Let’s make cycling more accessible to women, safely.
As I transitioned from competitive racing to recreational riding and indoor cycling workouts, I noticed one common issue across all riding groups — women loved the exercise but didn’t love the discomfort they experienced in the saddle. Today, saddle soreness is still the number one complaint I hear from women riders.
After searching for answers to this problem, I ran across some consistent and somewhat disheartening advice from other riders online. The advice for handling saddle pain was almost always “toughen up”, “you’ll get used to it”, and that “the pain goes away after a while”.
The advice for handling saddle pain was almost always ‘toughen up’, ‘you’ll get used to it’, and that ‘the pain goes away after a while’.
My indoor cycling instructor friends experience saddle pain at the beginning of riding and especially if they haven’t ridden in a few days. On average, however, most of my instructor friends are teaching 10-15 classes per week and riding in another 4-5 classes.
Now, that’s a lot of tapping it back.
Some use gel seat cushions while teaching and although the added extra padding helps, the gel seats can also chafe and tend to wear away the stitching on their leggings. None of them wear padded cycling shorts to class for aesthetic reasons. You know that #diaperbutt. Over time, like breaking in a new pair of shoes, their feeling of saddle pain has decreased.
The crazy thing? Turns out that “getting used to it” can actually be a sign of nerve damage.
During biking, the perineum (which includes the main artery and nerves to the labia and clitoris) can become compressed. This causes decreased blood flow and nerve sensitivity, which can sometimes result in numbness and pain in your lady bits.
A recent study revealed that 62% of female cyclists who rode at least two hours per week had pain, tingling or numbness within a month of the study. This same study showed that in general women cyclists had decreased sensation in their genital region compared to non-cyclists.
Women cyclists had decreased sensation in their genital region.
Another way to think about that is like this: If you’re numb down there while you’re on the bike, you might be numb down there when you’d prefer not to be… you know, during other activities 😉
In another study, more than half of the women cyclists studied had at least one urogenital overuse injury after riding for two hours without proper riding protection. After just two hours of riding without protection, a shocking 40% of the women cyclists in this study could not participate in sexual intercourse without discomfort for at least 48 hours after riding.
But wait! There are ways that you can prevent or lessen these effects without ditching the workout you love.
Your best defense is to:
- Position your handlebars slightly higher than your saddle to keep from putting excess pressure on your crotch.
- Pad your peach! Cycling padding helps reduce pressure on your lady parts. (Hint: Get yourself a TushCush!)
- Apply a women’s chamois creme to your genital area to help further reduce friction.
Next time you hear a rider talking about saddle pain or advising other riders to get “used to it”, I sincerely hope you will share this message with them.
At Pixi, our mission to make cycling more accessible to women also includes looking after the health of riders and instructors. When riders can ride comfortably and safely in class, that means more classes are filled and both instructors and riders can put their focus back on enjoying the ride.