The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa

2017 RAGBRAI

Top 10 Training Tips for RAGBRAI – #3: Training Endurance is Important, but…

By Coach David Ertl

My Training Tip #2 indicated that building endurance is the most important thing about preparing for a successful RAGBRAI, but I’m here to tell you that a close second to training your endurance is preparing your own seat for the trip. I’m not talking your bike seat, I’m talking your seat (butt, buttock, rear, etc).  This is an important, yet sensitive  (pun intended), subject.  I would be willing to bet that more people cut their ride short across Iowa because of butt pain than sore legs.  Sitting on a bicycle saddle for hours a day does take preparation. Even if you think you are in shape and can just hop on a bike and ride across Iowa in a week, and some people can, don’t assume your butt  is equally up to the task.  There is only one way to train your butt to handle this event – practice by sitting on your bike seat for hours at a time.

You put a lot of your body weight through your saddle when sitting on the bike.  Much of the weight goes through your sit bones (ischial tuberosity) and put tremendous pressure on the skin between them and your saddle. Add to it the pedaling movement and sweat and you create a situation where you can generate blisters, chafing, infection and the dreaded saddle sores.  As I just stated, the best way to toughen up your nether region is to gradually build up time on the bike.  Going to long too soon won’t give your rear enough time to build up its toughness.  But there are some other things you can do to avoid having a pain in the butt ruin your ride or your training.

First, invest in padded bike shorts. I realize many people don’t like lycra shorts.  That’s fine, there are a number of bike shorts that actually look like real shorts but have padded liners.  These liners, or chamois, are designed to provide extra padding and wick away moisture as you ride.  While you are at it, buy at least two pairs. That way one pair can be drying while you are riding in the other pair.  Just as important as wearing bike shorts is washing them after every ride to get rid of the bacteria in them.  And as important as wearing bikes shorts is while you ride, it’s equally important to change out of your bike shorts as soon as you are done riding so avoid encouraging bacterial infection.  Don’t be one of those people who walks about the overnight town on RAGBRAI in your bike shorts all afternoon and evening. Get changed and cleaned up as soon as you can.  Even if you can’t get a shower right away, use some baby wipes or hand sanitizer for a quick, temporary clean-up.

One of those questions that everyone is afraid to ask is whether you should wear underwear under your bike shorts.  So I’ll save you the embarrassment of asking.  Whatever you do, DON’T RIDE WITH UNDERWEAR UNDER YOUR BIKE SHORTS. They are designed to be worn without.   Also, avoid riding in regular shorts or jeans or any other non-cycling shorts (with underwear underneath).  These have the tendency to rub you the wrong way, in a manner of speaking!

Also, there are a number of products on the market designed to provide additional protection against saddle sores while riding. These are creams that can be applied to your shorts to avoid chafing. These are known as chamois creams. In the olden days, bike shorts were lined with real chamois (lambskin) but are now made of synthetic materials, but are still referred to as chamois. For some reason many of these creams have quite humorous names (Chamois Butt’r, Gooch Guard, Hoo Ha Ride Glide). But I can assure you, a sore butt is no laughing matter. You can read about these in this Bicycling review.  If you start to notice sores developing after your rides, be sure to apply some antibiotic cream, such as Bacitracin, after you shower.

So to review, to maintain butt health while training for and riding in RAGBRAI, buy and wear bike shorts, keep them and yourself clean, change out of them after riding, and use some chamois cream. Butt most importantly, gradually increase your time on the bike to toughen up your tender region.

Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team, JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes and individual cyclists through the Peaks Coaching Group. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: http://www.CyclesportCoaching.com . He can be contacted at coach@cyclesportcoaching.com.

4 Comments

June, Apr 29, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Also, if you do start getting sores on your bottom, as soon as you are done showering, put Desitin or a similar product that is normally used for diaper rash. It will usually heal the sores overnight.

Bruce, Apr 30, 2017 at 2:32 am

And the number one way to avoid a sore butt is, of course, ride a ‘Bent (“recumbent”).

James, May 1, 2017 at 4:42 pm

We are first-timers, so I really appreciate the tips. Desitin is being packed for sure. Looking forward to this adventure.

Robert, May 2, 2017 at 9:09 pm

I like to carry some chamois butt’r with me and reapply during the day.

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