Saddle soreness for women is far from a new thing, however, it’s new news since in the past it was quite the hush-hush topic. Let’s face it, anyone who sits on their nether regions and pedals for hours at a time is going to experience some saddle issues due to the pressure, sweat, heat and friction, it’s simple science, however, while men often seem happy to dive into a detailed conversation about the downstairs dramas women traditionally have held back, even keeping their saddle issues secret from healthcare professionals and avoiding check-ups during cycling season because the side effects of riding were just too embarrassing.
The great news is as more women get into cycling and competing at elite-amateur and professional levels the taboo has been somewhat lifted. Women are starting to discuss these sensitive issues aloud, which means saddle soreness and similar issues start to feel ‘normal’ so that those embarrassing check-ups can be faced allowing advice, prevention and remedies to be freely passed around. As well as great for physical breakthroughs, the subject of saddle soreness symptoms can create great connections and a few laughs which can sometimes be the best medicine.
Did you know: Women actually have more saddle soreness issues than men but have suffered in silence until recently.
What are we talking about exactly?
While many of the issues related to saddle soreness are common even for non-cyclist, cycling can enhance the symptoms drastically and make women who cycle more susceptible. So what can we do to prevent and treat these common issues?
Sweating inside tight-fitting clothing can provide the perfect hot environment for yeast to run riot or bacterial infections to blossom.
Get out of your bike shorts as soon as you possibly can after your ride and slip into clean cotton or breathable material underwear to help absorb sweat. If you are particularly hot and bothered after your ride a quick wipe with baby wipe sheets can help keep bacteria at bay, just be sure to put fresh breathable clothes on and not sit around in sweaty riding gear.
If you are feeling itchy or irritated even in street clothes you can also try using a hairdryer to dry off your pubic region after a shower, be sure to use low heat and a comfortable distance.
You should be wearing your bike shorts commando style- without underwear so your skin is directly on that chamois seat. Bacteria will love that sweat and heat of your chamois, unfortunately it can easily travel from there into your bladder and cause all sorts of issues. Always wash your gear after a ride. If it’s going to be a day or more until they hit the washing machine be sure they are not scrunched up in the laundry basket. Use a cold-wash your ride shorts with a mild detergent on a delicate cycle. Avoid fabric softeners and tumble dryers. An extra rinse cycle can also help remove any excess detergent that might be trapped in the fabric.
Keep those fluids high. Water is great for hydrating your entire system, it means toxins and bacteria can be more easily flushed away, preventing a build-up and discomfort. Be sure to stop and go to the toilet as soon as you feel the need to, rather than holding it in for a more ‘convenient’ time so that your body can get rid of waste and stay clean on the inside.
Because you spend a large amount of time sitting in the saddle you put lot of sustained pressure on your genital area, which can cause swelling and make it hard for your body to successfully keep your lymphatic drainage in check. The wrong saddle can also be a cause of chafing and open ulcers.
While there are a range of cut out saddles available to help prevent swelling from pressure, it’s not a one size fits all solution. That specialised seat you have might only be making the problem worse. After all, we come in such a wide range of shapes and sizes, how could one saddle type possibly fix everyone’s problems? It’s well worth test riding a few saddles to see if you can eliminate swelling issues.
With so many unique body shapes and seating styles different chamois are going to sit differently for different people. Rather than suffering through with chafing, swelling, ingrown hairs and ulcers look for a chamois that is seamless and doesn’t move when you cycle.
If you notice skin irritation or hot spots while riding it’s a good indication that your chamois isn’t the best fit for your body.
Most saddle soreness issues can come down to seats and seat positioning. If you are having any saddle soreness issues or feeling of pain in your body because of your cycling it’s really important to get a professional bike fit to know you have the perfect position on the bike. This is not about aerodynamics, it’s about health and wellbeing. If you are experiencing any feelings of numbness or tingling when you ride or when you get off the bike it is absolutely imperative that you get your bike set up looked over a proven professional, if at all possible someone who really understands female bike fitness. You want to be sitting on either the hard bones in your bottom, or the strong forward bones of your pelvis rather than the soft tissue in between. You also need to make sure your handlebars are the correct height.
Numbness and tingling are not standard symptoms of cycling that you need to put up with or that should be ignored. Feelings of numbness is a sign that you are compressing nerves and it needs to be addressed before long term damage is caused.
Lubrication is key for preventing and soothing chafing and infected wounds.
Chamois cream can reduce friction between your shorts and your skin. The best way to use it is to run it into the chamois as well as your skin. Some of these creams come with pH balance protection especially for women.
Chafing gels can reduce the friction of your skin rubbing on skin, skin rubbing on clothes and can also help that delicate inner thigh area which might be prone to chaffing from rubbing against the seat.
These are especially big concerns for triathletes who jump on the bike in wet gear. Lanacane is one product that many female triathletes swear by.
Treatment creams. If you do notice a yeast infection, wound infection or fungus make sure you get the right treatment for fast relief. You don’t want to be mucking around with minimum strength over the counter creams that may not be doing any good. Get a prescription for a strong antifungal topical steroid cream to kill fungus and stop the itching so you can focus on riding.
Good bacteria can help keep bad bacteria at bay. Foods rich in probiotics include yogurt and kefir. You can also eat foods that are high in prebiotics which help feed prebiotics and keep them strong. Good options include bananas, grapefruit and almonds.
Cranberry juice is also rumoured to help fight and prevent bladder infections due to proanthocyanins.
The less grooming of your pubic area you do the better, at least during the cycling season. All that movement and sweat increases your chances of razor bumps, infected follicles and ingrown hairs, which can really hurt on and off the bike. Public hair is there for a reason, it provides a buffer between the sensitive tissues and any pressure (in this case the saddle).
If you do want to look neat and tidy use quality razors that are sharp and effective to minimize bumps and trouble areas.
Finally, keep talking about saddle issues and provide a feeling of normalcy about our bodies and our unique differences. Let’s keep the discussion going and strip back any stigma that the vagina should be kept secret.
Riding in the perfect position, pain free? That’s freedom!
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