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Rolling them down like a throwback to my 90s hip huggers, hiking them up so high I could nearly tuck my boobs into them, and just trying to ignore the fact that I felt like a nearly bursting water balloon being squeezed tightly by a fist…these were all the things I tried in order to keep wearing my regular chamois shorts as my pregnant belly grew.
Why? Because there were no other options aside from stopping biking, which was absolutely unfathomable to me.
The moment I found out I was pregnant, I was immediately overjoyed and filled with excitement and anticipation. After trying to get pregnant for nearly a year, this was very welcome news. As an avid biker, snowboarder, and outdoor enthusiast, my mind immediately drifted to, “how am I going to keep doing the sports that I love?” Of course I had already thought a lot about how being pregnant and having children was going to change my life in the months (and years, honestly) prior, and it was now a very real situation. Not knowing what to expect or exactly what was in store for me or my body, I figured I would just see how it goes.
After falling in love with the sport over a decade ago, cycling has been my lifeline ever since. It’s one of the few constants and always a surefire way to clear my head, release some endorphins, connect with others, and get grounded again. The idea of not cycling just seemed ludicrous to me.
Fast forward a bit, my regular chamois shorts began to feel uncomfortable just a few months into my pregnancy, much quicker than I had imagined. With an essential part of my cycling wardrobe already becoming an encumbrance, quite literally and figuratively, I felt like this was going to be a very long ride.
When I got pregnant, I didn’t know if I’d feel up to doing any of the normal sports and activities I was used to doing but vowed to do what felt right and what my body was up for. To my surprise, I fortunately felt great throughout all of my trimesters. However, as my body grew and changed, it was clear that my gear wasn’t able to adapt to my new needs.
Since it was winter at the time, I naturally jumped on the indoor bike trainer as a way to get the blood pumping and keep moving. After the first few weeks of riding, it became clear that I had a major clothing problem brewing. I immediately started looking online for a solution because surely someone would have had this same issue and developed a product to solve the issue. I mean, cycling is a hugely popular sport all over the world! To my dismay, I could find no padded chamois shorts out there for pregnant women cyclists. Other women I talked to told me stories about having to wear their partner’s much larger chamois shorts (I personally can think of nothing grosser than wearing my partner’s old sweaty chamois shorts! - Ew!), buying a size or two up of a standard chamois (then just getting rid of them afterwards - expensive!), or having to just sit on the biking sidelines for the duration of their pregnancy. None of those options seemed suitable to me.
I tried to make do with what I had, rolling my shorts down awkwardly, with the elastic digging tightly into my skin…I tried my full bibs but felt like I was being squished in all the wrong places and especially where I needed room the most - my belly! I didn’t enjoy feeling like a sausage in too-small a casing.
Frustrated with my options and feeling like there had to be something better for pregnant cyclists, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Being pregnant is hard enough and your clothing doesn’t need to make it any harder.
I knew this was something that was majorly needed because even in my own network, more and more women I knew and knew of were cycling well into their pregnancies. Many of them until the very end too! After doing some more research online and finding out that this wasn’t just some anomaly, I found that in the past few years, more and more women have turned to cycling to keep active throughout their pregnancies and beyond. Studies have shown that exercise during pregnancy often leads to improved long term health for both the mother and the baby. As a low impact activity, cycling is a great choice to improve blood circulation, improve sleep, aid digestion, and much more.* Women were cycling, but apparel companies either didn’t know or didn’t care about this niche audience.
Part of me thought that no one had tackled this issue yet because no one expects pregnant women to be cycling, or to be doing anything at all for that matter! I often joked with my husband about a ‘pregnant women doing things’ series that just features pregnant women doing normal, everyday things because when you’re pregnant and are just going about your typical routine, you often receive many odd looks from passersby. Somehow even just going to the grocery store elicits comments from randos in the meat aisle…Thanks Price Chopper guy, I am about to pop! Plus, I’ll never forget the faces of the three boomer-aged women I passed while riding that looked at me with a mix of horror and mystification. Were they shocked, scared for me, or oddly impressed? — I’ll never know. One thing’s for certain, I’ve never felt quite like a circus animal until being very pregnant and out on my bike.
So what did I do about all this? Having founded Kaden, a line of women's cycling clothing, this understandably became a mission I was determined to undertake, mainly for my own selfish reasons but also because I felt like no other outdoor apparel companies gave two-sh*ts about pregnant women! And to be totally frank, before becoming pregnant myself, I didn’t think much about pregnant women, let alone pregnant cyclists so I guess I was guilty of that too.
At the time I became pregnant, I was already designing a new chamois short from the ground up. While lots of companies just white-label other brand’s chamois shorts, I was designing one from scratch to have all the features I wanted in a chamois. Fortunately, the timing was perfect to create a maternity version of the chamois short too.
The design modification seemed like a simple one...Just add a tall stretchy belly band to an otherwise normal pair of chamois shorts and voilà! Lots of women who have been pregnant know the joy of slipping into a pair of high waisted belly band pants and feeling the nice hug of the fabric supporting their bellies.. After you’ve been pregnant, you basically want to permanently live in stretchy pants with fabric that supports and doesn’t dig into your belly. I mean, who doesn’t?
So, I modified the pattern I was working on to add a tall belly band and adjusted the front panels of the shorts slightly to add a light articulation underneath the belly region, to accommodate the natural curve of the growing belly. Then came lots of testing and tweaking to get the pattern perfectly dialed, finding the best fabric (and making sure it’s not see-through!), importing chamois pads from Italy, etc. After multiple rounds of sampling, size sets, dozens of emails and phone calls with the US-based, woman-owned factory I work with, I was on my way to making this product a reality. Finally!
Now, I’m thrilled to say that this product finally hit the market in March 2022! My dream is that this product will help women ride their bikes in comfort throughout all phases of their lives, whether they're pregnant, postpartum, or just wanting a little extra room to breathe in the belly area. (I do want to acknowledge that I realize cycling is an expensive sport that not everyone has access to, which is its whole own topic!)
This extends far beyond just pregnant women, but when you don’t have the right gear for your body or don’t see people who look like you doing a sport, you think you’re not supposed to be doing it and that couldn’t be further from the truth. While I can’t solve all the outdoors accessibility issues that are barriers for many people (this is it’s own very important topic too!), perhaps if I can solve just this one, that’ll be a start.
Together, all the badass mama-riders out there can help change the industry's perception of women’s cycling and maybe even society’s perception of pregnant women!
*Obviously, you should talk to your doctor before beginning any sort of fitness regimen during pregnancy.