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Home » Cycling » Two Millimeters, Saddle Sores, and the Changing Setup of a Bicycle.

Two Millimeters, Saddle Sores, and the Changing Setup of a Bicycle.


I have to write something that I still have a tough time typing.  In fact, this post sat for a month while I tried to sort out what I wanted to say…

I have a commenter who torments me from time to time, especially when it comes to my support for wearing a helmet when cycling.  Now, fair being fair, MJ rides a bike.  His bike weighs at least twice my Venge, maybe more, and his average pace is half mine – he doesn’t ride anything like I do, if I had to “categorize” us, gathering from his comments he’s a commuter while I’m a sport cyclist.

With the different styles of riding, I can understand why our views on cycling helmets differ.

That said, a while back I wrote about having some fairly extreme saddle sore issues.  Discarding some of the pompousness in some of his comments, he did suggest that if I’m having issues, something must be wrong that should be identified and corrected.  I responded sternly and dismissed out of hand the part about identifying and correcting a problem.  I had good reason to as well, as most of the trouble appeared to occur on the Venge, but seemed to originate with the tandem:

  1. I had a full Body Geometry fit done on my bike.  Lasers, video, levels…  Everything was thrown at the fit on the Venge.  The measurements from the Venge went to the captain’s saddle/cockpit on the tandem and were transferred by the shop owner who fitted my Venge.
  2. I was putting in a lot of miles – 1,970 miles in two months.  A saddle sore or two was expected.
  3. I’d just started riding a tandem with my wife, three days a week, and you’re stuck in the saddle a lot more on the tandem, with few opportunities to shift for discomfort while keeping pace with everyone else we’re riding with.

Now, I was certain with some saddle time and toughening up, I’d be okay.  Here’s the part that hurts:
MJ was right – and the problem wasn’t with the tandem, it was with the Venge.

After using a special mix of hydrocortisone cream and an anti-fungal cream to heal up, I realized I was more comfortable on the tandem – the saddle felt just a little bit lower that the Venge.  Against everything that I went through to get the Venge setup right, I dropped the saddle by about 2 millimeters.  Sure enough, while I get a hot spot now and again (I ride 200-280 miles a week and don’t use chamois cream), the saddle sores that were once so bad I had a hard time walking, are gone.

So, MJ, you were right.  There was something that had to be fixed, as implausible as it seemed at the time.  I apologize for ripping on you in my reply.  More important, if it wasn’t for your comment, I may not have come to realize that something was off.  Thanks, man.

Finally, when they say setup requirements can change over time, it’s true and I am living proof.  If after years of comfortable cycling you find yourself in discomfort, no matter how good your fitting was, there is a chance something may need to be changed.

Ride hard my friends.

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10 Comments

  1. thanks for sharing. i rarely get saddle sores and i ride a lot too. but, randomly, once in a great while, i’ll get serious saddle sores. really hurts. there were no changes to my bike, saddle, or setup. i chalked it up to aging cycling shorts. i got new shorts and haven’t had a problem since (fingers crossed). i used some all natural ointment called Miracle Salve to heal the bum, takes about 2.5 days and can ride again. thanks again, joe

    • bgddyjim says:

      The hydrocortisone and anti-fungal creams were recommended by a riding friend who is a doctor. Takes the pain out in a day… I didn’t miss a beat (I ride every day). Thanks for commenting.

  2. Sandra says:

    Good on ya, Jim, for being honest and commenting about what you learned. Sometimes we need to adjust our bike fits (I did the same thing–except I raised my seat). You’re a good egg.

  3. Not quite at saddle sore inducing levels, but yesterday I took the TT bike out for the first time in a while and after five miles my legs were protesting and something just didn’t feel right. I did a quick roadside check, lifted the saddle by around 4mm and BOOM! It’s all good and I’m feeling like a boss again.

    Millimeters matter! 🙂

  4. bribikes says:

    I actually changed my saddle mid tour because I had hunch that it was the root cause of my saddle sores…which was weird because for the first 1,500 miles of the tour I was fine. (Maybe it got too worn out?) It felt like a huge risk, but I tried out a few saddles at a little bike shop in Colorado, bought one and then threw out my old saddle. No saddle sores since.

    I am glad to hear you found a solution for yours as well, nothing takes the joy out of cycling like saddle pain!

  5. MJ Ray says:

    Hey, thanks. You posted this while I was busy with family (walking up on the coast, I think) so I only just found it when clearing out old comment notifications and spotting the mention.

    This may be pompous again but I’d like to defend myself slightly! My usual/favourite bike is indeed about twice the weight of your Venge, but I do have others, of different styles, including a road bike… which is probably still about 40% heavier than the Venge’s published 8.1kg because I’ve kept it simple, retro (it has gorgeous Arabesque shifters) and built for comfort more than speed.

    For many years (maybe nearly 20), I only had a road bike. I agree I probably don’t ride anything like you, even on a road bike, and the only reason I think I might have a chance in a hill climb against you is that I think I’m significantly lighter (at least I hope it’s significant!) and I lived at the foot of a 25% hill for years, so I’ve had plenty of technique practice. That’s part of why I can pedal at high cadence, as well as the languid style of the typical transport rider. I’m a mess of contradictions…

    If I was to categorise myself, I’d say I’m a transport cyclist (more shopping than commuting, as my office is in walking distance) who does some longer day-trips and tours, which is why I had my own spell of saddle sores earlier this year. A saddle I liked caused sores when I rode it two long-distance days in a row as a test. It wasn’t working for me any more no matter what position, so I changed it.

    I agree that setup requirements change slightly over time. I guess either our bodies change slightly or we change other bits of kit (when I wear thick-soled wellies for a charity ride, the saddle feels low) and then we must either change it back (if possible) or tweak the fit to, errr, fit!

    I’m really glad you found and fixed what wasn’t working for you. Cycling should only be as uncomfortable as you want it to be, not more!

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