Secret Women Cyclists’ Business

'How to pee' for women from Marijn de Vries

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.

6 comments

  • Well said, personally I always wax the whole lot, of you look after the area in accordance with what your wax person says you should be fine. Wax the whole thing of, you’ll love it! Much better on the bike :)

  • As a chick with skinny sitbones (131mm apart!!!), I feel I must say that getting your butt measured helps enormously when on the quest for the right saddle. Too wide and you’ll end up with a whole bunch of troubles. Too narrow and you get a whole new set of them. And yes, I’m speaking from personal experience. I’ve finally settled on a Fizik Vesta after a disastrous experiment with a female Selle Italia SLR . The cut-out was in exactly the wrong spot for my arse and I could never get comfortable.

    Don’t be afraid to try men’s bib shorts if you’ve got skinny hips. Or even if you don’t. I recently bought a pair of Rapha classic bibs and they pretty much became my favourite pair after one wearing. The padding works for me and the lycra they’re made out of is amazing.

  • Great article! Thanks for mentioning the unmentionables. I went through a number of saddles before I found one that has NEVER caused me soreness, even on epic eight hour rides. The Terry Butterfly TI saddle is the best.

  • Great post on a topic often discussed but not written about. I had the same problem when I first started cycling & I have recently changed my saddles so I’m having the same problem again but this time it’s just under my sit bones rather than in any special ‘girly’ spot.

    I hope your article goes some way to encouraging women to find a solution to their article rather than giving this wonderful sport up!

    Regards
    Jen

  • Detective Mittens

    Great blog! Yep that’s my issue in a nutshell! No bum soreness just the bits that matter! Ha! I once lost feeling in the part that matters most for 12 weeks after doing the sydney to gong ride. I spent HOURS on google and reading forums to see if there was a time marker for when I might get feeling back – very scary :( Put it out there myself on a women’s only forum and had a man respond asking me to send him photos of my condition as he may be able to help. I was tempted to send him a photo of my saddle but he was suitably torn to shreds by the other women on the forum.

    Have played with saddles (including adjusting the height of the seat and the slant of the nose) and different bib shorts etc and hopefully I’m on a winning combination for the 3 1/2 week South East Asia cycling trip my partner and I are embarking on this Saturday. Given we’re all so different, there is no thing as a perfect sear for every lady!!! I’ve found the number one misconception is to get a really padded seat and really padded shorts. FAIL. Padded does not = good for long distance riding. It might be fine for a leisurely ride on the weekend but it does not allow the bulk of your weight to be on your sit bones (as it should be). Instead, the weight is evenly spread across everything – including your precious soft tissue, which is not good. I know exactly where my sit bones are now. If in doubt I suggest everyone go outside and sit on the concrete gutter to find out where they are! :)

    Hope you don’t mind me including this but the following article and raft of comments was really enlightening for me!!!

    http://lovelybike.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/on-female-anatomy-and-bicycle-saddles.html

    • I totally agree with you about padding. I used to think padding equalled comfort. My saddle which is a Specialized women’s saddle called a Ruby has very little padding and is quite comfortable even on really long rides. I recently did a 160 km ride and it wasn’t my bum or girlie bits that were sore, just my legs from fatigue!