Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Female Anatomy and Saddle Discomfort

Male readers: you may want to skip this one. Of course if you feel up to it, you are welcome to keep reading. But don't say I didn't warn you.

Female readers: I've had email exchanges with so many of you about "women's issues" with bicycle saddles, and it's amazing how much embarrassment there is among us (and I include myself) when it comes to discussing our bodies - especially given how common these problems are. While with men, we can read and hear all about perineal this and genital that, with women it's all hush-hush and seldom addressed in a manner explicit enough to be helpful. So I'll try to get over my own embarrassment, and write about it in detail here.

There are many different kinds of female-specific saddle problems and I will organise them into several categories: posterior discomfort, genital discomfort, infections, and menstruation.

Posterior Discomfort
For the sake of keeping things women-specific, let's assume that the problem is not an overpadded saddle (which can cause bunching up in a way that is painful to both genders), and begin with the premise that you have a leather or plastic saddle with minimal padding. With most new saddles there is a break-in period, and it is normal if your butt feels sore on the first ride, or even several rides. But if it still hurts just the same after a reasonable break-in period, and the pain feels to be the result of pressure on the sit bones, then the saddle may be wrong for your derriere. For women, the problem tends to be choosing a too-narrow saddle. Women typically have wider sit bones than men and also tend to be less aggressive cyclists, which puts more pressure on their behinds. If your butt hurts where the sitbones are, a wider saddle will usually solve the problem. Padding, on the other hand, is not usually effective. Light chamois padding as part of your cycling shorts can make an already comfortable ride more comfortable over long distances. But the more typical heavier padding usually makes things worse, not better.

Genital Discomfort
When riding an upright bicycle, a female cyclist should feel no genital discomfort, because that part of her body is not in contact with the saddle in a way that causes pressure. On the other hand, a roadbike - with its forward-leaning posture, will tilt the genital region directly onto the saddle. Female cyclists typically experience genital discomfort in one of two places: the labia (vaginal "lips") and the clitoral area.

LabiaWhen cycling on a roadbike, some women report that their vaginal lips bunch up and press painfully into the saddle - so much so, that after a long ride there can be abrasions and bleeding. While some recommend getting saddles with a cut-out in the center, this is not always effective: Every woman's anatomy is different and the cut-out may not be in the right place. Though it's pretty much impossible to keep loose folds of skin from shifting about while you're pedaling, you can avoid abrasions with generous applications of chamois cream or vaseline before you set off on your ride. Creams such as DZNuts that use tea tree oil as a main ingredient seem to be particularly effective. Vaseline works as well, but be aware that it can discolour leather saddles if it seeps through shorts. Others prefer to use baby powder or corn starch, but the few times I've tried this it was a mess. Another method to prevent severe chafing may be to wax or epilate (but not shave) the entire area. For some, coarse pubic hair contributes to abrasions and getting rid of it improves things.

Clitoral Region: An even more difficult issue to deal with is clitoral pain. This is a problem that you either have or you don't, depending on your anatomy. For some women the location is safely out of harm's way, while for others it presses directly into the hard nose of the saddle. In the event of the latter, chamois cream is not sufficient to alleviate the discomfort that ensues. Some recommend tilting the nose down, but this is not always possible, as doing so can cause the cyclist to slide forward, putting more pressure on her hands and making the whole riding position uncomfortable. The only solution here is to find a saddle that works through personal trial and error, which can be frustrating and expensive. I've suffered through this particular problem on and off with my Brooks B17S saddle since last Spring. Then I tried the Gilles Berthoud "Marie Blanque" and the problem disappeared entirely. Some also say that the Brooks "S" road saddles actually make this problem worse, not better, since the hard nose of these saddles does not just end sooner, but starts sooner. There are other suggestions out there for specific saddles that could solve this problem, including Terry saddles and "noseless" saddles. But the suggestions are all based on personal experiences of individual women and it is simply impossible to find a single solution for everyone, given the inconsistent location of this particular body part.

Recurring Infections
Female cyclists can be prone to yeast infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs). The causal factors underlying both types of infections are numerous, and contrary to what some believe, they are not necessarily due to poor hygiene. Of course, showering both immediately before and after a strenuous ride will lower the risk of infections, but most women who get them are already doing this. Often, synthetic shorts or underwear could be to blame: bacteria thrives underneath synthetic fabrics, even when the garments are advertised otherwise. If you get recurring yeast infections or UTIs when you cycle, consider wearing exclusively silk or wool underwear and wool cycling shorts. And definitely consider a suspended leather saddle - which unlike other saddles, is breathable. Natural fabrics, good ventilation and moisture wicking are key here. It also helps to use simple soaps (made of actual soap, not perfumed body washes or moisturising soaps) and to avoid artificially perfumed sprays or lotions in or around your vaginal area. Be especially cautious on hot and humid days, as well as on days during which there are drastic weather changes - infections are more likely to occur at these times.

Menstruation
As any exercise, cycling can relieve menstrual cramps and counter PMS symptoms - so if you're up to cycling for sport during your period there is no reason not to do it. But straddling a bicycle saddle for hours while menstruating can present its own set of challenges. Blood flow increases during exercise, so if you are planning on a long ride, it's a good idea to change your tampon or sanitary napkin more frequently than usual. If you don't use tampons, then there is also the issue of blood being an irritant, with the potential to cause abrasions and infection. One way to avoid this is to shower right before your ride, then take wet naps with you and stop every hour in a restroom facility to clean up and change your sanitary napkin. If that sounds like too much trouble, consider using tampons or avoiding cycling for sport during menstruation - especially if you are prone to the abrasions and infections discussed earlier.

I hope this post was helpful. If you would like to discuss these issues, and, especially to share your own experiences and remedies, remember that I allow anonymous comments and you don't need to log in under your regular screen name.

205 comments:

  1. Blogger Hall of Fame post.

    I need to lie down.

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    1. Good article. I ride a brooks saddle on both my bikes and on my racer have a swallow. When doing long rides on an unbroken in Brooks..peeing is very painful. Eventually, they break in and they are comfortable.

      I have never used chamois creme but may start because on my first long ride or so, I have developed a small boil on the posteriour. OUCH

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  2. Hair acts like a lubricant to reduce chafing. Removing it only serves to increase friction in the area, and worsens the problem. Stubbly growth is by far the worst, though. The memory of a long ride will stay with you for a while. Epilation might be a better option when compared to shaving, but the best idea is to leave things alone.

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  3. Oh Jim, she did say this was for the ladies!

    Thanks for the frankness! Way to wave the lady flag! Wearing pads and biking is not so fun with all the friction and rubbing. I sort of grin and bear it. I like the short brooks saddles, but mine are a bit too narrow-but beautiful! I have not found the 'perfect' saddle.
    I do find that when I wear my wool ibex panties I get very sore because they are a bit rough and make my bits very hot. Excellent for hiking in cold weather or working in a cooler, but not so good for cycling. Icebreaker is much nicer.
    I haven't really had much time or opportunity to be doing long rides but I do remember the sores and just hoping the ride will end soon.

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  4. I agree about leaving hair as is. Pubic hair like eyebrows and eyelashes etc are meant to protect from infection and cooties and are kind of spongy. I cringe at the thought of shaving, waxing etc the bikini area because it hurts so much and once it starts growing back-aaaaah!
    Talcum powder is always a nice treat for sore lady cyclists.

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  5. Anonymous 2:04, waxing definitely helps me. But I agree that shaving is the worst.

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  6. I epilate spring-autumn and use either cornstarch powder or chamois cream. Padded shorts.

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  7. Jim - The menstrual stuff in the end was the last straw, wasn't it

    Shaving is definitely not a good idea because of stubble, and I've now clarified that in the post. I am with Kat and the latest Anon on the waxing/epilating. Your milage may vary?

    For what it's worth, baby powder did not help me much; just created a mess.

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  8. This is aprillikesbikes, but lately blogger hates me. Also, the comment is so long I've had to split it in half.

    I'd like to say: Thank god someone is finally being blunt about this stuff. For serious. Women really need to be able to talk about this stuff! If your lady parts are unhappy, you will hate riding your bicycle. Been there. My personal thoughts on the subject:

    Posterior discomfort: The distance between your sit bones has nothing to do with how wide your ass is. I'm sure there's plenty of ladies with junk in the trunk with wide sit bones, but this is not always the case. A too-wide saddle is just as uncomfy as a too-narrow one.

    Labia: Hah! I thought I was only one who figured out the whole "greasy stuff with tea tree oil all rubbed in there" solution. Pfft. Yeah, friction on those parts? BAD NEWS. I use a tea-tree salve I get at "natural" food stores. I will seriously bring it in with me to the bathroom to refresh it after peeing or whatever. I was surprised that it doesn't sting, if anything it feels refreshingly cool. And I seriously think it helps prevent infections, too, since tea tree oil is antifungal and antibacterial. Total lifesaver. And I don't remove any hair, but rubbing some salve into that area helps too, since it reduces friction.

    For me, the cut-out saddle was a godsend. I admittedly had an over-padded saddle before that, and my sit bones would just sink into it and then the rest of the padding would put a ton of pressure on, well, everything else. The agony after a long ride...let's just say, things swelled up. And hurt.

    Clitoral region: the one and only time I rode a Brooks saddle (admittedly, my boyfriend had been using it, so it wasn't totally flat on top anymore), I had this problem no matter what I did to the saddle: nose down, nose up, forwards, backwards...I spent the whole ride pushing off my handlebars and having my ass hang halfway off the back of the saddle. Oh my god. OW OW OW. I haven't ruled out a Brooks completely--I have a super-old leather saddle on my Raleigh and it's fine except on really bad bumps. I mean, that part of our body has such an insane number of really important nerve endings. Speaking of which, I once landed just wrong on my top tube when I stopped suddenly. You can't convince it didn't hurt as much as a guy doing the same. You can't. I'm sorry.

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  9. (aprillikesbikes again, http://aprillikesbikes.wordpress.com)

    Infections: I think a lot of UTIs are from women not drinking enough water and/or peeing enough. I know damn well how much it sucks to need to pee in the middle of goddamn nowhere, or when you're commuting and you don't want to stop. But that's what leads to infections. If you gotta pee, find a place to stop! Even if it's the side of the road behind a tree. Also, on long trips, whenever possible I take a damp washcloth every night and rub down the padding on my shorts and then let them air a little by wearing a different pair the next day (I always bring two pairs on tour). If I have time, I wash the shorts entirely with tea-tree Dr. Bronner's. Also, for the love of god, don't leave your shorts on! When you're done riding for the day, change into normal underwear. I don't care how much your shorts say they wick moisture.

    On that subject, though: some undies are super-comfy to bike in and some just aren't. The uncomfy ones are okay on short errands but I would never wear them more than, say, ten miles. I just bought some Patagonia boyshorts and they're pricey but I love them. Another pair I've found comfy is from American Apparel, they're cute bikinis with an elastic gathering on the ass-crack (for serious). But they don't have super-thick hems anywhere, just a line of serging, which I like.

    Menstruation: Have you heard of the cup? I've had a DivaCup since 2006 and I absolutely love it. You have to deal with them so much less often than tampons and they leak way less often and if your flow is light they're not awful to take out/put in. (I'm sorry, but the sensation of pulling out a dry tampon is second only to pap smears. Gaaaah!) I've worn tampons on tour when I know I can't guarantee I'll be near running water all the time, and tucking in the string makes them comfier. It can make them more difficult to get out later, but I think it's worth it.

    Last note on the menstruation thing: The disposable pads that are super-thin and have wings can be comfortably worn in bike shorts if you are careful. I've done this for backup on tour and it worked great. I used to use the washable-reusable pads, but even with a saddle that has a cut-out, the wide fabric wings that come under and snap are really unpleasant on a bike saddle. It totally sucks but that's life. I buy the fancy Natracare pads, but it seriously bugs me.

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    1. THANK YOU for your frankness. sounds like you are a serious biker (ie: long distance/ tour rides). i must say, i am not serious as i enjoy it too much to be serious, BUT am really looking for recommendations on a new bike that fits a woman well. almost have the saddle figured out, but having major problems with hands and wrist. any thoughts?

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    2. hi and thanks for your post.
      after reading EVERY single comment here, it seems you are the ONLY long distance (4-5 hours) rider i've found and the long distance/time is when the pain starts. i too, am tweaking the saddle issue, but having more difficulty with hand numbness; which i realize is not the subject of this post. but VERY interested in your bike choice for long rides. hoping to hear from you.

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    3. Having done a nearly 3 hour bike ride yesterday I certainly suffered chafing so will need to try some of the cream ideas. Thanks for that.

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    4. hi anonymous, yes i think that our subject of HAND numbness is apparently only a concern for the long DISTANCE riding. i've done 3 tours 2000-4000 miles each on a 'tri-cross' bike (would NOT recommend mine). i was fitted (improperly) by a man at our local bike shop; it is Very difficult to find someone that is familiar enough with touring, to know the difference needed in a bicycle, much less what a woman needs. after extensive research, experience with really long distance biking can be found in some key shops in california and with european bicycle manufactures......they GET IT. buying a new bike (and saddle) for our tour this summer, the handlebars SOLD me. check out 'thorn' bikes. at the Very least, get Ergon grips. hope this helps, but will be happy to respond further to any questions.

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  10. Bravo Velouria! Really important issues, rarely discussed, and done here in a matter of fact and informative way.

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  11. aprillikesbikes said...
    "The distance between your sit bones has nothing to do with how wide your ass is. I'm sure there's plenty of ladies with junk in the trunk with wide sit bones, but this is not always the case. A too-wide saddle is just as uncomfy as a too-narrow one."


    True. We are lucky to have both wider sit bones and a wider behind, independently. You can usually feel if your sitbones are too wide for the saddle in a given position if they are pressing into the hard edges of the saddle and are not fully supported.

    I can ride wide saddles (like the Brooks B18) only on absolutely bolt-upright bikes with extremely relaxed seat tube angles. Otherwise my thighs rub the sides.

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  12. Plain organic grass fed yogurt is the best solution I've found for any saddle irritation. I apply it at night and sleep sans underwear. It would help with any infection, too. Coconut milk kefir would work for those who don't do milk or animal products. Probiotic is the way to go.

    D-mannose powder will get rid of a UTI faster than cranberry or anything else.

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  13. I guess I am extremely lucky in the anatomy + cycling dept. Because "knock on wood" I've had no real pain in that region. I had the majority of the hair on my lady parts lasered so it's mostly a non-issue, and I dont miss it from a comfort standpoint. On my road bike with a Brooks B17s I always wear a good quality chamois (I prefer pearl Izumi and sugoi), initially expensive but well worth it.

    However, on longer rides (40+ miles) I do begin to experience numbness, I can't call it painful, but it is discomfort, and I find if I hop off the bike for a few minutes it goes away. I think it's incredibly important to wear clothing that is tight-fitting as my "parts" are directly against chamois and there is no movement in clothing, thus no chafing.

    Thanks Velouria for broaching a subject that so many won't touch. It's great information and comforting for those to know it's okay to talk about and share experience.

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    1. I know this is an old thread, but I sure appreciate it, having just re-joined bicycling world. For me the problem is numbness in the lady parts, not pain. I wonder if this is the result of a different saddle issue than pain? Anyway, I'm still trying to figure out how to prevent this on longer rides. Thanks.

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  14. Piggy-backing onto aprillikesbikes, in addition to the Diva-cup, there's also the product "Instead" which are disposable cups. I've also been using mine since 2006 and I will never go back. Just as April said, they don't absorb, they hold, so the interval between changing is longer and they just don't have that uncomfortable chafing feeling that a tampon can get after a little while, particularly on a heavy or strenuous day.

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  15. Speaking of which, I once landed just wrong on my top tube when I stopped suddenly. You can't convince it didn't hurt as much as a guy doing the same. You can't. I'm sorry.

    Word. I did this once at the top of a long hill, when I was totally knackered and not thinking about the dismount. Ow ow ow.

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    1. Done that and actually split the soft skin inside my labia like a banana peel. 5 stitches and the med students looking on has been a story to tell for a lifetime!

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  16. I don't get chafing - I get numb. After an hour or two of cycling, my ladybits are numb and sore (how can they be both? If you can't feel them, HOW can they be sore? I don't know, but they are!).

    I have a slightly padded racing-style saddle, with a cutaway bit in the middle (not out to the nose though), the saddle is horizontal, and according to the experts in the bike shop, correctly positioned. What am I doing wrong?

    I ride a road bike and am planning on long(ish) rides of 150-200km in the next few months, but am finding the numb ladybits rather a deterrent during my training rides.

    Also - salve/cream/etc....i read about it, but have no idea where or why you are supposed to use it. I've never used it, or understood the need (though from the previous posts,it seems like I'm lucky as I have never had any chafing or infections). Do you slather it on all over the labia? Up past the perineum? Does everyone need to use it? should I use is at preventative *just in case*? Can ladies use the regular chamois cream that men use, or is there something specific (if I can't find this teatree stuff you're talking about) for women?

    Many thanks in advance, and thanks for the informative article/comments (and thanks to the GUY who forwarded me the link!)

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  17. On hair: trimming, not shaving or waxing. Leave approx 1 cm is what I found to be good.

    About the Vaseline. It is not good to use anything made from petroleum on your skin. Goes trough your skin and into your body and is known to give problems like reumatism in the joints. Reading about using such stuff made me think of maybe lubricants made for "other activitys" can be used? personally I do without but also I do not ride on really long rides.

    I am not so happy about the S saddels Brooks makes, I find them short. I like the B72 (and similar tops with springs) and the B17 / flyer depending on bike geometry and riding position.

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    1. I use beard scissors and trim to to one tight curl length. That's long enough that it decreases friction, etc and short enough that it doesn't get tangled, etc.

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  18. Thank you for this post!

    Just wanted to say that from personal experience, the ONLY pad that has not caused me pain or chafing while cycling is Always Infinity.

    I wish they would pay me, but I really love them-- They're the pad that made me go back to pads, so to speak, and now they're all I use. If you're having problems cycling on your period because of your pad, or even if you're a tampon-user, give them a try.

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  19. Velouria, when I ride, I definitely feel my sit bones on the seat. But I've always wondered where they should be on the saddle. Should I push them all the way back to the widest part of the seat? Currently, I feel like they are straddling the seat if they are too far forward, and *that* is when I get "squishing." When I sit "naturally" on the seat, I get that straddling thing. Maybe my bike is too long, or would I benefit from a different seat?

    Additionally, I'm so glad you brought this up because I have no one else to ask! There is not a single female working at my favorite local bike shop. There is ONE female working in another bike shop (less favorite), but I still feel like this is so unfair!

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  20. For athletic activity, nothing beats a divacup, keeper or other menstrual cup as a replacement for pads or tampons.

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  21. I have to say, the Selle An-Atomica saddle has solved all of these problems. WOOHOO! I only wish I had had one years ago! Too many miles with these problems, but NO MORE!

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  22. Congrats, Velouria! It's a terrific post!

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  23. Boy, you are brave. Thanks!

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  24. Ladies who are pro-wax/epilate: Be aware of the laser option! No regrowth period, ever. Ahhh. . . and, at least in my case, Groupon has made it so the cost is no longer prohibitive.

    Awesome post, Velouria. Thank you! These are some of the biggest obstacles for us girl cyclists and certainly the least discussed. I'd love to hear some of the women who have cycled (or, in my case ATTEMPTED to cycle) while expecting chime in with any tricks. I have found that all of the above listed problems are exacerbated to the max. Is there any mitigation?

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  25. Oh yes, the effect of the nose on a Brooks saddle can be ... unexpected ... if you don't get the rake absolutely right. Ahem. There's a joke about nuns and cobblestones that springs to mind.

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  26. aprillikesbikes said...
    "The distance between your sit bones has nothing to do with how wide your ass is. I'm sure there's plenty of ladies with junk in the trunk with wide sit bones, but this is not always the case. A too-wide saddle is just as uncomfy as a too-narrow one."


    That's quite right. However, wider saddles to provide a better ride for a different style of rode. Also correct that a too-wide saddle is going to be as uncomfortable as a too-narrow, especially if it's too little or too overly padded. A lot of factors come into play, and ultimately how much it digs into your rear end bones is up to you. You're going to have to ride on it to find out.


    aprillikesbikes said...
    "You can't convince it didn't hurt as much as a guy doing the same."


    That's up for debate as the "number" of nerves going into men and women's genital areas is hard to define, let's just say that both those parts are sensitive and it'll probably hurt both men and women whether you're falling on a crossbar or massively chaffing the area. There is even debate among the sensitivity of men in that area due to the process of circumcision, but we'll leave that topic for a men's blog.

    aprillikesbikes said...
    "I think a lot of UTIs are from women not drinking enough water and/or peeing enough."


    This is actually a big factor. Women have shorter urethras meaning that it's a shorter distance for bacteria to travel back up to nice places they'd like to colonize. Urinating flushes out bacteria lowering their number. Other things like cranberry juice acidifies the urine/urethra preventing bacterial growth and promoting growth of normal flora. Keep drinking lots of water and go frequently, keep the area clean, drink cranberry juice if you can manage it (not likely on a ride) and hopefully that will prevent UTIs.

    By the way, I'm a medical student. Sorry for the science talk.

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  27. Oh my goddess, I'm so happy I've only had very minor issues. Some of that, I hadn't even thought of! Feeling serious love for my lady parts right now.

    Thanks for writing this!

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  28. I got a Diva Cup about four years ago and never looked back. My problem has been chafing and even blisters when I wear my regular clothes or get my Tweed on for more than a few miles. I need to get some technical underwear. Also, if your saddle is too low it puts more pressure on your butt / ladybits and can really exacerbate the other issues mentioned.

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  29. maybe lubricants made for "other activitys" can be used

    Most of them would be too thin, I would imagine, and the water-based ones would dry out too fast.

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  30. I definitely noticed an increase in yeast infections when I took up biking. Prior to that I'd only ever experienced it once in my life and I'm in my 30s now. Now I eat a lot of yogurt and take acidophilous regularly. and no synthetic undies ever!!

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  31. I've had labial and menstruation issues. I improved issue #1 with a selle anatomica (incidentally, I like the S-A because it looks more like lady bits, but the Brooks Imperial turns me off because it looks to me more like guy bits. Overactive imagination!) For issue #2, I have to echo the Diva Cup suggestion! -Jen

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  32. omg'ness, anon 9:52, we should all be so lucky. LOL

    Velouria, I think the guys might be scared away for a week. You're going to have to do a post about lugged bmx bikes or something!

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  33. (aprillikesbikes again)

    The numbness issue: If I get numb it's from having too much weight on the saddle for too long. Un-weight the saddle (stand on the pedals a little, like you were going over a rough spot in the road) every few minutes to get circulation back into the area.

    I'm so glad I'm not the only one who hated my first ride with a Brooks saddle, for the reason mentioned, as when I bitched about it on my facebook (in euphemistic terms) I was basically told I was imagining things/I needed to get over it. Mostly by dudes, of course.

    For the anon at 7:46: If you can't figure out where to put it, you probably don't need it. For me, I couldn't figure it out until after my first few longer rides, when my labia *swelled up* and hurt like crazy. To be perfectly blunt, I take a bunch of salve and rub it into all the folds of my labia so they slide against each other instead of getting mashed up.

    Lastly: my personal favorite treatment for yeast infections is capsules of boric acid. Boric acid is an old-school aneseptic that mostly just re-acidifies the vagina. The capsules and the powder dissolve. Works just as fast as that Monistat stuff but isn't a huge gross greasy mess. Plus it's waaaaay cheaper. You usually have to buy the boric acid powder and capsules separately and assemble yourself, but it's not that big a deal. There's lots of info online about this. Seems to work on non-yeast infections too.

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  34. I like Chamois ButtR -- I put it on me, not on the chamois. Some guys told me that petroleum jelly gets too warm. And I'm not overly fond of petroleum products anyway. I reapply at bathroom stops -- I carry a little tube that once held body lotion -- got it at a hotel and refilled it with Chamois ButtR.

    I would think that lubricants for other activities wouldn't be thick enough, or slippery long enough, unless you chose very carefully.

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    1. Another idea I use is to put the chamois cream in sandwich bags and take one with me into the restroom. Since I turn the baggie inside out to reapply, my hand stays grease free.

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  35. Thanks so much for this post! I'm getting new handlebars put on my bike, so my next project (once I figure out how I'm sitting on it) is a new saddle. This helps a lot.

    A tip for the ladies wanting to try out the Keeper/Divacup/Mooncup: Mine became about 8,000 times more comfortable after I cut the tail-thingy flush with the bottom of the cup. You don't really need it for removal, and I found that sometimes the angle of my seat made it dig into me, but YMMV.

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  36. Vel, Thank you for an open adult conversation about problems all to often kept hidden , and long suffered, that make cycling tough for women.

    The science of bicycle saddles still has much room for improvement for both genders.

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  37. Velouria, really great post. Way to go for getting more women-specific bike information out there. We need more of that!

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  38. Thanks for this great post! I find that saddle position has a lot to do with comfort (or lack thereof). I have a Brooks Flyer S. If my saddle is a little too high or too far back, I get bruised on the inner surface of my sitbones.

    Once my seatpost slipped, leaving my saddle about an inch lower than usual. I didn't notice until I developed genital pain and a UTI. After I raised the seatpost to its usual position, I was fine again.

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  39. Consider getting a menstrual cup if you are active for long periods of time where changing a tampon isn't a great option. Really. Once you do, you will be glad you did.

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  40. Not a gal, but ride with them often. Saddle shape really matters, it seems. Cut out saddles which are side laced seem to be a problem as they cause the cut out edges to rotate up and act like knives against your tender spots. Several ladies have said the Selle Anatomica was comfortable for them. I like it too. Let me also plug Bag Balm. It's not perfumed which many gals seem to find off putting, but it is a blend of petroleum jelly, lanolin and anti-bacterial. Stays put, hasn't seeped through my shorts yet, ever (wool shorts exclusively I should add).

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  41. This was a major issue for me - especially at first! I was riding a road bike that was WAY too big for me, causing me to have to reach/lean forward and press into the nose of the seat. It was so painful and damaging! When I got a smaller-framed bike (cruiser vs. roadbike), and learned to sit back (the handlebars were no longer miles away...so I could), the problem abated quite a bit!

    But for a while, no one seemed to think it was the bike but just something I was doing wrong, and caused many arguments between me and my boyfriend.

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  42. I had used pads and tampons for awhile, and having to cycle while using them is not always the most convenient, I would start to get paranoid of leaks since sometimes the position of said pads would shift during riding, or underwear bunching etc. I switched to a vaginal cup (diva cup) a couple months ago and was nervous that it would be extremely uncomfortable while cycling, on the contrary it was as if nothing was even there, it did not leak and solved my paranoia. I urge every woman to try it once.

    Most wonder if it is weird to use, gross, difficult etc. Having used it, it is a little more hands on than some might like, yet it is no where near "gross" or difficult.

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  43. I am amazed to learn that so many women are using these cups!

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  44. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for conquering this, I've been meaning to speak up more about this because it matters to us ladies. And although its a quiet and sensitive issue concerning our health, its a major issue in how the bike industry can improve for women's needs in every aspect if cycling. I'll be sure to pass this along.

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  45. This post ought to go in the general interest bar on the left.

    (It wouldn't really be a "sticky" at that point, would it?) ;)

    I commend you on your frankness, V. It's appreciated. I have learned a ton this morning, and Herself did, too.


    I hadn't even thought of the shaving/waxing/depilation issue, though a female friend who road- rides a hundred or so miles a week did spring for the full laser treatment a few years back, and has eliminated any discomfort she had.

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  46. The first line of this posting should have read:

    Male readers: you may want to skip this one, especially if you have already in the past skipped the posting "Spouse says to get a bike" and don't really care at heart what women feel or think.

    Leo

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  47. Diva isn't the only brand out there. Fortunately there is a large number of manufacturers with slightly different shaped cups so there is a size and shaped cup for everyone regardless of the size and shape of their internal structure. Personally, the Diva was not a good shape for me, but the french made Fleurcup works great.

    If you want more information about cups.

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  48. This whole Selle An-Atomica saddle is interesting. Never heard of it before. I'm going to be building up my first road bike within the next year, and now I'm questioning my steadfastness towards getting a Brooks B17s. Maybe I'll just skip it and go straight to the SA.

    Also, Divacup FTW! (Though I've been thinking of switching to the copper IUD for BC, which is supposed to *ahem* increase your flow. I'm afraid that the Diva wouldn't be enough for me...)

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    Replies
    1. I have had the Mirena IUD in for 9 months and have experienced amenorrhea for most of that time. This is common and was factor in choosing this as my BC.

      Delete
    2. I had been using a Diva cup for about 6 years until I got a Paragard IUD in December. My flow got so heavy that I could not use the cup anymore since I would overfill it by about midday. Five months after getting the IUD, my flow is decreasing and I'm thinking I'll be able to go back to the cup in a month or two.

      Delete
    3. I use the paragard and the diva cup. on my two heaviest days I just have to change the cup once every few hours, but I prefer it so much more over tampons so I don't mind. I actually feel oddly proud filling up the cup so many times! and it's pretty in the toilet...

      Delete
    4. As a Mirena and Paragard (not at the same time) user, I would advise caution with wearing a menstrual cup and the IUD. You have to break the seal before you remove, or you risk dislodging your IUD.

      Delete
  49. Erin & the Ladies of the Cup - I am not comfortable even with tampons, let alone cups. Glad that so many women love them, but they are not for me. Luckily I don't really have problems cycling during my period.

    Lauren - I would really like to try a Selle Anatomica or at least have a look at it. Unfortunately, they have no retaillers as far as I can tell, so you sort of have to order it on faith alone.

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  50. Thank you! It is nice to know I'm not the only one who has issues.

    I have had issues on longer rides with getting cuts in my inner labia. I kind of just thought it was from going over bumps or rougher terrain, but this post makes me think maybe I should see if a cream/lubricant helps. I had this issue both before and after I started shaving that area, so I don't think it is related to that.

    I have been using a brooks saddle for about a three months now and I mostly like it, although it still feels a bit hard on the sit bones (I probably ride an average of 20-30 miles a week, so not a huge amount). I found that at first it was really digging in to my clitoral area, but, somewhat unintuitively, tipping the nose of the saddle up helped a lot with that. When it was tipped down I slid forward and all my weight was on my clitoris; tipping it up helped put my weight back where it should be.

    Regarding menstruation: I don't like riding long distances with pads due to the friction and irritation it can cause. However, with tampons I have found that in a bent over road bike position I am at such an angle that some leakage can occur. It is interesting to hear so many positive comments about cups.

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  51. Menstrual cups are amazing! I've been using one (Divacup brand) for about 4 years. Works great when riding or any other time.

    I had a Brooks B72 for awhile and it was terribly painful for me. Mostly pinching of inner labia. I fussed and fiddled with that thing for months before finally getting rid of it. I ended up replacing it with a B68s, which has been great. Almost as nice as the B66s. Like you said, every one is built different and will need different saddles.

    So now I'm curious. Several ladies have mentioned epilating down there. I epilate my legs, and it seems as though it would be difficult to remove hair in that manner there. The skin seems so elastic and there just isn't much room to work in. How on earth do you gals DO that? At the same time though, hair hasn't been a problem, so I just leave it be.

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  52. Lauren, I have the copper IUD, and it did make my periods heavier for about the first year or two, and I had to empty my cup once or twice a day on my heavy days. But after that I was back to "normal" and I only have to empty and wash it in the morning and at night.

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  53. I've been faithful to Brooks, a Flyer S on my upright bike, B17 on the road bikes. I went for full laser hair removal, got set up properly with a shorter, flipped-up stem, narrower handlebar and more relaxed geometry and, touch wood, I don't seem to get the problems of sore, numb or bleeding genetalia.

    What I do get is really dry, flaky skin at the crease of my inner thigh/groin. I guess this is from the circular motion of cycling and wearing tight leggings to do so. I have to apply aqueous cream after every shower. I honestly daren't try chamois cream because of the menthol in most. I have some Chamois Butt'r now which I will try next ride.

    I did try a mooncup once but I just couldn't seem to get it right and it kept leaking so I'm back with tampons. I use a compact one, deeply inserted, which seems to do the trick. Can't quite beleive I'm saying all this!!!

    I guess it's just a matter if trial and error but thank you so much for an excellent post in which I've learned loads and we've all learned how others do it.

    But why should the men look away? Haven't we all read about their issues ad nauseam? It's about time they knew about ours.

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  54. Amy: You have to firmly hold the skin in one hand, pulling in the opposite direction of the hair growth while using the epilator with the other hand.

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  55. What a great post!

    On longer rides in my mountain biking days I used to suffer really badly with both the labial problem and the rear soreness, despite spending a fortune on good quality padded shorts, and I think it was down to a combination of the leant forward position and an overpadded synthetic saddle.

    No yeast infections or UTIs thus far - touch wood!

    Since I switched to a more upright riding position and Brooks saddles (a B66S on my Pashley and a B17 Special on my Brompton) I haven't had any problems with my lady bits, and less discomfort in the butt region.

    On hot summer days when I'm setting out on a longer ride (40+ miles) I liberally apply nappy rash cream (diaper rash cream for you gals over the pond) or vaseline directly over my lady bits and wear pure silk undies under linen trousers or a linen skirt. The cream wreaks havoc with my lovely silk knickers, but ultimately it's a small price to pay, and it all washes out easily afterwards.

    That set-up in combination with a Brooks leather saddle seems to keep me cool, and thus far I haven't needed to revert back to chamois inserts.

    Thanks again for such an informative and frank post!

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  56. O.K. I admit that I read the whole post and a number of the comments. The reason is that I know that my Lovely Wife has had just enough of this sort of issue to make her skeptical about the whole bike thing.

    I think you did a great thing here and I learned a bunch.I can't imagine a situation where I would be willing to share any of it however,"You know, Miss,what you need is to...",but I'd be happy to leave a copy or two of the little book you really ought to write on the topic laying around my house(5 females, 1 male) in the hope that it would spare my wife and 2 daughters a little grief. The 2 Border Collies are on their own.

    Spindizzy

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  57. Veloria - I am sorry if that was an inappropriate link. I didn't mean to proselytize.

    So back to biking questions: What about the rivet right on the nose of the Gilles Berthoud saddle? It looks very ... uncomfortably placed. Is it far enough forward that it is under your pubic bone instead of against any softer bits?

    Also, in your vintage make over post, you suggest the VO leather saddles as a less expensive alternative to the Brooks. Anyone out there who would be willing to offer a comparison in terms of female discomfort?

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  58. HUZZAH!

    My biggest issue ( and thank you for giving me the space to write this ) is my pads when riding. I wear cloth sanitary napkins as I find them a lot more comfortable than sposies. However, they are thicker and riding can make thme bunch, or get all weird and the only time I wanted a padded pair of shorts was when I have my period to give some padding between saddle and my pad. and sposies sometimes the sticky part gets pushed on my leg and that kinda hurts mid pedal.....

    I agree with the pressed up gential feeling. It isn't too bad for me so maybe I have a lucky anatomy but it is a bit bothersome at times.

    mamavee

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  59. Erin - Not at all, totally fine and useful!

    Vee - cloth?.. I have to research this one. Does it work the same as cloth diapers? Between this and the cup, I feel like I've been living in a cave.

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  60. Yikes, I am in the middle of breaking in a Brooks Flyer S and it is definitely sore on the 'ol sit bones. However, having compared riding it to riding the bike's original 80's hard plastic, sprung padded road saddle (you know what I'm talking about) there is a distinct improvement. That one absolutely killed. Nevertheless, I'm still paranoid that there is something wrong with the Brooks or that it will never truly break in. It's an extremely stiff saddle though and I did eventually opt for Sheldon's neatsfoot oil treatment, so we'll see...

    Conversely, my B66 saddle (not "S") was delightfully comfortable from Day 1 and has only improved in comfort since then. But of course it is much wider too.

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  61. Mamavee & Veloria - I use Gladrags, though I was wondering if there's other options and did some research. I found this:
    http://amysragbag.com
    They uses no velco or buttons, and actually says on the site that its supposedly more comfortable on a bike. I'm now interested in trying them out, plus the site is pretty cute.
    Thought I'd let all y'all know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used glad rags too until one trip, my period surprised me and all I had were hiking socks so I put on there and have been using them ever since. I still have my glad rags and use them for short periods (not while biking) but for biking the *best* is a womans hiking sock cut in 1/2 at the heel (so that you get two pads one made from the foot and one made from the leg) for shorter rides and a mens XL sock for long rides. The mens XL sock is long enough that even if it shifts, I'm still covered.

      Delete
  62. Lauren - I am speechless... need some time to process this!

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  63. RE: Cloth I bought all of mine on etsy. there are many sellers. I can research my favorites to share, but I bought them five years ago. I was a epic fail on the cloth diapers and thought I will be using pads for a lot longer so I could switch for myself. I have hello kitty paris fabric and all sorts of others. I find them so much more comfortable except around the biking thing. and no glue stuck to inner thigh or egad, hair ( yeah I went there but you talked about labias on a public site that a lot of guys read. You've got ... balls? Or Labia? :-0!

    mamavee

    I'm checking out lauren's link right now.

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  64. ok- I'm in love with amy's rag bag. It's time to update the stash...

    BTW- cleaning etc is really easy if you are worried about that. The biggest issue is changing when out and about. But a good waterproof solid bag can help with that. I keep a little tupperware ( never sued to anything but...) in the shower for soaking and I throw them all in the washer at the end of the week.
    V

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  65. Huh, I feel deficient as a woman, as I've never had my lady bits bug me while riding (though I've never done over 25-30 miles at a time, to be fair).

    Tampons were always a matter of fit: I hated Tampax, Kotex and Naturacare, and only wore Playtex. Different brands are different shapes, so if one hurts or bugs you, try a different brand.

    I got lucky with saddles: a nice guy on Bike Forums sent me a vintage Turbo for the Panasonic because it didn't fit him -- for free, I might add -- and I realized why it didn't fit him when I cleaned it up: it was a ladies Turbo! Fits like dream. I like the short nose and wider back end. Yet the new standard B67 on my Raleigh seems so comfy I can't even believe it, and I haven't broken it in at all. Now I'm feeling very, very lucky :).

    As for flow issues, I can highly recommend a vaginal hysterectomy ...

    The only issue I've had that you mentioned was chaffing when I shaved my bikini area. Since my BF could care less what I do with the hair down there, I just stopped shaving it. Bought a cute swim suit that comes with surf shorts on the bottom (much easier to wear when chasing kids around the water park, too), and I plan on never shaving there again. It works for much of Europe. Now my armpits, on the other hand... I'd laser those suckers in a heartbeat, if I didn't have better things to spend my money on!

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  66. Hee hee! Who volunteers to do the product review?

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  67. Just want to throw in another vote of approval re: menstrual cups + cycling.

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  68. I have no further wisdom to add. But I would like to commend you on an excellent post which is spurring an excellent discussion. Bravo!

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  69. OMG! TMI! I'm retreating to the man-cave in search of beer . . . . or boubon.

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  70. I never got the hang of the cup. Maybe I'll try again.

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  71. My sympathies for the issues! I've been lucky so far and no issues as described above. However, I do have a differently, primarily feminine problem: one of my Brooks saddles is causing wear on my skirts! Sort of on the upper back right thigh. Also, annoyingly not easy to see unless I'm finishing the laundry in bright light. I switch between a bike with a Lady B18 and Flyer S. I think it is the Flyer S and think it might be just a bit of a sharper edge to the cut of saddle. Both saddles are a couple of years old.
    Anyone else ever have a problem like this with a saddle? Any ideas on how to fix it if it is a problem with the leather edge?
    BTW, I prefer the Flyer but I hate switching out saddles once I have the height set.

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  72. LuckyChow - You were duly warned : )

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  73. I think I'm having an attack of the vapors!

    Although I have none of the problems mentioned, except a bar-interrupted dismount, let me address the Tea Tree Oil.

    I took up using Tea Tree oil in 1997, about the time I was diagnosed with Diabetes. I used it as a soap, (Dr Bronner's liquid Tea Tree Castille, in the half gallon size, if are interested) And even added Tea Tree oil to my preferred almond oil (1 gallon size) Soap.

    My hands healed much faster, and never got an infection (At the beginning, as a newly diagnosed diabetic, I was punching 7-8 holes/day in my finger tips.)

    I eventually switched to a new lancing device, that I could adjust, and a new meter that required less blood, so the holes in my hand were not a problem any more.

    I'll just sit down and recover, okay? Yes I'm tougher than I look, Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Tea tree oil is magical, I am a fan.


    Anonymous 7:46 said...
    "Hee hee! Who volunteers to do the product review?"


    I imagine photography could present a challenge there.

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  75. After reading nearly this entire post to Mrs. Ground Round after a dinner of hamburger (really) she has this to add: "You have to be careful with the use of Vaseline or other lubricants. They can get up into your nether regions and cause infections. Also, if your are carrying tampons with you on a ride, make sure they are in a sealed, waterproof container because they can become unusable. If they become wet they can become toast. Soggy toast."

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  76. Vel said,
    "I imagine photography could present a challenge there."

    Chuckle! :^)) One to be avoided to be sure :^()

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  77. I'll do more to disgust and appall all of you guys than Velouria ever could!

    You see, I was once one of you. And I would have looked the other way had I seen a post like this one--had there been posts like this. OK, there was no Internet, but you could read a whole book on cycling and find two sentences, if that, about women's cycling products.

    As for me: My surgery didn't change the width of my sit-bones. So the shapes of my old saddles were OK. However, I did have problems with pressure and chafing, especially near my labia and clitoris.

    One doctor, who claimed to be more of a cyclist than she actually was, recommended that I try a "donut" saddle. I tried four different models from different makers, and thought I might've found a "keeper" in a Terry model. However, it, like the others, had a cutout in the wrong place or shape: The edges of it chafed in ways that a flat saddle wouldn't have. Plus, the padding was a bit on the mushy side for my liking.

    So...I'm back to riding Brooks B17s (two narrow, one standard) on three of my bikes, and I've installed a Gyes Parkside on my commuter/beater. The Gyes, like the Brooks models, is a suspended-leather saddle, albeit with springs.

    I'm still playing with the position on one of the B-17 narrows. It's on my fixie, which I ride in a more bent-over position than I ride on my other bikes. But I think the other two B-17s and the Gyes are adjusted right for me. So far, so good when riding with them.

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  78. Justine I was hoping you would chime in on this one. I was interested in the before and after comparison. Which saddle did you prefer before? Was it still the B17?

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  79. i rode a friend's bike with a basket in the back that was hitting me and had to shift more towards the nose of the saddle. not comfortable at all! lady bits felt every bump in the road. not sure why i see all these people with their saddles tilted upwards, because it seems like it would make it worse! also new cyclists, you will break in that saddle! my first week of cycling, my crotch hurt until my body figured out the most comfortable position on the saddle.

    all those ladies using cups, i cannot for the life of me figure out how to put it in! i wear tampons and tried to switch because they were touted for active women and being environmentally friendly. i've been trying to roll the thing to the size of a tampon which is impossible.

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  80. Yeah, the rolling doesn't work for me either. Check out that link I posted or Google the punch down fold. Much better.

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  81. Erin: Yes, I still prefer the B-17. I think I have them adjusted right on two of my bikes (my road and mixte Mercians: the former with a B-17 narrow; the other with a standard B-17). But I'm still trying to get the right angle on my fixed bike, which is also a Mercian.

    On my commuter/beater (an old Schwinn LeTour III), the Gyes Parkside seems to be working well. I ride that bike in a more upright position; the Parkside is slightly wider than a standard B-17 and has springs. I had to fiddle with the Parkside, and a couple of weeks ago I had to tension it. But it seems to be about right now.

    What's this about female cups?

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  82. Wow, thanks Velouria! Very helpful. Even though I love riding SO much I have avoided long rides lately because of bruising of my pelvic bone, numbness of labia and an aching butt. But now I see I can alleviate some of these issues. Hooray!

    Re sit bones
    I suspect I have particularly large hip bones - I wonder if this affects the distance between the sit bones. The distance between my the outer edge of my sit bones, from side to side, is 140mm - does anyone have a comparison measure?

    Re menstruation
    I agree with everyone about the menstrual cup's usefulness, but there are some things you should pay attention to when using them for cycling.
    1. The tale issue - trim the tail to a length that you find comfortable (that will not rub anywhere near your saddle)
    2. Cup materials - I am super sensitive, and I have found the surgical grade silicone the only way to go for long periods of exercise
    3. Positioning - the cup needs to sit over your cervix. When cycling in a leant over position your cervix is more likely to hit the back of your vagina, and the cup may slip or rub. For long rides, position the cup higher up (closer to your cervix than you might for a regular day
    4. Size - this is not cycling related, but important to note. Menstrual cups are sold in different sizes - trial and error will find the best one for you (if in doubt, go smaller)

    Thanks for the tea tree oil tip!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Katherine, here's some reference data from Team Estrogen's forum. These are center-to-center dimensions.

      http://forums.teamestrogen.com/showpost.php?p=431052&postcount=32

      Ischial Tuberosity Spacing among women:
      5th percentile 112 mm
      50th percentile 130 mm
      95th percentile 148 mm

      Ischial Tuberosity Spacing among men:
      5th percentile 100 mm
      50th percentile 118 mm
      95th percentile 137 mm

      I don't remember the population this data was taken from, but I remember being under the impression that it was a very large number of individuals and it was considered "safe" to assume it might represent the whole world.

      Delete
  83. Three cheers for the girliest post ever! Fascinating stuff. And I'll raise my hand as another huge fan of tea tree oil. I'm amazed by the number of cup users here--can I ask indelicately (I guess we're past that point!) don't they um....spill ever? That's always been my worry about them, though I really don't know much. I'm a loyal OB user--tiny enough to be carried anywhere, no muss, no annoying detritus.

    I have to say I've never had any trouble with my assortment of Brooks saddles--the B15 seems the most comfortable for me for long rides. The only issue I ever had was on a short ride with a new Wrights saddle that hadn't been tightened properly and kept "bucking" backwards and forwards. I got off the bike finally, feeling as if...well. Not good.

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  84. Re menstruation @Ridonkulus:
    I used Insteads (disposable cups) for a year or so first and then switched to a Diva cup. They both sit in a much different place than tampons, its almost like you insert back rather than up! (If that makes any sense!) They're different designs from one another, and sit slightly differently, but its a similar concept and might help you transition to cups...

    I can cycle (Pashley - Brooks B66) for a few miles with a cloth pad on, but the buttons are definitely uncomfortable - so its interesting to see the amysragbag design. (I'm a "Party in my Pants" fan: http://partypantspads.com/faq)

    And thanks to all the previous posters about the selle anatomica - I've been a bit leary of switching to a "fast" bike due to previous experiences with uncomfortable saddles and problems with my sacroiliac (joint in hip), but the SA saddle is the first thing to really make me think I might be able to find something that will work and I will enjoy!

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  85. Justine - a menstrual cup is little silicone cup (about the size and shape of a shot glass) that you wear internally like a tampon. Since it is medical grade silicone, there has never been any cases of TSS with cups and they are more comfortable to wear since they don't mess up your normal pH or moisture levels. Then two or three times a day, you empty it, wash and reuse. I've never seen an ad for one, but they are spreading by word of mouth and word of internet.

    Sarah - it's like learning anything new. The first couple of months were challenging with some minor leaks. Similar to learning about tampons, I would say. Now I never leak and don't even bother with a pad as back up. That link I posted above was really helpful in getting it all figured out.

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  86. Must chime in here and tip my hat to Velouria on an excellent post. Thank you! Thank you for addressing these issues and hopefully encouraging more women to bike. I've had seat issues and the past and they are the worst! I finally invested in women's saddles -- have tried both Terry and Selle and both make a tremendous difference. I'm not a fan of how some women-specific cycling gear gets marketed, but saddles are one instance where a ladies-specific product makes a huge difference.

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  87. Hi Erin,

    Thanks.

    And kudos to Velouria for the best cycling-related post I've read.

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  88. Just so you all know, I received my highest number of visits to date on the day of this post. I guess the topic is of interest.

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  89. thank you so much for such a girlie post! in my many years of cycling nothing has address lady parts with such frankness.

    i've also been one of the lucky ones in terms of never having too much trouble with saddles. though i generally prefer low profile race oriented seats. i also LOVE butt'r -- it saved me during my race career.

    my biggest issue now is with the thickness of my chamois padding. just cruising in street clothes & panties is sometimes not enough (labia chafe!). but a traditional chamois is waaay too much. i found an awesome compromise with a chamois called pedal panties. theyre radical -- perfect for those rides lasting longer than 30 minutes.

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  90. Thank you thank you for this post! It's super topical-I've been trialling different saddles recently (currently on a second hand Brooks B17s, and rather liking it), and went on my longest ride ever last weekend, including lots of cobblestones, and yes, my clit was *not* happy for part of it. Cream will definitely be the way forward.
    What I don't get: why people selling women's bike saddles don't have a lending library of saddles to try out. Gambling that a particular saddle will be right for my anatomy is pretty haphazard, and I would travel for a bikeshop that would give me the chance to try a saddle before I bought it.
    And just to add to the chorus, I've also used a Divacup since 2003 (enormous fan, would recommend them to everyone), and reusable cotton pads for light days, which I've hated biking with. Thank you, fellow readers, for the snap free pad suggestions!

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  91. Thumbs-up for the Diva cup! And another thumbs up for all you ladies being willing to discuss it. I have used one since 2004 and it is very liberating. Spread the word, since that seems to be the only way anyone finds out about them.

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  92. Thank you for the post and openness! When I started riding I had lots, lots of problems and didn't know what to do... I tried different things, talked to friends and one day in a road bike blog I read a post about using "Utter Butter" I was skeptical but I decided to give it a try and I was gladly surprised. It works wonderfully. It's cheap, it smells very nice, the lubrication last for a couple hours and it does not ruin your clothes.

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  93. Udder butter??
    Okay, I can see how that would work. I am surprised it comes in small containers though.

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  94. Mr Wallingford of EnglandApril 7, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    like others i commend this post for its matter-of-fact-ness, after all pain and discomfort in the "nether" regions, also hands and feet, can make all the difference between pleasure and misery when long-distance biking. also what could be more important and natural than discussing how it feels to have a human body when doing human things. I wonder then if the men would care to compare notes on the terrifying shrinkage efects that a long ride can have on the male member? also a thoughtt on leather saddles - has anyone tried using different types of oil on differnet areas of the saddle to create a differnet softness of leather in differnt areas? eg neatsfoot oil on the central perineal pressure area and proofide on the rest. might work, might not i spose. Pesronally i have found that wearing baggy shorts as opposed to lycra can help prevent overheating and chafing, and i make a point of standing out of the saddle when descending sometimes to get a good blast of fresh air in there, it feels great!

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  95. Thanks Velouria for this very useful post and thanks too to various commentators, especially Erin, for the info on menstrual cups. I had never heard of such a thing but have a feeling I am going to like my newly-ordered Mooncup.

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  96. Hi Velouria,
    The actual name of cream is "Udderly Smooth" sorry for the wrong spelling...the cream is actually really great, it is sold at regular drugstores but also over the internet.
    http://www.amazon.com/Udderly-Smooth-Udder-Cream-Moisturizer/dp/B00027CGWQ

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  97. Oh dear! I wasn't planning on being know as The Cup Woman.

    I didn't really feel good about posting this on my blog for my friends and family to read, but I biked my self into a inner thigh/crotch blood blister today. I suspect it's my mega-mart gel saddle. But until I save up for a Brooks, I think I need to try one of those creams. Thanks to everyone for letting me know that's a possible help.

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  98. Great post Velouria and thanks to those who commented on Dr. Bronner's liquid tea tree castille soap.

    I was right there with the commenters when they talked about cups (used those about 15 years ago) and cloth pads (been using those for over 10 years), but had never heard of Dr Bronner's soap. I went out and bought some today.

    Now for those of you still reading comments, I have a question about wool underpants...any brand recommendations? I am fortunate that I rarely have saddle discomfort, but can't help wondering if wool would make the ride even better.

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  99. Maggie - I like Icebreaker and I/O Bio wool underwear. Boyshort styles are ideal, since they don't chafe.

    I'll have to try Dr. Bronner's soap!

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  100. Hey Sarah here. good post. I'm going to get a new saddle. trial and error hey? As for moon cups, keepers and diva cup - absolutely fantastic i got mine 10years ago cost me £15 and I still have the same one now - it's fantastic - everyone i know who has been brave enough to try it has liked it. highly recommended -and when I bought mine, you could return it if not satisfied for a full refund.

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  101. I love this post. Since I ride pretty upright, use Brooks saddles and rarely take very long rides, I don't have discomfort problems, but I'm sure this is hugely helpful to lots of woman. Thanks for keeping it real. :)

    --By the way, if you're wondering why I'm suddenly flooding your blog with comments, it's because typically I read LB through Google Reader every day at work. I can't comment then, so I save it all up until I have time on the weekends to visit the site directly. :)

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  102. Excellent post. Definitely bookmarking this one for future reference.

    Regarding hair/no hair, I find that depilating via tweezing or waxing works well. Shaving sounds horrible, like an instant ticket to stubble hell. Regarding labia [I can't believe I'm typing this in a blog comment] I find that proper arrangement and tucking after using the bathroom is key. But I do mostly city and utility riding, not long-distance road rides, so pressure (and eek don't hit that pothole OW!!!) is the main problem, rather than friction. Getting some of these recommended anti-friction remedies to have on hand prophylactically sounds like a prudent idea, though.

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  103. THANK YOU SO MUCH. Amazing post. I have no wisdom to add that hasn't already been added by other commenters.

    However, the distance between my sit bones definitely changed after my first pregnancy. So I'm curious... Anyone out there have their saddle preferences change after having their babies?

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    Replies
    1. I have wider sit bones after having children - it now feels like only one at a time can be supported on the saddle. This means the soft tissues (which are also a different, less compact shape) are then under pressure. Not great, and the biggest factor in how far I can cycle :(

      Delete
  104. Great straight talk on an uncomfortable subject. I must be lucky (or, come to think of it, a fairweather cyclist who just doesn't go that fast or far) because the seat my cruiser came with is right for me. I will forward this to a friend who is getting her first bike in years in the next few days.

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  105. i've only been riding 5 or 6 miles a day for a short work commute, and i ride upright so i hadn't really noticed a need for padding or bike shorts or a special saddle. some friends and i have signed up for a charity ride in september; shopping for a friends bike, i've already decided to invest in a road bike for that 100 mile ride. reading your article i've just gone to Harlot and bought two pair of padded knickers.
    THANK YOU. thank you for having the guts to tell the truth about a highly personal issue, i think you've saved me a world of pain this summer as we train up for the ride and the advice in these comments will make the long haul SO MUCH BETTER.

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  106. Deborah said...

    However, the distance between my sit bones definitely changed after my first pregnancy. So I'm curious... Anyone out there have their saddle preferences change after having their babies?

    YES! In fact I had to change my entire bike. The geometry that never bothered me at all pre-baby became unbearable post-baby. Not to scare you, but yes, it happened to me too. You are the first other woman I have heard of commenting on that.

    Bike guys on the internet just told me it was because I got fat. Which isn't true. I was back to my pre-baby weight before I returned to biking.

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  107. To aid in getting the right saddle width for your personal anatomy, better bike shops usually have an "ass-o-meter", which is a gel pad that you sit on for a couple of minutes, thus making indentations in the gel with your sit bones. Simply measure the distance between the divots in the gel, and voilà, you know the right saddle width to buy.

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  108. Thank you so much for this post. I am preparing for a spring/summer of long family rides and had some issues last year when I went from no more than 6 mile rides to 33 mile rides. My doctor could not help me in the least. This post answers all my questions! Thanks.

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  109. I'm riding a modified Brooks B17 S Imperial.
    http://cyclingspokane.blogspot.com/2010/12/review-brooks-b17-s-imperial.html

    I too have the problem with the nose of Brooks saddles mashing up into
    my clitoris. Not a problem on an upright bike, but definitely an issue
    on a road bike. The cutout on the Imperial was all wrong, so I broke
    out the exacto knife and made it better.
    I actually modified it once more after taking photos for that post, to
    remove the wing bits from the cutout - they had been pinching as the
    saddle flexed under my weight.
    Now that I've done a little customizing to my saddle, I love it!



    Thought I'd also add to the pool of praises for menstrual cups. I got
    a Diva Cup 5 years ago and I love it! I even got my mother and aunt to
    get one.
    Trim the stem down a little and you're good to ride for hours. No
    sanitary napkin chafing, no dry tampon or string, no odor, and you don't need to change it as often. It feels just like
    you're not having your period!

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  110. Great post! And great informative comments too. I'll be bookmarking this one for future reference.

    I also prefer the Diva Cup and cloth pads, and I appreciate the link to pads with no snaps. I've tried Icebreaker and Ibex merino wool underwear and I vastly prefer the Ibex (Balance Brief). Few seams and the fit/cut is neither too big nor too small.

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  111. Excellent post, as usual!

    Here's an interesting link on the same topic, only more from the man's P.O.V. Makes me want to find a new saddle.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/04/health/nutrition/04bike.html

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  112. Great post--I know I need a new saddle before my first RAGBRAI, and have been vacillating between the Brooks B17 and Selle An-atomica all day. I haven't figured it out yet, but I feel much more informed going forward (and hope to get my sit bones measured tomorrow).

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  113. I hate to resurrect this thread a month later, but I need advice on this issue. I just got a Brooks B66s, put it on my upright bike, and positioned the nose pointing upwards because when it was level it was putting pressure (not painful, just annoying and probably numbing over a longer ride) on my clitoral area. With the nose pointed upwards it seemed like my weight and sit bones was shifted slightly more to the back, and I rode it happily, feeling very comfortable even though the saddle hadn't been broken in.

    Well, when I went to go pick up the bike after a tuneup, the wrench at the LBS told me that my saddle "wouldn't break in properly with the nose pointed up like that, your sits bones need to be supported by the leather" and reset it to be level. I wasn't about to tell him "Well, my clitoris hurts when I ride it like that," and I have been riding it like that ever since. I use my bike for short, low-speed trips within a 10 mile radius and the old pressure is there, although not painful. Is this just how it's supposed to be? Will my saddle break in incorrectly if I tilt the nose up again - maybe not so much this time, just half an inch or so?

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  114. June 6th Anon:

    I'm going to call that BUNK! The leather will break in however you ride it. If it is comfortable for you, go for it. Nose down is for guys. They need the extra space.

    Your sit bones were supported because the only other part of your pelvic girdle that COULD support you is you pubic bone and you would KNOW if that was what was holding your weight. You would be in HUGE pain.

    Put it back the way you like it and feel good about it.

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  115. What Erin said : )

    Nose down vs up depends on anatomy, personal preference, type of bike, and other factors. But the leather will certainly not "not break in correctly."

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  116. Hi y'all,
    Wondering if any of you can help me with my issue. I do have a "women's" styled bike saddle (no hole in the neck for anatomical relief though). I've carefully checked that the saddle is level with a carpenter's level, however, most of the pressure while I'm riding is on my vulva, not my sit bones. I have a hybrid bike so I'm primarily upright. How can I adjust it so I'm on my sit bones? Should I tilt the saddle down slightly? Everything else seems to fit well except for this.

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  117. Hmmm... Is it a squishy saddle? On a firm saddle, in an upright position, your sit bones should be the lowest part of your pelvic girdle.

    I know guys tip the nose down to make room for their bits, but personally, anytime I have tried that I find myself sliding off.

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  118. If the level seat isn't working, try tipping the nose up just a bit--counterintuitive, but it worked like a charm for me! Tilting the nose down is likely to not work and also to throw too much weight on your hands.

    ReplyDelete
  119. What a great blog! My big problem is that combined, oxymoron of numbness and soreness. I get of my bike after a little as 15 minute and it's like my whole crotch fell asleep and isn't waking up very happy. I am not sure exactly what part of my anatomy I need to keep pressure off of, hence, how to pick a seat. Any wisdom on that?

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  120. +1 on cups. Love mine!

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  121. Johnny-come-lately, here. Just became aware of this wonderful blog. THIS one, in particular, will be a godsend for us all! I've had this problem for years, and was too embarrassed to ask. Great info - eye-opening for this ole broad - and very helpful.

    My problem has been the labial tissue issue. Best help I've found is my Brooks saddles (B17S is tried and true, B18 is new and wide). The other thing was that in the one discussion I was part of on this subject (on a Womantour, I believe), someone said that it was the bumps and vibration that caused most of the harm. Since then, I've been lifting ever-so-slightly off the saddle when going over discernible bumps, and I think it's helped immensely.

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  122. My problem has also been the labial tissue...I need to buy a new saddle...my bike was fitted perfect to me and I have no other problems, but it really starts to hurt immensely after about 65-70 miles. I'm glad I'm not the only one with this issue!

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  123. Your blog is great, and I always enjoy reading it, but this post is especially helpful to me. I've recently started riding again as my town has put in some new paths that I'm really enjoying. The other day, I rode a different bike with a very padded saddle and experienced pain and swelling - labial / perineal I guess I'd call it - after only 15 minutes. I changed the seat on the bike as soon as I got home. The next day I was back on my regular bike and not comfortable. I hope it was the residual effects of the day before. I'm going to try the tea tree oil sugestion, and I've never heard of these cups, but I've got to check them out.

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  124. Great! Never expected to find this kind of blunt info but am very pleased that I have. It has helped a lot. Thanks

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  125. What the heck do you wear when you get your sit bones measured? I just ordered a new bike through my local shop (my first new adult bike!), I'll probably need a different saddle than the men's one that comes with it, and they have a measuring device at the shop, but I don't know what to wear since I don't have any cycling shorts.

    (Sorry to come so late to the discussion, but this is fascinating!)

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  126. This is so fabulous! THANK YOU.

    I have an upright bike (Linus Mixte) with a B-67 saddle which I am very comfortable on when I am riding, but since I started commuting to work have numbness and decreased clitoral sensation all the time. Not fun!!! I ride about 25 miles per week.

    So I am going to try a different saddle, I have one of those cut out girl saddles. I also wonder if I just need a road bike for regular commuting that I can lean forward and stand on, using my upper body strength more. Anyone have thoughts on switching saddles vs. switching bikes?

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  127. The more I think on it, the more I am understanding whats happening...I don't have any chaffing or pain in any one spot or any discomfort in the seat, it is as thought my nerves aren't getting blood flow. It feels like my clitoris retreated, where did it go?

    On that note, has anyone tried noseless saddles? Like this:

    http://www.bycycleinc.com/pages/female.html

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  128. Redheadedbiker - the first thing I would try would be to adjust the tilt of the saddle. It's free and it can make a big difference.

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  129. Yep, tried that, and also the height of the seat. Because I have no discomfort while I am actually riding it is hard to get immediate feedback on whats working or not...

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  130. This is all very enlightening! I have just got back into cycling after a hiatus of roughly 15 years. I am now using a hybrid which is built to mimic a road bike in most specifics, but with flat handlebars. One of the first things I did was change the road bike style saddle to a Brooks B17s. While the original saddle (Specialized Vita Elite) felt comfortable for the first few rides, it started to cause pain precisely on my sit bones. The B17s has caused no sit bone problems, however, the hardness of the unbroken saddle caused some very uncomfortable posterior pain! I then bought some padded liner shorts and tights (I couldn't see myself actually cycling in cycling shorts, especially now, heading closer to winter). This definitely resolved the pain in the butt(:-)), but has not solved the problem of pressure on soft tissue. My saddle is level or slightly uptilted, if I tilt it downwards, I'll start sliding on the saddle. However, I'm wondering if I perhaps need to tilt the saddle ever so slightly upwards.

    My first proper bike back in the day (when I used to cycle to school), was actually a boy's racer, and I have begun to realise that I naturally, or instinctively assume a low body position on my current bike. In some ways, I miss the drop handlebars, although I specifically opted to buy a hybrid thinking that it would be more comfortable for commuting. And it is in some ways. However, given my natural inclination to adopt more of a racer style body position, would tilting the bike saddle upwards help, or cause more pressure on soft tissue do you think? Also does the saddle position, pushed back or forward that is, make any difference? I must confess to feeling quite perplexed by all this saddle discomfort. I don't remember ever suffering any pain of this kind before, and I have (in the distant past) ridden all kids of bikes, including borrowed European uprights which were far too big for me) in Germany. And I have never owned (or needed to own) padded shorts or tights before!

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  131. One further question. Given that my problem is pressure on the soft tissue, I suppose the creams recommended: "udderly smooth" for instance, would not help, or would they?

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  132. Unbelievable posts: wish I'd found this earler! Thanks for the hints about cream/lubrications.
    However, I can't figure out why, after 2 years on my Specialized ruby I'm starting to have labial soreness now. Could my seat (came with the bike, must be a Specialized) be breaking down already? I don't think the height or tilt has been altered during that time.

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  133. I am very thankful for this topic. I think it may have been here that I first heard of "epilating" and "menstrual cups".
    I'm currently no longer shaving my nether regions due to discovering how that particularly cannot co-exist with riding my bicycle. An experiment with my husbands hair buzzers to keep things trimmed turned out badly, also.
    And I ordered a Mooncup (medical-grade silicone version of The Keeper) last week. It has arrived just in time to finish out my period and I have to say that even with an issue- I love it! My issue is that the stem pokes me. Sometimes it's fine and I just feel the stem since it pokes out and is stiff while walking and such. But then sometimes the tip of the stem is in a different spot and really pokes me painfully on the left side. I just got it but I'm worried that trimming the stem will only make it poke me in a different spot. I suppose I'll have to try though, as I certainly can't (and wouldn't want to) lengthen it.
    I was worried that since the stem does poke out of me that bicycling would be interesting- but so far I don't even notice it, whereas sometimes a tampon string would not be tucked in correctly and drive me crazy getting moved around with motion of my leg.

    I'm hoping that I'll figure things out and maybe next month tell my sister about it! (And leave my 1/2 box of tampons at work as freebies with the extra Keeper pamphlet next to them :P)

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  134. Suffering from the skin of my labia tearing,spliting or just wearing out. Even toilet paper seems to be able to "cut" my skin.
    I'm a seasoned long distance cyclist and this didn't use to happen. Coming up to 50 with irregular periods, but no other menopausal symptoms, is this "tenderising" of the skin just how it gets with age?
    Sudocrem, as usual, fixes things but I almost need to alternate driving with my cycle daily commute (26 miles round trip) to heal!
    Just knowing this was regular would help me come to terms, or if not spur me on to see a GP. Many thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I honestly thought that it was only me that had these "lady-bits" problems and I was deformed!

      I've tried everything, adjusting the seat, cut-out seat, sudocream, vasaline, and numerous layers of padding. My discomfort starts when I've covered 25+ miles, which is all I do now because of the soreness ;-(

      Delete
    2. Hi - wondering if you ever saw a GP? I am 52 and losing the fat layer due to normal aging. I just started having issues with cysts and cuts on the labia and area between the labia and inner thigh. I am searching for new saddles now. My GP suggests a surgical route, but my feeling is they will just return without a changing the root cause. Looking at new saddles now. I'm not sure whether to go with a narrower one to eliminate rubbing but take the chance of not having enough support or to go with a wider one to have enough support but risk chafing! my current saddle is mid width so I guess its trial and error.

      Delete
  135. Great to see the subject broached, even if it was some time ago :-)

    I am a long distance road bike rider so pain free is a must as i can't train for 4-5hours if i'm sore after 30 minutes in the saddle.

    I can definitely recommend using a chamois cream - and heaps of it, applied both on the chamois and on yourself to create a friction free surface. I use a cycling specific cream called Keywin anti chafing cream which is common here for cyclists/swimmers/triathletes in NZ. If i don't use it, i get rubbed raw.

    I am in the process of trying saddles from all different companies (through try before buy schemes) to ensure that i get the best saddle for me. I have found that they all vary alot both mens vs womens and within the women or mens specific ranges. And don't worry if a mens saddle is better for you than the womens equivalent.

    Both the width and shape of the saddle along with your style of riding (upright commuter, aggressive road riding etc) will affect how comfortable your sit bones are on a given saddle. I recommend getting your sit bones measured so you know what width saddle will be best. And saddles can be too wide as my first was, which caused chafing along the inner thigh. Depending on whether a saddle has a round, semi round or flat shape across the seat it will also change the comfort for your sit bones. And both size and shape will be specific to each individual.

    For the genital pain, during my saddle testing, i found the cut outs can be good at reliefing central pressure but it seemed to cut in where it was supporting me. I have just tried a saddle that simply had a slight depression rather than full cutout and it was fantastic. Some support but not squashing me. Just a shame it was flat and not the round shape my sit bones need. The searching and testing continues...

    The most important thing is to try as many different saddles as possible as you very quickly start learning what you like and what you don't like which will hopefully help narrow down the final choice and saves $$ in the long run. Any reputable bike store should be prepared to get test saddles in for you if they are serious about selling you one.

    Menstruation isn't a problem for me since using the Merina (long term copper IUD with eostrogen release) as it reduced my flow to nothing. I changed to this specifically because my regular period (copper IUD alone)was starting to really affect my training.

    Its important to take the time if it will improve your riding enjoyment.

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  136. Exactly the info I was looking for. I have started training for a charity ride in July. The first ride was around 8 mi. next was 11 mi. I noticed some labial numbness then. This last weekend was over 17 mi. At the rest stop (9.7mi) I asked a lady about numbness, but she didn't know. I am thinking that the bike shorts plus the gel cushion on my seat together is too much padding. I will try adjusting the tilt on my seat and maybe some lubricant also.

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  137. Has anyone here tried the Hobson easyseat? Has 2 separate seat pads that rotate with you. I have tried a lot of seats. I have a lot of junk in my trunk and over weight. I usually ride a recumbent but I don't get the workout in the abs when I do. Want to get back into upright if poss. I know too much padding is bad. And a wide seat pushes to much tissue up. I thinking of something with no nose. Tried the open hole and won't work for me. Last year hubby and I road a recumbent tandem 400miles for the year. So I'm not talking around the block riding.

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  138. As a mature male i have found the whole article very interesting, i have many female friends that ride with me and any info i can pass on and/ or set up with their bike will help. I shave the whole area daily and always use lube usually a baby nappy rash cream ( if it wont hurt them it wont hurt me!) As for the use of brooks saddles i would be assuming that these posts are coming out of usa, pple these saddles were used 30 years ago and equipement has moved on... if you dont have a shop nearby use the net and source what you want from europe. I experiment a lot with saddle shapes till i find what is comportable and sell off what i dont like.. Hand nubness can be caused thru gripping the bars too tightly, staying too long in the one position, reaching too far or too long.. take it all in and dont be afraid to try different things but above all , use lube( non petroluem products) as this will help, be generous and do whole area....

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  139. Love it! Thank you and yes, kudos on the frankness. I have to agree with those not condoning waxing or shaving. The pubic hair is there for a reason. Maybe trimming would help if it gets out of hand, but the pubic hair can help prevent the bacteria getting in and around the vagina before it causes those infections.

    Chafing is an interesting topic. I've been building up to 3+ hours recently for an Ironman this summer. Sometimes I've gone out with Body Glide or Vaseline. Sometimes nothing at all and have had no real issue. This, of course, is an individual issue but I would say that having properly fitting chamois shorts, a professional bike fit and the right saddle can all help prevent chafing.

    Thank you, Lovely!

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  140. I trim my pubic hair to about 1/4 inch, and use a baby nappy rash cream as I seem to sit on the pubic hair which then 'pulls' and causes considerable discomfort. I too suffer from heat and burning in the vaginal area, and have tried lots of different types of saddle with no clear favourite. As my mileage increases during the summer months, the discomfort also increases. I have also swapped saddles for the next day ride and had some relief, but then the following day have had new problems. Good female specific shorts are by far the best choice though, but I imagine only a bespoke fit for saddle and shorts is the only answer to ultimate comfort. It stands to reason that a 'one size fits all' approach to shorts and saddle just doesn't work, we all have different shoe sizes after all, therefore we all have different sized anatomy.

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  141. Hi KateOz here (new social rider)

    Thanks for addressing feminine issues!

    Any ladies post-menopausal??? I am and I have found that I have lost my fat layer around the pubic area. I use a chamois cream and wear female bike shorts with padding. I am wondering if different shorts have thicker padding than others. I'm thinking I might need to spend the money and get a decent pair but I don't won't to try that until I can be sure that there is a difference.

    Also, are some chamois creams more lubricating than others and last longer?

    Would moving my seat a bit forward help to take off the pressure in that area? I know I need to move my handlebars up and back a bit because I am leaning forward onto my wrists and arms. I suppose putting them up will mean I sit up better so I should do that first then try the seat.

    I'd appreciate your thoughts.

    BTW when researching creams I have noticed that people say not to use vaseline.

    Thanks for your help. I love riding my bike but knowing that I am going to get sore puts me off using it.

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  142. I am a long distance rider (avg 40-70 miles a ride) and after 10 years I still have seat issues: labial and clitoral. While I continue my search for a better seat my interim solution for chafing and cuts is to use LANACREME Anti-chafing gel/cream. Has a pain agent and healing agent. It's the best thing for healing quickly, important since I do a 400 mile 6day ride every year which means multi-70mile days.

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  143. Hmm. I shave and that doesn't cause me any problems - in fact, the reason I started was because I'd have hairs getting pulled in an incredibly painful way. Different strokes for different folks, eh? :) The only thing that really bugs me on the bike is that when it's a hot day, or a long or hard ride, the salt from the sweat does cause painful abrasion. Chamois cream does help, but I'm still hunting for a preferred brand...

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  144. Thank you so much! As an endurance horse rider I've been looking for help with my saddle issues; I appreciate your thorough advice on this sensitive topic!

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  145. OMG - THANK YOU for this fabulous post! I am a cycling "newbie" and am having lots of touble with abrasion and chafing - I am so glad I found this blog - I will definitely try some of the udder balm and tea tree oil! Thank you so much for initiating this discussion!

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  146. Thanks so much for having the guts to write this! My fiancé actually pointed it out to me — we're getting married in a week and a half, and bike tripping for our honeymoon, so I was looking to solve some... issues. Mostly yeast infections and pressure problems. So, we went out and bought some less-padded shorts and wool undies today, and hopefully problems will be not-so-bad. I already have a Brooks, which I love, but I may also try tilting it up. Right now, I have it tilted a little down, but I'm not entirely happy... I'm going to look for some tea tree oil soap and Butt'r, too, though! (I've used Butt'r before, on family trips, and it really is wonderful stuff!)

    Thanks so much for the advice, everyone!!

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  147. I have just bought a classic step through cycle with a Brooks B67S saddle. I sat on one in the shop and it was very comfortable, even had a trial ride outside. However,on collecting my bike today and having a 10 minute cycling session (after a break of 15 years) I have pain in my coccyx. I am 61 and have little padding in my rear end. Husband has adjusted the saddle to level and has raised it slightly. We have also applied proofite. Is there anything else I can do? Why was the saddle in the shop so comfortable and mine isn't - same model. Very concerned as one of the reasons I stopped cycling 15 years ago was that I found it too uncomfortable.

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    Replies
    1. My first question is, Will the bike shop let you trade your new saddle for the one off the floor model? Failing that, they do soften up after a little while, but if you can't break it in your self, you might want to ask you hubby to do it or look for a used model. The one in the shop was likely better because it had been used.

      My saddle is still best slightly nose up (but only slightly)... but that won't help get the leather to relax the little bit it needs to be super comfortable.

      Delete
    2. Just found this.... Maybe it will help
      http://www.jcscycles.com/breakin.html

      Delete
  148. So glad I found this article. Just in from my first ride in years, and as I write this I'm sitting on on ice-pack. Thanks for getting over your embarrassment and being explicit. Exactly the info I was looking for and not finding elsewhere.

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  149. I have a problem that I do not see listed above.

    I have found that the skin between the lips and my groin tend to get pinched when I cycle. So far I have tried, different cycling shorts with a longer groin area coverage (specialized RBX) I used to wear the pearl izumi symphony shorts and had the same issue. I have also used 3 different kinds of Creams in which they really didn't change the issue. I have also been to a bike fitting; but know I'm wondering if it's the actual seat that is giving my problems. Whats weird is that when I first bought the bike in April, I put about 300 miles on it before this issues gotten worse. In the beginning, it didn't seem as back and only had normal chaffing, but not this pinching thing.
    I love to cycle and I don't want to stop just because of this issue.

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  150. Thanks for all the information and tips. I have yet to read anyone with my particular problem unless chafing is a euphemism for labial and clitoral cysts. These do not go away quickly. I often joke with my husband when we are on our 40+ml rides about my boils of "Jobian" proportion. And with his perineum pressure effecting erectile function, we are beginning to think our exuberance for the sport of bicycling may not be good for our love life. We have tried different saddles but haven't found what works yet. I am 55 and my husband is 60 but I don't think age is the problem. Anyone out there experiencing something similar?

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    Replies
    1. It could be the seat. My hubby had the same issue and even went numb for a number of days after the MS150. He went into the bike shop and they informed him that his seat was a little high and that the seat he had did not relieve the pressure in that area. He was told to get a seat with a cut out section or separation in the seat; this relieves the pressure in that area. Ever since; he has not had any issues in that area.

      Delete
  151. Velouria, kudos on a topical post.
    Please consider updating this post and adding new info, if any, or summarizing the information, it is fabulous, and the issue won't go away.

    For the numbness, sitz bones pain, and numb hands/toes/feet, try getting a professional bike fitting. Just a centimeter or so of adjustment of height, distance to handle bars, width of handle bars, etc can make a huge difference in ride, power and most importantly, comfort! However, when it comes to saddles and the pelvic issues outlined in the blog post, the fitters just shrug and say, keeping trying different saddles, it is a very individual thing.

    I do a multiday long distance ride every year, plus months of training and this year decided to try and reduce the pain by finding a good saddle. Got a Terry, Liberator race, that was actually the best I've tried for reduced pressure on the sensitive bits, but still had trouble with chafing and blisters in the groin fold along the inner thighs. Chamois butter, regularly replaced each rest stop, helped delay the blistering but did not prevent it. As I sit out a week of riding to heal, I am thinking forward to the next long rides, and commuting.
    So onward, looking for another saddle, the right bike shorts and chamois thickness, and the right chamois butter equivalent. I don't want this to keep me off my bike, or from long distance rides.

    Please Please update and repost this blog entry. Kind of like mammograms in the 1970's, this is the least talked about, but very important health issue for women cyclist!

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    1. I have tried everything except a new saddle, but kind of scared to since I didn't have issues in the beginning of the season, just the last half of the season. So I did change my bike shorts from the Pearl izumi's to the RBX's and that helped a bit. The inner thigh padded portion is longer and just doesn't stop at the groin area. I have also done something that I think has helped me on the last ride. The last ride I went on, I didn't get any chaffing or sores, and I was like wow. I used the watkins salve on the upper inner groin area that I was getting blisters/pinching at, then on the inner thigh area, and the area where your butt and thing comes together, I rubbed in assos cream, on the actual shorts, I used a slick stick glide and applied it right onto the padded area that my inner thigh and groin come into contact. I know that is a lot, but right before I hop on the bike for longer distance, I apply the chamois butter to the entire area. It feels weird at first, but it worked great. I will stick with all this until something better comes along.

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  152. wow, you have described my labia issue bang on. I am 58 years old and I started having these issues a year or so ago, my Terry's liberator used to do the trick but not anymore. I purchased a Serfas Terazzo yesterday and it did not help the already sore areas at all !!
    I am now going to look at a Brooks.
    Thanks for your article

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  153. Um, not to disagree, but I've used Instead cups on the first day of my period, and when I took it out in a public bathroom there was so much blood sploshing everywhere, it looked like I had been shot. Maybe on day 3, but nothing before that, unless I'm at home. I bleed heavily. And I definitely wouldn't recommend anyone trying new menstual technology out for the first time while riding a bike.
    For me, the wrist, shoulder and hand pain so eclipse any discomfort in the lady bits, that I've never really noticed. I have a split saddle with the cutout, plus a variety of types of gel and chamois padded shorts. Have to take them off fast after riding though, or all that moisture makes me pay in the yeast department.
    Ride on, ladies!

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    1. Instead cups are completely different than what we are talking about.
      http://www.hobomama.com/2010/05/instead-vs-divacup-for-your-menstrual.html

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  154. I would love to see a more content like this. I was talking to some of my (male) riding buddies about how I wish one of the many LBS was owned and managed by women. It is hard enough finding the gear I want locally. I wish I could talking frankly with the staff (usually male) about saddles, etc.

    I see cysts mentioned in a couple comments, but I've been having issues with Bartholin cysts. I have to stay off the bike when I have one. They are very painful. I'm also having an issue of chaffing. I've never found sport chaffing lubes or powder helpful and I'm always worried about putting using any products around my vagina. Maybe I'll look into the one mentioned with TTO. I've read a thinner nose on the saddle can also help. I'm looking into new saddle options.

    I'm also looking for more options for liner pants. I like wearing liner pants under knicker-length tights. It is a more versatile option and the longer tights provides more coverage than cycling shorts from the really harsh sun here. I'm a roadie and need the padding, but my skin is so sensitive. The fabrics are so rough on my skin, particularly the elastics and silicone banding. I really don't like synthetics, but I have reactions to wool.

    Please do another post like this. It is very helpful to discuss important matters frankly. It makes me angry how men's issues dominate health and sport related topics.

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  155. If you have gotten more than two or three mild yeast infection over the past year you might be concerned about it and wonder if you are suffering from recurrent prevent yeast infections.

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  156. Wish you would revisit this topic and find a truly comfortable seat that is friendly to lady parts. My friend just got her 197? bicycle tuned up and my jaw nearly dropped when I saw the seat. I hope this link works. She bought the bicycle in Europe in the 70s. http://tinyurl.com/wideseat

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  157. I'm a bit confused on the issue of whether or not to use underwear under bike shorts. Many advise that there should be nothing between bike shorts and your skin. Is that advice specific to men or does it apply to women as well? Personally I have labia issues too and I wonder whether underwear is the problem. Thoughts please?

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  158. fabulous! I am about to embark on a journey of finding a new saddle. I am hoping that my local bike store that does seat bone testing and has many saddles to try out will fix my problem of numbness/tingling and on my longer rides I experience ?swelling and chaffing so when I urinate the first couple of times it really stings. I use Bepanthen for a day or so and find it very soothing.
    I dont use any underwear with my cycling knicks and so far have been wearing 'mens' knicks but will be looking for ladies specific in the future.

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  159. As a male, I too have saddle among other various problems… I bought a forward crank style bike, thinking it would be more ergonomic. After a while I started getting backache going over bumps, and my perineum (?) area got sore. I lost a testicle and had permanent stitching when I was 25, and have frequent pain in that area anyway. The complete solution was a "Thudbuster" suspension post, combined with a Cloud 9 seat. This has no "nose". I had a bit less directional stability (couldn't use a non existent "nose" to help with steering), but the set up allowed me to cycle longer and harder. The problem was that I biked so hard I strained my chest muscles and ended up with lung infections every time I rode. The bike stays in the shed and I go for walks...

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  160. First result on Google Search and, may I say, rightly so! I've been trying to figure out a solution to the clitorial pressure (yeah, it freaking hurts!) by adjusting the saddle position. Wasn't sure if the problem was because I'm not accustomed to cycling (just had my seventh ride this morning) or what. My saddle is now angled as far down as it'll go. Time to find a female-specific saddle and hope that helps. If not, I will try one (or all!) of the lubricants suggested. THANK YOU!

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  161. This is amazing. I would like to share this link on my blog if that is ok? I am new to cycling and really needed this honesty.

    Thank you.

    http://carlkatie.blogspot.com/

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  162. Nearly 2 years later, and your article and all the comments are still benefiting lady cyclists! Thank you :)

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  163. After an 8 hour bike ride at the weekend and serious soreness, this article has given me food for thought. Thank you

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  164. Finally something for us gals. I have a brooks swallow saddle (very narrow sit bones)> It is relatively new and omg it hurts when I pee I am sure that after my long weekend rides, I have a few cuts. I cant really lower the nose...although I will do so slightly but you can be sure I will use chamois creme until this saddle is broken in. I find all brooks saddles to require break in for my genitalia...but in the end well worth it

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  165. I have trouble with chafing and blisters in the groin fold along the inner thighs. I have been riding a hybrid bike for the past 3 weeks and have had minor problems. I am using the saddle that came with the bike I will be switching to a road bike and know that the problem will begin again. I am using the Terry Butterfly seat on my road bike.

    Can someone tell me: 1 how to prevent the chafing and blisters and 2 how to cure the blisters once you have them.

    I find that using alcohol swabs to clean the area after riding seems to help a little, but riding with blisters hurts to much. I tend to ride 150-200 miles a week.

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  166. This was a great post and obviously garnered a lot of interest. As a guy, I skimmed through the lady stuff rather quickly as my primary interest is addressing nerve damage from bicycle seats and pressure on the hands and feet.

    Men can certainly suffer from sore rear ends on the "sit bones" pressure points from cycling. Additionally, many men can tell you that a couple of hours of saddle time on a bicycle with a lean forward riding position can lead to numbness in the hands and male parts. Really not a good thing for men - or for their ladies!

    I suffer from permanent nerve damage in my feet primarily and to some extent in my hands. I attribute the nerve damage to years of cycling with the use of clip less pedals and a lean-foraward riding position. Although, I loved my clipless pedals and I certainly appreciated a lean-forward position when confronted by a headwind, I think something needs to be done about the design of bicycles to prevent injuries. Luckily the numbness caused by my bicycle seat did not lead to permanent nerve damage in my man parts. That may not be true for other men - not that many would want to talk about it.

    As we all look forward to greater use of bicycles in the U.S., and use of bicycles throughout a longer span of one's life; I anticipate more problems with RSI-type injuries like I experienced will arise. To help bicycle manufacturer's increase their awareness of these kinds of problems, it would be great if V could follow up on this old post about female discomfort with a similar post for men. V, not being male will need some help, and I'm sure many of us would be willing to oblige. Further, I suggest the scope for a new post be broadened beyond seat discomfort and be expanded to other major areas such as hands and feet. I have great confidence in the passion of our bicycle builders and manufacturers in the U.S. and abroad to respond to the need.

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  167. hi girls--i'm a brand new biker, like BRAND NEW, and just spent 1.5 hrs with my husband/friends in the mountains of az on my new/used bike...I feel like someone took a baseball bat to my whole crotch area. I assumed I would have soreness on my butt, but my groin/inner thigh/where your leg meets your hoo ha area is bruised...and i'm cut on the inside. what the hell am I doing wrong here? the saddle has a cut out and is gel padded and I was going to get something that was super padded, but sounds like that's not the way to go. thoughts on why i'm bruised on the inner thigh? thanks so much for this article!! --mary in the u.s.

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  168. I find a menstrual cp is the best solution when riding during a period.

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  169. i was so happy to read this article. I thought I was the only one with clitoral pain while riding. I have been through countless saddles. I am currently using the Cobb Max and are just mediocre satisfied. Which Butterfly saddle do most people recommend?

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  170. Thank you for this post! I just invested in bike shorts for the first time (was doing up to 30 mile rides without them...) and just realized it only makes the posterior discomfort go away...but not the PAIN everywhere else (labial & clitoral pain). I find it sore even hours and days after a long ride. Riding just isn't enjoyable because of it. I don't have any chafing, it's just a pressure issue - seems like my saddle is hitting exactly where it shouldn't. I'm even wondering, could riding without changing my saddle or something else cause any longer-term damage (as in, to the surrounding nerves)?

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    1. My experience is yes, when you feel pain or numbness at pressure points when riding your bike, be it your seat, your hands or even your feet (with clipless pedals), you are at risk for long term, irreversible nerve damage. So please take the issue seriously. I suggest you look at whether modifications to your seat, another seat or even a bike with a different riding position (more or less upright) reduces or eliminates pain or numbness.

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  171. Thank you so much for this insightful article. After riding almost 13 miles at a clip (on a new mountain bike) for the first time in 12 years, my sit bones are so sore, I haven't been able to sit properly for 2 days! I've been searching for a new saddle ever since!

    Important Note RE: TALCUM POWDER - It has been widely suggested that using talcum powder in our female nether regions may be linked to an increase in ovarian cancer. I would highly recommend NOT using powder! Research for yourself, but here's one link on Cancer.org: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/talcum-powder-and-cancer

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  172. Thank you
    Thank you
    Thank you

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  173. I don't know how to thank you for all the explanation and tips! I bike every day around or more than 8 km, and I must say that my labia were really hurting after some months.
    Well, yesterday I found this blog and I bought just after a new saddle: oh yes, now I can seat and my labia don't touch a thing! :D no more hurting!
    But I wanted to ask you a thing: now I also want to use some cream while I am still too sensitive. I didn't find yet tea tree oil cream so I bought Vaseline. But then I found that everybody says "don't use vaseline near your vagina! you will have for sure a yeast infection!". Is this true? If I use Vaseline in my labia before my riding the yeast infection probability increases that much?
    Thanks!

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  174. Thanks for this post. Just completed first long distance ride and now dealing with swellings that I haven't had before. Plenty of food for thought here.

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