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…asking for a friend.
Ok, so you may have felt silly typing this into a search engine but it’s a pretty common thing so there’s absolutely nothing to feel silly about. It’s also easy enough to fix so there’s no reason to ride in pain or discomfort “down there.” Biking is already filled with enough pain and suffering, so let’s not add any more. Also, let us start by saying that we’re not doctors or certified in any type of medicine, but we’ve been biking long enough to have run into all sorts of different issues.
If you’re experiencing discomfort in your lady regions while biking, there are a few different things that could be contributing to that and we’ll walk through what they are:
Chamois – If you’re not familiar with the term “chamois,” this is probably the best place to start. A chamois is a pair of padded bike shorts that provide some cushion between your tush area and the saddle. A good chamois can make all the difference between a comfortable ride and a torture fest. Also, you shouldn’t be wearing underwear with your chamois as they are specifically designed with strategically placed padding and soft fabrics to go directly against your skin. You wouldn’t wear your bathing suit with underwear underneath, would you? If you are already wearing a chamois when riding and it’s super old, you might consider getting a new one, as the cushioning can wear out over time.To add to this, if you’re still feeling some chafing after lots of saddle time, try using some chamois butter in chafed areas to reduce friction. Applying chamois butter before your ride is best to reduce the chafing before it begins. There are even some brands that make women’s specific chamois butter, such as Hoo Ha Ride Glide.
Saddle – After your chamois, the next point of connection between your body and the bike is your saddle, or bike seat, so this is equally important. Everyone’s butt is different so a saddle that might work for one person might feel terrible for another. Everyone has their own preference too so while some people like something squishier, some don’t mind something extra firm. While there are all shapes and sizes of saddles, for mountain biking, you typically don’t want anything too big or too padded as it may affect your ability to maneuver the bike adequately. Some shops offer tools to measure your sit bones or you can sit on a piece of cardboard and imprint your sit bones to measure their width. That’ll give you at least a rough idea of the width of saddle you might want.In addition to the quality of the saddle, the positioning is a huge factor too. If your saddle is tilted too far down in the front it can put you in a position where most of your weight isn’t on your sit bones and cause too much pressure on the front area. If your saddle is tilted too far back, it can put you in an equally weird position with an unnatural pelvic tilt. All that to say, test a few different saddle tilt options, as well as moving it slightly forward or backwards on the rails for the optimal position. Many riders like either a 0 degree tilt (totally flat) or a slight tilt upward, so start there and see what works for you. It’s a good idea to bring a bike tool with you to make seat adjustments on the fly during your ride.
In general, you typically want most of your weight squarely on your sit bones for optimal comfort during long rides. Some saddles also feature different grooves and channels to relieve pressure on your sensitive areas so that might be something to explore as well. Having your bike fit to you by a certified professional at your local bike shop can also help you diagnose any issues and help you get your bike dialed in faster.
If you try those things and nothing seems to work, try talking to some fellow female mountain bikers and see if they’ve run into the same issue and how they’ve addressed it. Don’t feel shy about talking about this as it can be a common part of cycling until you get your bike and apparel completely dialed in for your body. Also, let us reiterate that we’re not doctors, so if you’re having any issues that persist beyond biking and shortly thereafter, you may want to consult your physician.
To sum up, cycling shouldn’t cause your lady parts to hurt so try a few different things and see what works for you. To get the rest of your cycling kit dialed in, check out our line of moisture wicking clothing. Happy riding!