When I first started riding a little over three years ago, many of my non cycling girlfriends would say to me “You must get such a sore backside after riding so far on that little seat”. But the truth is that it wasn’t my bum that was sore but my more vulnerable ‘girl bits’ that really suffered when I first started riding. After three years I’m pleased to say that I rarely get any soreness or pain down there so I assume I’ve just ‘hardened up’ so to speak.
I also noticed that not many women spoke about this problem that plagues so many of us particularly when we start riding, so I thought I’d write a blog about what I’ve learned. There is one exception and that’s a cycling girlfriend of mine who said to me not long after we’d met “Does your fanny hurt from riding?” and of course my answer was a resounding yes or at least sometimes.
In her book Every Woman’s Guide to Cycling: Everything you need to know, Selene Yeager explains that the tender tissue of the vagina (let’s call a spade a spade here) is sitting precariously close to our outsides so can suffer easily from tenderness and once aggravated it will “pipe up pretty loudly”. She recommends high quality, women-specific bike knicks that have a moulded one piece chamois and you don’t wear undies underneath them. She also suggests a women’s specific saddle which is wider to support a women’s pelvis and usually has cut-outs to relieve pressure where it counts.
Selene also says that bladder infections can increase with long distance riding because anything that irritates the urethra increases the risk of bacteria sneaking into the bladder. She suggests that the right knicks and saddle combination should eliminate the problem as well as drinking of plenty of fluids and peeing when you need to.
Gale Bernhardt has also written a book for women and in a recent article explains in detail how to prevent ‘saddle sores’ and ‘vaginitis’. I’ll let you read the detail of this if you’re interested in the gory details. But a few things she suggests are worth a try if you’re suffering from any type of girlie pain including:
- Be sure your bike is set up correctly. If your saddle is too high or low it can cause pressure in that area.
- To help prevent chaffing use a good chamois cream. I’ve never used one but I know many cyclists who do.
- Good hygiene is essential. Take off your knicks when you get home and don’t wear them again until they’ve been washed and also wash your crotch area and let it dry properly.
Another thing you can try is to shave or wax (not something I’ve ever tried) your pubic hair either completely or partially to remove friction. But be mindful of ingrown hairs. They can become infected and need to be surgically removed. Most unpleasant.
On the subject of shaving (I know you men all love this subject) I remember seeing this fantastic and very risqué ad on the Gruen Transfer a couple of years ago. I found it on YouTube and thought you might fit it entertaining.
The final word of secret women cyclists’ business goes to Dutch pro cyclist Marijn de Vries who describes in detail how female pro cyclists pee when they are racing. It’s not something that I’m planning to try because I usually have more time available when I’m riding but it’s certainly enlightening. It even includes some very interesting diagrams. Enjoy.