Submitted by TTS Coach, Michelle Paiement

My first blog entry is inspired by the struggle I had finding helpful solutions and information on “delicate” women-specific problems related to cycling!

So this post is dedicated to women who might be “saddled” with those particular discomforts associated with cycling.

Without stating the obvious, women’s and men’s “parts” differ and therefore we have our own set of problems. Seven years ago when I re-entered the cycling world, I was faced with a couple of these “issues”! My male cycling buddies, although great with training and mechanical tips, where not equipped (ha!) to help–NOT that I would’ve asked them for advice on this topic!

Here are some unpleasant but common problems that arise from hours in the saddle: soft tissue damage such as cuts, chaffing, hemorrhoids, blisters and fungal infections. What’s a girl to do?

Shorts:

Before you buy make sure you try!

If you’re buying your shorts in a cycling shop, ask to hop on a bike to get a sense of what they feel like when sitting on a saddle. The chamois should feel snug but not too bulky or wide. Many companies now design women-specific shorts with padding placed to relieve pressure in all the right areas.

NEVER, wear underwear with your cycling shorts! (Unless in the process of purchasing, of course!) The chamois is designed to be seamless to avoid chaffing. If you wear underwear, you’ll most definitely end up uncomfortable and/or worse chaffed.

Cream:

Chamois cream is essential! A proper cream will help with chaffing, and it can actually extend the life of your chamois. There are many on the market and it’s best to experiment until you find one that suits you. Also read the label before you use your new chamois cream. Some creams are to be applied only on the chamois; while others can be applied to both the chamois and your skin. I personally use Assos chamois cream for the following reasons:

I can apply the cream to both skin and chamois.

The cream washes out well and doesn’t leave a greasy residue.

It has bacterio/fungistatic qualities that are derived from natural sources.

And it works!

Hygiene:

Ladies! Once you’re done with your ride, remove those wet or damp shorts as fast as you can! By doing so, you’ll put an end to an environment that breeds bacteria and possible infection. Plan to have a change of clothes ready, so that you too can enjoy the après-ride coffee shop stop with the stinky guys!!

Wash and dry your shorts with the chamois side out. NEVER use fabric softener because it inhibits the wicking quality of your shorts, reducing their ability to deal with sweat. Every now and then pop your shorts in the dryer or line dry to expose the chamois to a good dose of sunshine!

Saddle:

Like shorts, you can now buy saddles that are specifically designed for women. With the position of our pelvis on the bike, that slight hinge forward, you can’t but avoid having pressure on very tender areas. Nowadays, most saddles are designed with cutouts to relieve soft tissue pressure.

Finding the perfect saddle can be a challenge! Seek out a shop that will allow you to try one out and allow for exchanges if the saddle doesn’t suit you.

The width of your saddle is also important. Make sure that your sit bones (bottom of the pelvis) align well with the center of the padded areas on the saddle. You can take a very rough measurement by sitting on your hands and hinging forward, imitating a riding position. You will feel the bones pressing into your hands. Have a friend then measure the distance between the bones.

Installing your saddle: make sure it’s level!  Some women prefer to ride with the nose of the saddle slightly tilted downward. I found this worsened the problem, as it would cause me to slide forward and put more pressure on those tender areas.

Cushioned is not always best. In fact, if you plan on being in the saddle for hours, less padding is preferable because excess padding produces subtle bouncing and movement.

Specialty saddles:

If you’re a triathlete or compete in time trial events, the aggressive aero-dynamic position can be excruciating for us women! I personally, found relief with the ADAMO saddle. Again, experiment; there are other brands on the market designed for this type of riding.

Riding:

It would be nice if roads surfaces were prefect! Depending on where you live this might be a reality, but for most, potholes, cracks, and bumps are par for the course! Try lifting slightly out of the saddle when riding over obvious cracks or bumps. On long rides, try changing positions in the saddle or stand every now and then, to give your butt a break.

If by chance, you’re reading this blog post and the damage has already been done… here are a few tips to help with in the healing process.

•      Soft tissue damage, such as cuts: These are best left to heal on their own.

•     Chaffing: If not near mucous membrane, then a Polysporin-type cream can be helpful. There are also natural products that are helpful with minor abrasions.

•    Hemorrhoids: Try using a hemorrhoid cream. If severe, ask your doctor for a stronger prescription cream such as Proctosedyl.

•     Blisters: Again, best left alone to heal…DO NOT pop them as you increase the risk of infection.

•     Yeast or fungal infections: To avoid, try applying a small amount of Canesten before you ride. And follow the hygiene rules above! To treat, consult your doctor.

I hope the above information has been helpful, and that I’ve answered some of your not-so-easily asked questions.

Happy riding,

Michelle

About Michelle Paiement

Michelle Paiement is a two-time National Road Champion (Masters) who raced at the Elite level for the Stevens Racing team. She is the owner of Toguri Training Systems WEST studio. "I taught in the fitness industry for over 25years, and now dedicate my time coaching racers and recreational riders of all levels.

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