Bike Saddles and Female Anatomy
If you are an avid cyclist, then you already know how much time your backside spends on the saddle. Without a properly fitting saddle designed for the female form, those hours can translate into serious discomfort and even infections. Understanding the way the female anatomy interacts with the bike saddle will help understand why this is a common problem. The blogger over at Lovely Bicycle recently addressed some of the problems associated with female anatomy and traditional bike seats.
Women often find that their backsides are sore after a long ride. If the saddle is a leather or plastic model with minimal padding, as most bikes come with, and it continues to make the butt sore after a proper break-in period, then the pain is likely due to a saddle that is the wrong shape for the woman’s butt, placing pressure on the wrong spots.
According to Lovely Bicycle, “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.” This often happens because the saddle is too narrow for a woman’s wider sit bones. Also, women tend to cycle less aggressively than male cyclists, so the butt gets more pressure from the seat.
One commenter found that narrow or wide could both cause problems. She said, “I’m sure there’s plenty of ladies with . . . wide sit bones, but this is not always the case. A too-wide saddle is just as uncomfy as a too-narrow one.”
Labial discomfort occurs when the vaginal lips bunch up and press into the saddle on a road bike. A saddle with cutout in the center can help, but it has to be positioned exactly for the woman’s individual anatomy, which is almost impossible. Instead, applying cream or even Vaseline to the vaginal area before riding can help lubricate the area and prevent painful abrasions from the friction.
Pain is not the only problem women have. One anonymous commenter said, “After an hour or two of cycling, my [genital area is] numb and sore.” This type of problem is caused by pressure. Cream will not help with pressure. Lovely Bicycle recommends tilting the saddle down can take the pressure off, but this puts too much pressure on the arms and hands and creates a painful ride. Instead, experiment with different saddles until you find one that works with your anatomy and avoids the painful clitoral pressure.
Both urinary tract infections and yeast infections are risks for female cyclists. Showering before and after a strenuous ride can help lower this risk, but poor hygiene is not the actual cause for most women. “Synthetic shorts or underwear could be to blame,” warns the blog post. Choose natural fabrics, moisture whicking and ventilation to avoid problems with infections.
Women who struggle with menstrual cramps and PMS symptoms may find that exercise, including cycling, helps with these problems. However, blood flow does increase during exercise, so frequent stops to change the sanitary napkin or tampon is necessary. For those who use sanitary napkins, blood can irritate the skin on a ride as well. Using tampons or waiting to cycle until after menstruation can stop this risk. One commenter also recommended using a menstrual cup instead of conventional pads.
Talking about genital issues is often uncomfortable for female cyclists, but without doing so, the modern woman will not be able to cycle comfortably. If you are experiencing any of these issues, take them seriously. Help is available if you simply know what changes to make.