• Home
  • Content
  • Blog
  • No Pain, All Gain: My Saddle Sore-Free E-Biking Journey Across the U.S.
Posted by E-bike Lovers on July 20, 2023 - Latest revision July 20, 2023  Reading time: minutes remaining

No Pain, All Gain: My Saddle Sore-Free E-Biking Journey Across the U.S.

We are reader-supported. As an Amazon Associate, E-bike Lovers earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more.

From the gentle hills of Virginia to the vast landscapes of Nevada, my journey across the United States on an electric bike has provided mesmerizing vistas and challenging lessons, none more significant than managing saddle sores.

They are, without a doubt, the silent enemy of every long-distance e-biker. However, they can be avoided through meticulous care and hygiene, leaving the road ahead clear for an unforgettable journey. Let me share my experience and tips on preventing saddle sores during prolonged e-biking adventures.

Understanding Saddle Sores

In simple terms, saddle sores are skin abrasions or infections due to constant friction and pressure between your body and the bicycle saddle. They usually manifest as sore spots, blisters, or even abscesses around the buttocks and upper thigh regions, which make sitting and pedaling an excruciating ordeal. Primarily caused by excessive sweat, friction, and bacteria, these sores can take the joy out of an otherwise thrilling e-biking expedition.

Hair Follicles and Saddle Sores

When seated on a bike for extended periods, pressure, friction, and moisture can irritate the skin and hair follicles in the area in contact with the saddle. This can lead to chafing and inflammation.

If the hair follicles get inflamed, it may lead to a condition known as folliculitis. This inflammation often resembles tiny, red bumps or pimples around the hair follicles. Prolonged friction and irritation can cause inflamed hair follicles to develop into saddle sores.

If a hair follicle becomes blocked or damaged — for instance, through shaving or friction from clothing — it can lead to infection and exacerbate the issue.

The Myth of Padded Cycling Pants

An initial instinct is to opt for padded cycling pants. Their extra cushioning might reduce the chances of saddle sores. However, this is a common misconception. For ultralong distance e-bike rides, these padded pants can be detrimental due to their lack of ventilation.

They trap moisture and warmth against your skin, creating a humid microenvironment reminiscent of a tropical rainforest - a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This, coupled with the constant friction of cycling, increases the risk of skin irritation and saddle sores.

Saddle sores are, without a doubt, the silent enemy of every long-distance e-biker.

A Triad to the Rescue: Cleanliness, Dryness, and Reduced Friction

Preventing saddle sores isn't complicated but requires a disciplined routine. Throughout my 4,685+ mile journey, I realized that the key to staying saddle sore-free lay in a simple triad: cleanliness, dryness, and reducing friction.

They (padded cycling pants) trap moisture and warmth against your skin, creating a humid microenvironment reminiscent of a tropical rainforest - a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This, coupled with the constant friction of cycling, increases the risk of skin irritation and saddle sores.

Cleanliness cannot be understated. Before I commenced my ride each day, I took a shower. A thorough wash removes any bacteria from the skin's surface and offers a fresh start to the day's ride. I paid particular attention to the areas prone to saddle sores to ensure they were bacteria-free.

After my daily ride, regardless of the distance, another shower was non-negotiable. Accumulated sweat from the day and any bacteria that might have decided to hitch a ride were washed off. In between, if I had an extended break, I'd use McKesson antiseptic wipes from Amazon with benzalkonium chloride to clean the sensitive areas. I would also use wipes after each shower!

The Perfect Combination: Thin Liners, Loose-fitting Hiking Pants, and Brooks B17 Saddle

In the pursuit of conquering saddle sores, I found that my secret weapons were a combination of thin liners, loose-fitting hiking pants, and the Brooks B17 saddle. This triad kept me comfortable and helped create an environment that did not favor the development of saddle sores.

The Thin Liners: Thin liners are an overlooked gear for long-distance e-bikers, yet they played an essential role in my daily ride. These ultra-lightweight liners from Amazon were a base layer made from breathable, sweat-wicking fabrics. They functioned as a direct contact point between my skin and clothing, providing a protective barrier that reduced friction - a leading cause of saddle sores. Moreover, these liners quickly drew moisture away from the skin, keeping the sensitive areas dry and less likely to develop bacterial growth. I would only wear the liners as underwear!

Loose-fitting Hiking Pants: I chose to wear loose-fitting North Face hiking pants over the thin liners instead of the typical tight cycling shorts. Hiking pants are designed for prolonged outdoor activity, providing comfort and freedom of movement. Their loose fit allowed for excellent ventilation, promoting air circulation, and reducing sweat accumulation. Additionally, these pants are typically made of quick-drying material, which, in synergy with the thin liners, kept my skin dry and comfortable throughout the day.

The Brooks B17 Saddle: The saddle is your primary point of contact with the bike, and choosing the right one is paramount for a comfortable ride. The Brooks B17 saddle was my choice, renowned for its long-distance comfort and durability. Handcrafted from natural leather, this saddle molds over time to the shape of the rider, offering a personalized fit. Unlike synthetic materials, the leather in the B17 breathes and flexes, reducing pressure points and chafing. The saddle's open design also allows for additional airflow, minimizing sweat accumulation.

By marrying the protective, moisture-wicking properties of the thin liners with the breathability and freedom offered by loose-fitting hiking pants and coupling these with the personalized comfort of a Brooks B17 saddle, I created a riding environment that greatly minimized friction, sweat accumulation, and the resulting bacterial growth.

Medical Support

Saddle sores can usually be managed at home with proper hygiene, rest, and over-the-counter remedies. However, if you notice your saddle sores worsening, becoming increasingly painful, or not healing after a few days, it may be time to seek professional medical help.

Regarding any health issues, it's always best to consult with a healthcare professional for accurate information and treatment. A dermatologist is the most appropriate specialist for persistent or severe saddle sores.

Conclusion

If not treated promptly, saddle sores can escalate from minor irritants to serious infections that will halt your journey. But with a rigorous hygiene routine using McKesson antiseptic wipes, the right clothing, and a well-fitted saddle, they can be effectively prevented, leaving you free to enjoy the freedom and excitement of long-distance e-biking.

Whether you're an avid e-biker planning your next long journey or a beginner dipping your toes into the world of e-biking, remember these tips and prioritize your comfort and health; your journey will be not just an adventure but a testament to the joy of e-biking unmarred by the discomfort of saddle sores with the unique combination of thin liners, loose-fitting hiking pants, and the Brooks B17 saddle.

I was able to bike across the United States comfortably and saddle sore-free. You, too, can enjoy such an experience armed with the right knowledge, equipment, and a solid commitment to personal hygiene and comfort.


Dr. Gregory F. Maassen

Gregory discovered e-biking after 20 years of overseas work as project manager for the World Bank and USAID. He writes about e-mobility and e-biking in the DMV area, and loves the outdoors (white water kayaking, hiking and biking). He lives with his wife, Janet and Queenie the cat, in Washington DC. He recently e-biked 4,685+ miles across America and raised $180,000 for a charity.


Favorite e-bike: Riese & Muller Super Charger Class 3 touring e-bike.


Dr. Gregory F. Maassen

FOUNDER E-BIKE LOVERS


Page [tcb_pagination_current_page] of [tcb_pagination_total_pages]

Round Logo of E-bike Lovers with an electric bicycle and name of group

Volunteer with E-bike Lovers


Please contact us if you would like to volunteer and help with the organization of events and rides. We are also in need of writers and editors for our carefully curated website.


Join the movement and volunteer with the most inclusive and dynamic e-biking group in the region.


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Copyright 2023 E-Bike Lovers. All rights reserved. See our disclaimer, Code of Conduct, and privacy/cookies policies.

We may receive a small commission if you purchase a product on third-parties' websites at no additional costs to you.

>