What Are Saddle Sores?


If you’ve spent any time on a bike, whether it’s a mountain, road or spin bike, then you are probably aware of the term saddle sore. But what does it actually mean?   Of course, cyclists aren’t the only ones who can suffer from saddle sores; horses also can get them, and they are usually caused by an ill-fitting saddle.   Here, however, we will discuss saddle sores that occur on humans—or more specifically, humans that ride bicycles.

Unfortunately, saddle sores are common among cyclists, from beginners to elite athletes. But what are these sores? And what causes them?

Dr. Rachel Biber clears up those questions in an article on BeginnerTriathlete.com: “Saddle sores refer specifically to skin-related disorders of the area of the body in contact with the bicycle seat.”

Keep in mind that the term “saddle soreness” is not the same thing as “saddle sores.” Dr. Biber points out that saddle soreness has to do with your “sit bones,” or those “two bony prominences on your backside that come into contact with a chair when sitting.” Muscle pain or soreness, and your position on your bike seat can contribute to saddle soreness. Saddle sores have to do with a variety of skin ailments.

According to Dr. Biber, saddle sores are “…a continuum of skin complaints that vary in severity.” And there are a few types:


Chafing, from friction between a cyclist’s groin or inner thighs and a bicycle seat, is one type of saddle sore. See our section on chafing and chafing prevention for more information.


Folliculitis occurs when there is an infection at the base of a hair follicle. It happens when the follicle gets damaged because of “…rubbing from clothing, blockage of the follicle, or shaving,” according to the definition from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which also notes that, most of the time, staph bacteria infects the damaged follicle(s).


Furuncles, also called boils, can start off looking like an everyday pimple, but is actually “…a localized accumulation of pus with an infected hair follicle,” says Dr. Biber. “If untreated, furuncles can develop to form abscesses.”

 Skin Ulcers

Skin ulcerations are another type of saddle sore that can occur after a very long ride. They resemble “crater-like” lesions. Skin ulcers can turn into severe skin infections, such as cellulitis, if not treated, according to Dr. Biber. Cellulitis is a skin infection caused by bacteria, which can spread into deeper tissues and eventually into the blood or lymph nodes, according WebMD. Left untreated, it can even be deadly.