Douleur dans le train d’atterrissage

Google Translation – Pain in the landing gear !

by Rodney Ecclestone, SUVelo (Sydney Uni Velo Club) Member

All too often at this time of the year on the rare occasion I drag myself to a Club ride that conversation turns to the buttocks. It tends to start with general comments made about others, or in my case the absence of one. More precisely though, I refer in this informative piece to the area referred to by some informally as the undercarriage. For those that are struggling, think of the fuselage of a plane and the area on the underside that is clearly visible from Norton Street Leichhardt between the back of the wings and the tail tip. Yes that is it, pretty much the place you yourself can never see well or comment on without the use of a mirror or an appointment with a doctor.

The main complaint I hear about amongst the bunch is the ubiquitous saddle sore and while I don’t speak from personal experience, now is the perfect time to provide some advice.

What is a saddle sore?

When it comes to establishing a cause, saddle sores come a close second behind an extremely rare neurological disorder affecting a cohort of Mexicans that have a gene pool in common with a Mauritian Prince. Needless to say, if you have ever had a persistently sore arse and have had to take time off the bike as result, then you have more than likely had saddle sores or one of the conditions that lead to them. In essence, they are a type of skin disorder that can be linked to multiple causes including; pressure on the ischial tuberosity (sit bones), hair follicle infections resulting in furuncles (fancy word for boil) and chaffing. Temperature of the undercarriage also plays a role. In most instances more than one of these causes results in saddles sores and some are harder to treat than others. Research on the causes of saddle sores is limited, but I prefer the street gossip around the causes than empirical evidence anyway. My favourite myth surrounding saddle sores is that eating curry the night before a big ride causes them, closely followed by not shaving your perineum (please refer back to the fuselage reference for anatomical navigation) leads to saddle sores. I have even been told that saddle sores are more likely to occur around Mardi Gras.

How to treat a sore arse

Treatment is not unsurprisingly related to an assessment of the root cause. Where a furuncle is present and ongoing despite time out of the saddle, antibiotics specifically targeted at the most likely bacteria causing the underlying infection can be prescribed. Chaffing, leading to saddle sores can be alleviated by a quality chamois cream used every time you ride, in association with squeaky clean knicks (that means washed after every ride and preferably on arrival home). The added effect of a chamois cream in addition to reducing friction is that a quality one neutralizes sweat to reduce its acidity to more alkaline and as such making skin breakdown slower. A word of advice, before you discount the effectiveness of a chamois cream, bare in mind (and body) that they are preventative, not a treatment. So, if you already have an arse that looks like a baboon simply applying a chamois cream will not be any help between now and your anticipated date on the weekend.

The ischial tuberosity, known as sit bones have a special part to play in this discussion. Saddle position is determined by how well your sit bones are positioned in relation to your saddle. If your sit bones are not cradled appropriately and your saddle selection is not appropriate for your overdeveloped gluteus maximus, then your arse will remind you by the creation of pressure points, poor circulation and eventual soft tissue breakdown and damage. In short, a sore arse. A simple guide to correct saddle positioning is whether you are first comfortable and second not noticing numbness and tingling of your undercarriage. If you are doing lots of time in the saddle, then not only will your arse be sore, festering and furuncle ridden, you will be impacting your future sexual function. This only means one thing, that your second divorce is one step away. Given your first divorce followed your mid life crisis and subsequent cycling obsession, sort your saddle out and your arse.

General advice

Please take the following advice as general guidance only:

  • It is not acceptable to ask your wife or partner to dress or perform any surgical treatment on your saddle sores. This includes the application of cream.
  • While you think talking about saddle sores is hilarious, everyone else is bilious and sometimes privately sick.
  • Nobody else cares about your cycling as much as you. This includes your partner and work colleagues.
  • Eating curry is not an independent risk factor for saddle sores.
  • ‘Natural’ breaks that don’t involve stopping can lead to saddle sores and the nickname Golden Retriever.
  • Saddle sores are not usually related to herpes simplex. Simplex does not refer to how easily you may have contracted it.

Remember, this is general advice. If symptoms persist consult your doctor.  Or if you still have any, talk to your non-cycling friends.