearly as pronounces as a Selle Anatomica saddle.

So as to what is right for you.

Infected hair follicles sound like a hygiene issue.  Maybe you have to be paranoid level diligent.

Comfort wise, maybe a Team Pro is best for you.  They take forever to break in as their leather is thicker.  I did not pick up on if you need a prostate friendly cut out or not.  If you get an Imperial variant, leave the laces alone.  Personally I like the cutout shaped used by Selle Anatomica better than the Brooks Imperial shape.  Monarch Leather is the leather vendor for Selle Anatomica, and they will add a cutout to a Brooks saddle.  When it was $50/saddle, I sent to saddles to them to be cut down.  Once they raised their rate to $100/saddle, I decided to cut my own saddle.  I will have to punch holes for lacing in the near future, as I see a need for that.

Lastly, some leather colors are stiffer than others.  Black is the stiffest, and honey is the softest, and I do not know about the other colors.

I am currently learning to ride a Cabrium C-17 on one of my bikes.  So far I think it is a harsher ride than my leather saddles.  Nose angle seems to be more important.  Ask me at the end of the summer if I kept it or went back to a leather B-17.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2016, 04:44:29 pm »
I don't get a lot of saddle sores like those described, but when I do, my wife gets out the tweezers and plucks the hair out.  After a shower (or at least a good wash), smearing Bag Balm on overnight, or a couple nights at most, will heal the wound.

For goodness sake, don't get on the bike and go for a long ride when you've got an active sore.  Take time off the bike to let it heal.

Here's one more vote for a good fitting.

Offline mgholson

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2016, 05:11:46 pm »
 Thank you, good information paddleboy.  I'm interested in a C-17

Pat what you're describing sounds nice, wish it was that easy for me. 

I'm a bit skeptical on bike fitting for me at this point.  I have talked to several people who have paid money for a bike fitting only to have the saddle moved forward 3mm and a 5mm spacer placed under their stem.   For a couple of years I rode a 60cm road bike with a 120mm stem and had back pain on longer rides.  I knew this bike was too big for me but I got a great deal on it.  Back then I would have really benefited from a bike fitting.  I eventually started looking into bike fit myself and figured out I was on way to big a bike with way to much reach. I now ride a 56 with a 100 stem.  I think my biggest problem is going to low, I only have maybe an 1 or 2 inch drop to my bars but I like to dramatically bend and lay my forearms on the tops when I'm going all out.  I don't think I have the flexibility and core strength to really support this position, but I do it anyway essentially grinding away at my for lack of a more apporopriate word, "taint."

I think being paranoid about hygiene over the last few years saved me some painful bumps and I dropped the ball a couple weeks ago.  The day I did the century 2 weeks ago I finished at a friends house.  Hung out with him and his wife for 30 minutes, then I just put on loose shorts over my cycling shorts.  Made a couple stops on the way home and didn't take a shower for a couple more hours.

While I was touring I had a major hygiene routine every morning and after every ride. 

I don't think I really need a cutout, but I tend to like them in the Specialized saddles I've been riding.  When I tried to go back to my Regal it has way to much pressure right in the center where the cutout would be. 

I purchased an imperial around 2009 when I first started trying to fight the problem head on.  It didn't feel like it was working for me and I sold it fairly quick. 

In a stroke of good luck I ran into my old friend, he doesn't ride anymore and for years I've been asking him to sell me his B-17 and Professional and for years he's been telling me no.  Well the other day he said he'd give me any bike stuff I wanted because he was moving to a much smaller house.   I'm sure he still has a professional somewhere, but he found and gave me the B-17.  I've done one short ride and couldn't believe how comfortable it was, but no saddle is going to be comfortable until these boils heal.

Offline driftlessregion

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2016, 11:32:06 pm »
Physical problems should always be addressed first with a bike fit.

Offline mgholson

Re: saddles and sores
« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2016, 07:27:08 pm »
driftless, I respectfully disagree with the way you worded that.  If you said physical problems should be addressed with a properly fitting bike then I would agree, but saying,  "Physical problems should always be addressed first with a bike fit," means you need to pay someone to measure you and apply their  system to you, which I don't agree with.  If one has extra money and a desire to consult with an expert then by all means, but the information a person needs to properly fit their bike themselves is readily available.  You don't need lasers, video, and a custom fit system to do it.  Ten years ago when my back started hurting with longer rides it didn't take to many google searches to figure out I was way over reaching to the bars. 

Today was interesting, first longer ride on the B-17.  I switched it from my touring bike one of my road bikes and decided to use an old spare seatpost instead of removing the saddle on the bike.  30 seconds into the ride the saddle had slid all the way back on the rails.  I went back and tightened it up and tried again, seemed to be fine.  Saddle was so comfortable by by ten miles in my lower back felt find of stressed, checked and saw the saddle had slid all the way back again.  I guess the B-17 rails just don't work in that seatpost. 

Rode home with the saddle all the way back on the rails.  Wasn't terribly uncomfortable, but was glad to get it right.  30 more miles with the saddle locked down in the right position.  WOW, I had forgotten just how good these are, it's been about ten years since I last rode one.  Like I said my last B-17 had gotten so saturated with oil and water that it had lost it spine and was totally hammock like.  This saddle was amazing.  Even with a very uncomfrotable saddle sore I did nearly 50 miles without pain, only really feeling it the last few miles.  Friday I did 35 miles on my 143 wide Specialized Romin and had extreme pain afterwards.  Yeah someone advised me not to ride with sores, but I didn't listen. 

Unfortunately there is some cracking around a few of the rivets, the saddle has been on a shelf and not cared for for about 15 years.  I applied proofhide before riding, but I think the area round the rivets is too dry.  I hope it holds up, but I think I'll buy a new one either way.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2016, 07:50:23 am by mgholson »