What they don’t tell you

I’ve read a lot over the years about long distance cycling.  The book is Bicycling Magazine’s The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling.  That book covers a whole lot of ground, not only information about training and equipment, but also a whole lot about aches and pains and things to consider.  For example, there are sections on skin care (use sunscreen), eye wear (sunglasses), feet, knees, problems with your hands and arms, saddle sores, gastrointestinal problems, and even women’s issues such as interruptions to their menstrual cycles, vaginitis, and bladder infections.

You can find similar discussions on sites all over the Web. For all that, there’s one particularly painful issue that for some reason nobody discusses and yet most men I’ve talked to encounter at some point in their riding: sore nipples.

I’m not joking.  After a couple of hours riding the bike on a hot day, the constant rubbing of your shirt on your nipples will make them sore.  I’ve seen guys bleeding from their nipples.  And what do they do about it?  Most do nothing.  At most, they’ll unzip their jerseys so that the shirt doesn’t fit so tightly and therefore doesn’t rub as much.  It’s crazy.

Over the years, I’ve tried lots of different solutions.  The one everybody thinks of first is band-aids, but they won’t stick to sweaty skin and my experience is that they’ll just sweat right off after an hour or two if I put them on before a ride.  One guy told me to put them on the night before–swore by it.  Said it gives the adhesive time to set up or somesuch.  Didn’t work for me.  Two hours into the ride, my nips are burning and there are two band-aids floating around in my jersey.

The only thing I found that works is lip balm.  The wax-based stuff.  Get a tube of ChapStick or something similar and grease your nipples up real good before a ride.  And be sure to stuff that thing in your jersey pocket, because a few hours into the ride you’re going to want it again.  As far as I’ve been able to tell, the brand doesn’t matter.  I’ve used the expensive “Burt’s Bees” stuff, the cheapest generic stick stuff I picked up in a discount store, and everything in between.

A side benefit, beyond preventing chafed nipples, is that anybody who asks if he can use your ChapStick will immediately retract his request when you say, “Hold on,” pull up your shirt, and start rubbing it on your nipples.