How to take care of your 🍑
Bike rides are always tons of fun and the longer I ride, the happier I usually get. At least that tends to be the case. Sometimes, there are things that can spoil your fun and they can be embarrassing too. If your lady bits hurt after a ride, it is sometimes difficult to turn to your other half to tell them that your vagina is a bit out of shape but there have been a number of rides which have left me feeling less than my best.
Im struggling with my own “shark week” as we speak, an endearing term Mr Betty once bravely used to describe that time of the month. So I put down my ice cream bucket for a minute (to make sure that the keyboard doesn’t get sticky) to tell you about a few of my own remedies that allowed me to get on with long(er) rides and let me spend time on my bike without much discomfort. I would also like to hear about yours. Or just your favourite vagina euphemisms, I think I pretty much used them all here.
It probably is stating the obvious but painful lady bits when you ride is likely to have something to do with your saddle. A lot of ladies, myself included, opt for a unisex (or “male”…) bike. These bikes come specced with some good, but not necessarily suitable saddles for our undercarriages. This is all to do with the fact that the women’s pubic bones are wider than those of our male counterparts, which brings our pubic symphysis’ a bit lower so our soft tissue bits get squished more easily than Tom, Dick or Harry’s. So sticking with a unisex saddle seems a bit mad, unless you feel like it works for you of course.
Many bike shops offer a saddle try out, where you can try different types of saddles and allow you to test them out and go home with your favourite one which I think is a great initiative. I can’t deny that I would probably rather discuss how my lady bits feel with a female bike shop member, a sentiment which I think would be echoed by most (hopefully all) male bike shop employees.
That being said, I spoke to the guys at Ergon a while ago about what might be causing my downstairs discomfort on long rides and after a few discussions they were kind enough to lend me a women’s specific saddle. The Ergon SM Women (keeping the naming simple) to be precise. I did not realise how much pain I was in until I hopped on to this Ergon saddle for the first time. This saddle is comfortable, minimalist and I felt next to no pressure on my soft lady bits. Interestingly Mr Betty also found the saddle far more comfortable than the stock Ride Alpha saddle he has on his Commencal.
To find out more about how Ergon’s women’s saddle’s were designed to work with women’s undercarriages, click here.
Common saddle issues
One of the main faux pas that I found people make is not actually measuring your sit bones when you buy your new saddle. Some people are wider than others, frame-wise, so it is good to check your sizing. It’s strange that most of us don’t do this for this particular bike part, when we do with just about every other aspect of the sport. Perhaps it is because not many bike brands offer (or at least shout about) sizing for saddles.
The technique I use is to grab a piece of A4 paper and a pencil. Find a slightly firm but soft surface to sit on (my advice is a carpeted staircase, preferably in your own home) and put the paper underneath your butt. Use the pencil like graphite and draw over the entire surface. You should see two tiny circles on the paper, these are your sit bones! Measure the space from a middle to the middle of the dots and this is your saddle size. Then go wash your butt, it is probably inky.
If you are struggling with finding your sit bones or have no carpeted stairs, many bike shops have a pressure map that would allow you to measure your size and actually many more interesting things about your butt (albeit i’m not sure all of them were relevant).
Another common mistake made by people (i.e. me) is to not adjust your saddle. Ever. Not only does the height of your seatpost have a big impact on your riding but so does the way the saddle is angled. Try and play around with the saddle angle and you might save yourself a few pennies before you will decide to swap for a different model.
The chamois shorts
I got my first pair of padded bike shorts before I even owned a bike to plonk them on. However, I kept making mistakes with them along the way which caused me a lot of pain. First of all, wearing the chamois shorts with my underpants, was one of the first mistakes. Avoid doing that at all costs, even if you think it is pretty embarrassing. I still can’t get over the fact that most likely none of the roadies you see out and about are wearing pants. It doesn’t change my feelings about our lycra-clad cousins, but just thought you ought to know.
Also, if you are like me then buying more chamois shorts after a while seems pointless, particularly when they aren’t torn and frayed yet. The general rule of thumb is to keep your chamois shorts for no more than one year, but if the padding has packed down or things have torn (or started smelling) then I think it is time to say goodbye. There are ways to keep the chamois shorts in good condition and extend their life. These include washing them at lower temperatures, using fabric softener and wearing them as little as possible.
Last, but not least, I found that sometimes purchasing roadie lycra bottoms might be a quick fix to expensive mtb specific chamois. Whilst roadie kit is generally even more expensive than mountain bike kit, there is a much wider range of shorts available on the market for roadies, why not use this to our advantage. No one needs to know you have Castelli kit under your dirty Fox shorts.
Even the word itself makes me slightly uncomfortable. Especially during summer days (whatever they are) and if you wear underwear underneath your chamois, you might be familiar with chafing. That horrible feeling of your skin rubbing on skin and causing discomfort. If your rides are fairly long and you spend a substantial time in the saddle, chamois cream can help with things like chafing rashes.
Some chamois creams act as an antibacterial lubricant to keeps the nasties away. So if you are planning a long ride, I strongly recommend lubing up.
I hope that these tips and tricks that I have learnt on my own poor peach might come of use to my fellow riders. If you think I have forgotten anything or you have any tricks of your own, please feel free to mention it in the comments.
This has taken me away from my ice cream bucket for way too long!
February 11, 2019