Let’s discuss something that is not very often discussed, especially amongst women cyclists. Cycling saddle sores don’t only affect men, and there are other problems that can arise down there from too much time on the cycling saddle.
So, because nobody should suffer in silence when it comes to these issues, let’s look at some potential problems that arise and how to deal with them.
These are the most common saddle woes that women face and what to do about them.
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Cycling Saddle Sores And Other Common Saddle Problems
An interesting fact is that up to 62 percent of competitive women cyclists have reported feeling genital numbness, tingling, or pain within the past 30 days in one small study of 48 racers published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. That’s 62 percent too many, Pruitt says.
“Numbness should not be tolerated, period,” he says, as it can cause long-term damage. “Numbness is a sign you’re compressing nerves. That means something is wrong.” It can also lead to cycling saddle sores which are discussed further down in this article.
So what causes this numbness?
Loss of sensation can be caused by your saddle, the position you sit in your saddle or both. You could have a great saddle, but you are sitting badly on it, or you could have a terrible saddle that is causing the problem, but whichever it is, try to get to the bottom of that problem.
Try testing various saddles, and most bike suppliers will give you a good professional bike fit. Most of your weight should be resting on your sitting bones (ischial tuberosities) or the pelvic bones (pubic rami) if you are riding further forward.
You shouldn’t be sitting hard on your soft tissue. Being too stretched out on your ride also puts more pressure on the soft tissues, so you may need to adjust your handlebar height or bring them forward. The shape and size of your saddle also need to be taken into consideration.
Urinary Tract Infection
Similar to vaginitis below, urinary tract infections are bacterial infections that can occur in any body part involved in producing and flushing urine—mainly your kidneys, bladder, and urethra.
These infections are common in female cyclists because bacteria from our chamois can travel fairly easily into our bladder.
So if you find yourself spending more time in the bathroom and have a burning feeling while urinating, you may have a urinary tract infection.
Symptoms include always feeling like you have to pee; peeing frequently in small amounts, and feeling a burning sensation when you do; and producing urine that is either cloudy, red (bloody), or particularly pungent.
If you find yourself with a Urinary Tract Infection, make sure you drink a lot of water. When your ride is done clean yourself thoroughly and try drinking cranberry juice. Cranberry juice can also reduce the occurrence of infections if you are prone to getting them often.
Vaginitis is the most common issue women cyclists face. In fact, it is the most common issue that even non-cyclists have.
Cyclists are more at risk though because bacteria multiply in the chamois as they sweat it out, and the close-fitting clothing can cause an overgrowth of yeast which thrives in hot and moist environments.
The symptoms of Vaginitis include an odor, unusual discharge, burning and/or itching especially when urinating.
So to avoid this get out of your shorts as soon as possible after your ride and after you have showered make sure to dry properly. Baby wipes or witch hazel and a dry towel also help if you can’t shower straight away.
As the name implies, labial hypertrophy is when the labia (either the inner or outer, or both) become swollen and enlarged.
This is caused mainly by pressure. Pressure will cause swelling because it prevents lymphatic drainage from happening. Once you have a lot of swelling, you will end up with a vicious cycle of less drainage and thus even more swelling.
Funnily enough, a cutout saddle doesn’t always work for this problem, especially if the vulva is more fleshy.
The only solution here is to eliminate unwanted and unnecessary pressure by choosing the correct saddle and making sure your bike fits you well so that pressure can be distributed in a healthier way.
This is an umbrella term that includes chafing, infected hair follicles (folliculitis), and open ulcerations anywhere in your chamois region—all of which have the potential to be quite painful.
The main cause of cycling saddle sores is the consistent pressure and chafing in the same place that irritates and inflames your skin over time, leaving it open to infection.
Saddle sores are usually raised, irritated sections of skin, or pimple-like bacteria-filled pores. Regardless of their shape, they’re sensitive and, yes, sore.
Like many cycling saddle woes, the right saddle and proper bike fit can go a long way in preventing these maladies. Proper hygiene also helps. Other preventative steps include:
- A groomed bikini area may look good on the beach, but it can also open the door for sore razor bumps, infected follicles, and ingrown hair. The pubic hair can actually help protect you against friction in the saddle. If you do have to shave or wax down there get a close shave and apply a light layer of antibiotic ointment after shaving.
- Try an anti-chafing gel, like Lanacane, especially if you have problems with inner thigh chafing, and this will help to form a silky protective surface on the skin. You can order Lanacane online by simply clicking on the picture.
- Switch your chamois and like saddles, chamois come in all shapes and sizes. Some may fit your bottom better than others. Make sure you have a seamless chamois that stays put and remember never to wear underwear with cycle shorts, otherwise they could bunch up and cause chaffing.
- If you have cycling saddle sores, try some moleskin that is cut out around the sore as this could help keep the pressure off the sore and make it less painful to ride.
- Chamois cream is designed to reduce the friction between your cycling shorts and your skin. There are many women-specific creams that will help maintain a healthy PH balance on the skin.
What Is Chamois Cream?
Chamois cream is an anti-bacterial, viscous substance that helps eliminate friction between your skin and your clothing, and therefore the chafing that can occur during a bicycle ride. It comes in a number of forms including balms, creams, and even powder.
Why Use Chamois Cream?
Cyclists use chamois cream for prevention of saddle sores or, even worse, something that can leave you off the bike for several days and require medical attention like an abscess.
The idea of using Chamois Cream for cycling saddle sores is to minimize friction and keep bacterial build-up at bay, therefore preventing sores from developing in the first place.
If you have forgotten to apply the cream and get a saddle sore after your ride, the cream also acts to help alleviate the pain, put a stop to any further problems and help prevent further infection.
Do You Need Chamois Cream?
If you cycle every now and then it shouldn’t cause too much discomfort down below, but once you start riding every day and taking on longer rides, you’ll need to consider applying some cream.
Simply apply chamois cream before each ride and you’ll avoid having to miss a day of cycling.
You can order Chamois Cream online simply by clicking on the pictures below for your convenience. There are many different kinds so take your time to read the small print.
Please comment below if you have anything to add on cycling saddle sores that will help other readers.