Commuting 101: Dealing with Road Rash

Fresh Meat

I had a rainy commute a few mornings ago. It was the light rain that’s heavier than mist but not quite a shower. Temperatures were pleasantly in the high 50’s. I’m usually careful of slick spots when it’s raining. Particularly, metal surfaces (manhole covers, steel plates and railroad crossings) and painted road stripes are quite slick when it’s been raining. Mere blocks from work, I went down on a slick spot that I hadn’t seen and got a little bit of road rash.

Anyone who rides a lot of miles will eventually eat it and end up with a bear-claw chainring wound to the shin, road rash, or other cuts and scrapes. It pretty much goes with the territory. I’ve had a few incidents of road rash over the past 15 years, and I’ve tried different methods.


My injury wasn’t too bad.. A few scrapes surrounded by a 3″ x 3″ patch where the upper layer of skin had been worn away.. After about 15 minutes, the entire area was weeping.. I kept it covered until I could get some 4″ Tegaderm.

Tegaderm is by far my favorite way of covering up shallow abrasions or burn wounds, not that you’d get burn wounds on a bicycle, I’d hope. Tegaderm is made by 3M and marketed in pharmacies under 3M’s Nexcare brand. It differs from some of the hydrocolloid dressings in that it doesn’t absorb moisture and gel up. It’s simply a thin, clear membrane that allows the wound to breathe while keeping it moist. Like the hydrocolloid dressings, this allows fresh skin to grow in quickly without scabbing.

After 48 hours, the area of abraded skin had formed a completely fresh covering and the scrapes resembled a cat scratch.. Although riding about 30 miles with Tegaderm on my leg made it temporarily blister up, it stayed on regardless of sweat and through multiple showers.. Left uncovered or allowed to scab, this wound would have painfully lasted more than a week.. Right now, I don’t even notice it. See the gallery for more.


I don’t carry a full road-rash kit around, or even keep one in my office.. I have basic first-aid stuff in my desk, though.

How do you treat your road rash?

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0 thoughts on “Commuting 101: Dealing with Road Rash”

  1. Tarek says:

    My go-to source for road-rash healery is Brave Soldier ( ).

    Their ointment is amazing, really speeds up the healing process for road rash, and has a bit of lidocaine in it to numb the pain.

    They also make a crash pack that is in a waterproof back and is perfect for road rash on the road.

    That, and pretty much the whole of the 3M Nextcare line, which features the Tegaderm you used. They also make a “Release” dressing for larger scrapes that won’t stick to your wound.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Gonna have to do some shopping- realized I haven’t done up the first aid stuff.

    I’m afraid I just let my last bit of road rash take care of itself. My elbows are basically scarred anyway… letting the front wheel eat my shoe was mostly a bruise event anyway.

  3. Fritz says:

    Speaking of burn wounds from cyclingA police spokesman said: “Witnesses said he was like a flaming human torch cycling along the road. We do not know how it happened but we have heard that it could have been caused by a reaction between friction as he cycled, sweat and the material of his trousers.”

  4. Bruno says:

    Could that be a case of “Exploding Trousers“?

  5. Jennifer says:

    Hmm, I usually get bruises, nothing that ever breaks the skin. But speaking of burns, there was that one time last summer that I ran into a patch of wild parsnip. Off-road rash, I suppose.

  6. Kelly says:

    I’ve had a lot of road rash over the years. My biggest advice: scrub it clean as soon as you can while the adrenaline is still coursing through your system. The longer you wait to clean it, the more it hurts.

  7. Rick says:

    I just let it heal on its own. I heard that scars are cool.

  8. Greg says:

    neosporin, neosporin, neosporin was told to me by a friend after my last spill.

    I was doing well for a week and a half but it eventually scabbed a bit and I still have it 2 weeks later.

    I need to check out this tegaderm stuff. I’ve kept the bandaide company funded for long enough.

    and scars are cool, so are wives that don’t mind your cuts messing the sheets.

  9. At the time I wasn’t commuting, but…

    I was up out of the saddle sprinting a few weeks back when my saddle let loose and I went over the bars. Luckily my head took most of it (concussion city, but my helmet saved my life), and I didn’t get much rash, but for what I had on my elbow, side, hip, knee, and ankle, I cleaned it out (or had it cleaned at the ER while getting my xrays) and then threw some prescription healing junk on with one of those bandages like you use over top. They’re great, and my scabs are finally ready to fall off.


  10. Darren says:

    I’ll second Tegaderm. For road rash it is hard to beat it. I have also use Band-Aid Advanced Healing with Compeed, which also works very well but you can’t see how it is doing and it is hard to get off (especially if like most men you have hairy arms or legs). I prefer Tegaderm for most road rash. For more very sensitive (deep) road rash I like the Advdandced healing because it swells up and cushions the wound.

  11. Sean says:

    For deeper grazes and abrasions, I find that Tegaderm just doesn’t cut it. It just isn’t breatheable enough to allow actual secretions through. Also it doesn’t tend to survive showering very well. It’s great for superficial grazes only.

    For deeper abrasions, I’d use either Fixomull or Hypafix. The adhesive can last up to a week. After applying it, don’t shower with it on for 24hrs. After that, you can give your abrasions a scrub under the shower every day. It was a revelation. Just don’t try to lift the dressing before the wound is healed. Ouch. You might occasionally need an adhesive remover to get the stuff off when everything is healed.

    The hydrocolloid dressings are great for deeper wounds or ulcers with lots of ooze. The adhesive just isn’t as resilient though, so not so good for patches of skin which move a lot, say around joints. It’s also gets expensive if you’ve got a large area involved.

    With all of those dressings, you have to resist the temptation to change them too often – you’ll just lift the healing tissue right off the wound – a one-way ticket to scar city. Maybe I should spend less time on the ground 🙂

  12. db says:

    I used Tagaderm and Compeed last year after a bad wipeout left much of my right side with road rash. It took 2 weeks for the worst ones to heal, but I can’t imagine how long it would’ve taken without those two products. Highly recommend either — whichever you use is really up to personal preference.

  13. xJohnnyx says:

    Triple antibacterial cream only, unless I’m bleeding all over the place. If I am bleeding all over the place, I’ll just gauze it for a day or so until it stops.

  14. Shiny Flu says:

    Smith & Nephew Primapore is my preferred dressing for all bike related injuries. It’s very similar to what you see the Pro’s using. It conforms, breathes exceptionally well and is comfortable. The downside is that you must change the dressing daily and that they’re a tad expensive. It’s helped me heal from a bad rock-garden crash (on my MTB) as well as the odd bout of road rash.

  15. Quinn says:

    Road rash from a jack-knife, Shin-pizza from Triple Traps, Rash from a 30 mile day,

    Here in Nev the we like to say “Cowboy Up”

  16. Ghost Rider says:

    Quinn, wouldn’t it be “cowboy down“? I mean, if you’re crashing, you’re no longer up, right? I guess I am unfamiliar with all them cowboy-country terms!

  17. Quinn says:

    Ghost- In other words, “Man Up”, “grow some gonads”, “There’s no crying in baseb….cycling” (only tears of joy after winning the Tour De France, After battling cancer)

  18. Noah says:

    There’s a difference between crying after road rash and taking care of road rash in a practical way.

    There’s nothing manly about being retarded when it comes to taking care of injuries.

  19. Quinn says:

    Stepping down a notch- for perspective- I use soap and water, after the ride, let the wound scab over and let my body do its thing, trail-side clean up is pointless.

  20. db says:

    I should’ve added to my previous post (#8) that with Tagaderm or Compeed, I COVERED the sores in triple anti-biotic ointment, in part to keep any scabs from forming on the wound covering. This made changing the dressing daily possible. And even though it was a bit expensive, I did change them all daily.

  21. Fritz says:

    There have been a couple of instances where I wiped out far from home — I’m talking 40 miles away, my shorts are ripped to shreds, small rocks are embedded in my arms and legs and and I’m dripping blood all over everything. I’ve found I strongly prefer washing the wound out ASAP rather than waiting until I’m at home or my destination — the pain is considerably less if I do it immediately. Water bottles work nicely for spraying the dirt away.

    I’m another fan of the miracle dressings. Healing is faster and scarring is minimized. Here’s a good idea I’ve seen.

  22. robgarbo says:

    I staple bologna over my road rash, no one seems to notice.

  23. Ghost Rider says:

    What’s wrong with scars and scabs, again? Do they interfere with your Hollywood career aspirations?

    I’m going to have to try the “bologna trick”!

  24. Ryan Keefer says:

    A guy on Twitter introduced me to Tegaderm a month or so back after I had a race ending crash in a crit. The road rash on my arm, I put the Tegaderm. The road rash on my knee, I didn’t Arm is completely healed, knee still needs some more healing (it scabbed over, while the arm didn’t). I wrote a similar post on my site ’bout the experience.

    Another vote for Tegaderm, despite its expense. Hopefully, you don’t need it often.

  25. Paul in Minneapoils says:

    On my touring bike (my commuter) I carry 3 bandannas. They are multipurpose; wipe sweat or dripping nose, wetting and washing with, or as a make shift bandage till I can get some where. I got the idea from Hitchers guide to the galaxy, but towels are too big” And I agree about washing out quickly. A few days ago I laid my long haul trucker down, while over 20mph in a turn, my poor baby took more than I did, luckily I was very close to home. All I did was wash it out and it is healing very good, with some scabbing. A co-worker also crashed on a turn, maybe slowing down is the best medicine”.. : / NOT

  26. lisa says:

    I used Neosporin and non-stick gauze for the first six days. The weeping finally slowed down so I switched to Tegaderm yesterday morning. 36 hours later and this thing is filling with liquid. Healthy looking stuff but I wonder when I should change the dressing. Just before it bursts?

  27. Noah says:

    You’re supposed to remove it, gently wash the wound, and replace the tegaderm every 3 days. The liquid is usually blood plasma and/or serum — the same thing that fills blisters. If it starts filling with pus or smelling bad, you should change the tegaderm earlier, and wash the area VERY well. Also, you can “drain” the tegaderm by lifting a corner to allow some of the fluid out, but it won’t ever quite seal up right. I usually wear a gauze pad over the tegaderm if it starts weeping too much.

  28. Thanks – I went down on wet concrete the other day. I’ll check the Tegaderm out.

  29. kayla says:

    i just recently took a horrible spill and everyone says to go to the doc but its far and my mom says that the doc wouldn’t do anything more than what we have done is that true??????

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      @Kayla: I had a nasty spill recently too, and considered not going to the doctor, but I did. In my case, I think the doctors reduced my risk of infection and helped the wounds to heal much faster than they would have if I’d just treated them myself with first aid.

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