Two mountain bikers and first aid kit

Best Way to Treat Mountain Bike Road Rash

Riding a mountain bike on the desert trails, from time to time I take a spill. It’s rocky here (Phoenix, AZ) and I get bruises and scrapes. What is the best way to treat the scrapes and what it the best pain medication for the soreness from the bruises?
Thanks, Ravi

Here is an excerpt from our book, A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine on abrasions:


Two mountain bikers and first aid kit

An abrasion occurs when the outer layer of skin is scraped off. Abrasions are often embedded with dirt, gravel and other debris which, if not removed, can result in scarring or infection.
An abrasion must be vigorously scrubbed with a surgical brush or cleansing pad until all foreign materials are removed. This can sometimes be more painful than the accident itself. It helps to first wipe the area with a cleansing pad containing lidocaine, like our After Cuts & Scrapes towelettes. Use tweezers to pick out any remaining embedded particles and then irrigate the abrasion with saline solution or water. A thin layer of aloe vera gel applied to the abrasion after cleaning will reduce inflammation and promote healing.

After cleansing, apply a nonadherent, protective dressing and secure it in place with a bandage. You can secure it with a stockinette bandage, tape or an elastic bandage and leave it in place for several days, as long as there is no sign of infection.

Check the Wound Daily for Signs of Infection

  1. Increasing pain, redness, or swelling;
  2. Pus or greenish drainage from the wound;
  3. Red streaks on the skin adjacent to or “upstream” from the wound;
  4. Fever.

If an infection develops consult a physician as soon as possible because antibiotic could be needed.

Always carry a first aid kit to treat injuries in the backcountry. We recommend the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight Series as a lightweight addition to your mountain biking gear.