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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