Mountain bike chafing; What it is, how to treat and prevent

Over the years of riding my buddies and I have succumbed to various issues while riding. One of the most annoying and recent issues has been chafing. This got me wondering and researching How to treat and prevent chafing,

So how do you treat and try to prevent chafing caused by mountain biking? Treating chafing starts with a good cleaning and then the addition of ointment while allowing for as much air flow as possible. Prevention is a several pronged attack that usually depends on what type of chafing you are experiencing.

I personally have only had one or two incidents where I experienced this issue after riding. The crew I ride with though have had this happen a number of times as well. One of the problems with chafing is that you might not notice until you are washing up and soap hits the effected area(s). This can be shockingly painful!

Throughout this post we will cover what chafing is, how to treat and how to prevent in the future. After my last incident I implemented some to these tips to to treat and prevent going forward. Since then I have been lucky enough to not suffer it again.

What is Chafing?

Chafing is the irritation of skin caused by friction that could be caused by skin on skin friction or friction with irritating fabric and moisture. Chafing can happen during any activity as I have also experiences this a couple of times when I was training for my marathons.

Overweight and/or out of shape individuals like myself have a higher propensity of having this issue. If you are not paying attention to your type of clothing for your particular riding conditions then you could be in for a world of hurt.

In an athletic sport or activity like mountain biking the combination of sweat and motion is your worst enemy. If you can find ways to limit or prevent the buildup of sweat then you will have a better chance of limiting amount of or eliminating the chafing all together.

Areas that can be affected.

There are several areas of the body that can be affected by chafing during your mountain bike ride. These areas include but are not limited to inner thighs, your butt cheeks, your arm pits and nipples.

Depending on your body type, riding style, equipment setup and/or skill level you may experience some, none or all of these areas could be affected at any point during your time riding.

Inner Thighs

My issue was with the inner thighs. This also happens when I run because I simply have a weight issue that I hope to tackle with my bike training. Because of the excess weight my inner thighs rub together while pedaling while of the seat.

When riding through the trails inevitably there are also spots where it is beneficial to get up out of the seat, position your tail behind the seat and use your inner thighs to help maneuver your bike in some of the tighter technical section.

This leads to addition friction where your thighs are making contact with the sides of the seat. Add sweat to that friction and you could be hurting later.

Butt cheeks

This may sound crazy butt this happens. Ha ha ha, like what I did there? This happened on the last instance of chaffing that occurred to me. This occurred on a winter ride and at first I thought it was more wind burn than anything but after doing some research and thinking back to my apparel for the ride it was definitely chafing.

So what caused this one? Simple. For winter rides I typically ride with tights as well as padded short liners with the bike shorts. Typically the tights/leggings go on first, then the padded liners and then the shorts. Unfortunately this time around I put the padded liner, then the leggings and the outer short layer.

Another cause that I found during research for this article was the type of seat. I ride with the stiffer factory seat but there are a various types of seats with a variety of padding options. Too much padding can cause additional movement as well as sweat absorption leading to chafing of the butt cheek.

Arm Pits

Depending on your bike setup you may never experience this. I had this happen once on the old Mongoose Alta. I believe that my issue was caused by narrow bars which caused my arms to stay in close to my chest which caused some additional friction.

The solution on the Alta was the placement of my hand further out which also helped me get comfortable with the one finger braking technique. This also helped eliminate the crushing I was doing of my knuckles during breaking.

When I upgraded to my Specialized Fuse Expert Fattie I never had this problem again. To be honest I didn’t really notice that big of a difference between the handle bars between the two bikes mainly because I was so excited to have a new bike after 10 years.

After researching the handlebars between the two bikes I came to realize that there is a rather big difference. With wanting to turn my old Mongoose into a greenway bike for family rides I will definitely be upgrading the bar on the Mongoose.


I have to admit that this mostly occurred back when training for marathons but I have had it happen while mountain biking. More often than not this occurs when wearing a loose shirt or one made of cotton.

On the longer rides, if you are riding with a hydration pack the potential to have it loaded down it can put extra pressure on your shoulders and chest. This could lead to some trouble in that the extra pressure could cause friction that leads to chafing.

How to treat affected areas.

Don’t ignore chafing once it starts. Letting it go without treatment could cause you to end up seeking your Dr for medicated ointment to handle the issue.

The key to treating chafing starts with a good and gentle cleaning. Try to stay away from soap with added fragrances added to it. I use mens Dove which unfortunately does have the fragrances added to it. Just a word of warning that this can be a bit uncomfortable depending on the amount of chafing you have.

After a good clean if the situation isn’t too bad, grab some vasaline or Neosporin to apply to the affected area. You could also use baby powder or monkey butt powder

How to prevent Chafing?

There are several things that can help riders prevent change. Some of the options are to wear the correct clothing, a lotion or cream, and clean gear. You are going to want to test out these options during the different seasons of the year in order to find out what works for you.


The biggest preventative when it comes to chafing is wearing the proper attire for your activity and this could also differ based on your weight and body type. For example, I now usually ride with a base layer as part of my kit for rides and this varies on depending on the weather.

In the past when I was training for marathons and half marathons I was in much better shape. Back then I only wore a dry fit shirt, running shorts and running shoes. Now when I run I have to ensure that my running shorts are built with an inner lining with dry wicking fabric.

This is because of the friction caused by the inner thighs as they rub together when running due to currently being out of shape. While not exactly the same situation as running, I still experience some rubbing of the thighs so while I wait on getting in shape I try to ensure I always ride with the right shorts.

So in regards to clothing I start with a tight base layer of wicking fabric with an under shirt as well as a liner for my shorts. While I do have shorts with built in liners I prefer the shorts with separate liners.

Of course this also depends on the time of year. In the winter time, I ride with a pair of leggings that are my base layer prior to adding the liners. When it is warmer I simply wear the short liners. This has served me well over the years and usually does the trick.

The key is to make sure that the liner itself is pulled up nice and tight leaving no room for skin on skin friction to occur. Where some like to simply go with better clothing others prefer to use a cream of lotion.

Cream or lotion

There are several brands out there and they aren’t that expensive so you can try out several brands if you want in order to find what works best for you without breaking the bank. Another option is to also use Vasaline.

If you have had chafing happen before, you are going want to think back to where you sensitive areas were and apply the products to said areas. Be sure to read the instructions before applying, especially if you are female.

Now I know some people apply the cream to their liners or shorts but I find this uncomfortable. I apply the cream liberally and then give it a few seconds before putting on the rest of my gear.

Using a combination

While not necessarily needed, if you want to take extra precautions to help eliminate this issue, use all methods. Apply your cream prior to getting in your gear. Once your gear is on, ensure that you have eliminated any skin on skin areas of concern.

Keep the gear clean

One final note on preventing chafing. You are going to want to ensure that your gear is cleaned well. I would assume for most that on regular rides this is a no brainer as you leave home, get in a ride, come back home and clean your shorts and shirts.

This is mainly meant for over nights or camping trips where you don’t have an option. When planning for the trip, ensure that you plan out your clothing accordingly. Bring enough gear for the amount of rides you are planning.

If you plan on riding multiple times during the day with a break in between then you are going to want shorts with detachable liners. This allows you to swap out liners in between rides.

Why swap out liners? Well you aren’t going to want to just hang around in sweat soaked liners in between rides and the used liners will more than likely lead to worse chaffing if you ride in them all day.

If you do the free camping like we like to do and can set yourself up next to a fresh water source you can get a quick rinse of your gear post ride and let it air dry for the next day. So what about the shorts you may ask?

Well as the liners have the padding, the shorts themselves don’t typically hold too much moisture so you can get away with riding the same shorts for the full day by only swapping out the liners.

Related Questions.

Are Powders beneficial to chafing?

My initial thought was that powders would make things worse with the amount of sweating going on down there. But after talking with my crew as well as all the other research online shows that its actually quite beneficial in preventing the sweat as well as the chafing.

One of the most popular powders out there is a brand called Monkey Butt. If you check out this page on Amazon, you can see all types for men vs women vs child specific. There is a specific type that comes with calamine which.

Monkey but can be applied to the skin or directly on the fabric. Just be careful when applying, especially if you are applying to the liners you are currently wearing. A dusting of powder down there typically leads to cloud coming from the shorts that you won’t want to inhale.

John Orr

I am a husband and father of two who loves to unwind by getting on my mountain bike gear and heading out for an awesome adventure in the woods. When I am not able to do that I enjoy trying to create my own back yard trail and working on skills necessary to become a better rider.

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