Saddle Soreness – What’s a Trigirl to Do?
Soreness, chafing, irritation, numbness… do these words conjure up the relationship that your lady parts have with your bike? Do you find yourself out of the saddle- not to stretch out your legs or speed up a hill, but just to give your nether regions some relief?
A long bike ride is a beautiful thing, but the pain that you’re experiencing may be leading you to question cycling at all. Fortunately, there are plenty of options to make your time in the saddle not only tolerable, but comfortable.
Padding – A little goes a long way!
If you’re new to cycling, I’ll bet those big squishy bike shorts or that soft, comfy, gel-filled saddle look awfully tempting. Step away from the pillow-bottom shorts. All of that padding is really comfy – at first. But ride longer than a few miles and you’ll start to notice that all of that excess padding in your shorts is bunching up exactly where you don’t want it. And that soft seat? Chances are you’ll find that once you sink in to the soft spots, other places will experience increased pressure causing painful hotspots and numbness.
Though it may take a bit of time to get used to it, a harder saddle will keep you more supported throughout. And as far as your shorts, a thin, good-quality cycling or triathlon pad will breathe better and bunch less, leaving you much more comfortable in the long run (or bike in this case!)
Women’s Specific Saddles
Talk to five different women and you’ll probably get five different answers as to what saddle is the best for women. That’s good – it shows that companies are recognising that women are cyclists and are made a little differently than men! Finally, cycling brands are offering a choice in saddles made just for us girls. But short of trial and error, it’s difficult to know which saddle will work best for you.
In general, women’s saddles are a bit wider to offer support for a woman’s wider hips/sit bones. Some offer a cut out in delicate areas to relieve some pressure. There are also women’s-specific triathlon saddles, offering softer support throughout the nose for riding in a more aggressive position. All of these options work for some women but not for others who may find a too-wide seat leads to chafing while peddling or that a cut out just causes hot spots in other areas.
Fortunately some bike shops allow you to try before you buy and there are companies (Bontrager is one) that offer a money-back comfort guarantee. A great way to be sure that your saddle is right for you without spending loads of money.
So you’ve got the right shorts and you like your saddle, but you are still suffering from pain and pressure? One option is to tilt the nose of your saddle down slightly. Too much and you could be putting uncomfortable pressure on your hands and wrists, but sometimes a slight tilt is the difference between a torturefest and almost forgetting your saddle is there.
Despite having the perfect saddle, the best triathlon pad and a perfectly-tilted saddle position, chafing still can happen, especially on a long ride. The combination of continuous motion, dampness from sweat or swimming prior to the ride and delicate skin can lead to painful saddle sores or even worse, irritation and chafing up front.
There are chamois creams on the market that can help, but they can be expensive and sometimes sting when it comes to delicate female parts. If you find that chamois cream is not for you, something to try is a good diaper cream. Made with ingredients to sooth delicate baby bottoms, they not only help to keep you dry, but offer great protection and comfort! An even cheaper option that works for some is Vaseline. Apply liberally before a ride and take along extra to reapply at toilet stops if you plan to put in a long day in the saddle.
Saddle comfort could be the difference between a painful ride and a wonderful one. You may also like to check out this related article on the Guardian website: How scientific rigour helped Team GB’s saddle-sore cyclists
Do you have other tips to keep the Trigirl community sitting pretty? What’s your favourite way to keep comfy in the saddle?