I get asked fairly frequently about saddle sores that go away and then come back a few weeks, or rides, later. What’s the deal? Well, it could be a few things—and there are a few easy (and some slightly more complicated) fixes!
First of all, don’t panic yet: returning saddle sores are a common thing.
Usually, it means there’s something with your bike fit/position that’s making you hit that side/spot with more pressure. (I was just explaining to someone this week that this could be because of a tiny leg length discrepancy, or even a discrepancy in labia lips—it just takes a millimeter or two to make a difference if you’re sensitive!)
Before you start dropping $$ on things like a fit—more on that in a second—I think it’s worth taking a minute and assessing your saddle and your shorts for any tears, strings, or other stuff that could be rubbing you the wrong way. Also make sure your saddle is straight: the slightest side tilt from a crash or dropping your bike could be throwing you off.
All good? In that case, my first line of defense is always a bike fit with someone who you can talk to about where you’re getting the recurring saddle sore. (And definitely look into saddle choice, because if your saddle is too narrow or too wide, one spot might be getting more pressure than others!)
You may also, if all the bike fits and saddle swaps in the world aren’t helping, consider asking a fitter if there’s anything a physical therapist would be able to help you with: you might need to work on adjusting something on you, not the bike!
When you do take time off for it to heal, has it ever healed 100 percent? Sometimes that can be a problem, getting back on when one more day would have gotten rid of it completely. You might just need that one more day off the bike to get it gone for good.
But I do think that once you’ve had one in the same spot so many times, the skin does get a little more sensitive and thin. (I know a couple women who’ve used a localized estrogen cream at the recommendation of dermatologists to actually re-strengthen skin down there from saddle sores! But definitely don’t start that without consulting with a doc.)