This is the first in a series of short pieces on looking after yourself at the Brevet.
Probably the hardest thing for a fit rider to deal with when doing an ultra-endurance bike ride is butt care. Discomfort and damage fall into five areas:
1 - Numb family jewels.
Solution - tilt your seat down slightly and/or raise your handlebars. Experiment with different saddles long before the ride, and then get used to your preferred choice. Spend time standing on the pedals and/or walking regularly.
2 - Numb or raw 'taint' ('taint' = the area just behind your family jewels. It ain't this and it aint that).
Solution - Similar to above, but also make sure you aren't drifting forward to the narrow part of the saddle too much. Don't carry significant weight on your back. Use chammy cream or talc.
3 - Bruised sit bones and raw skin on buttocks.
Solution - Similar to above, but it may help to lean forwards and put more weight on your taint from time to time. Running tyres at low pressures helps to reduce road shock (my pick is 50mm wide tyres at about 30 psi). Maybe pop a low dose anti-inflammatory pill at the end of each day.
4 - Distressed butt-hole
Solution - Chammy cream is the main fix for this one, followed by some talc at the end of the day. If you are really unlucky you might end up with hemorrhoids. There is some useful information about this topic to be found online, but I recommend avoiding Google Images.
Try to avoid foods which might lead to constipation, throw a packet of prunes into your jersey pockets, and pull back on the number of hours in the saddle. It will pass.
5 - Saddle sores (which can occur on any part of the anatomy previously mentioned).
Solution - Again, start the Brevet with a well worn-in saddle. Wash every day. Use a great pair of cycling shorts (with chammy cream) while riding, and a well-ventilated pair of shorts at the end of the day. Stand on the pedals frequently and walk some of the steeper climbs.
If you are doing really, really long days, you may start to get a bit crusty overnight. Breaking through the crust at the start of the day can be a little painful, but after about 10 minutes you should be back to normal. 'Pain is weakness leaving the body' is a good catch phrase at times like this.
Saddles are a very individual choice - I won't recommend any particular one (other than to say, DON'T try starting with a new leather saddle. Those suckers take a long time to break in).
On the shorts front, I've been very impressed by new Ground Effect Exocets. They have no seam round the edge of the padding, and the padding is thick where it needs to be. If it isn't too warm and problem 3 is your worst, consider wearing two pairs of shorts for some of each day.
Chammy cream is also a personal choice. The last I used was Sweet Cheeks Butt Butter (made by Jennie Taylor who's husband is an ultra-endurance mountain biker). It worked brilliantly. Jennie is extending the same special deal as last year:
$20 for a 200gm pot of Sweet Cheeks Butt Butter + $2.50 shipping anywhere in NZ = $22.50 total.
Usual retail price is $25 + shipping
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