How Female Cyclists Can Alleviate Saddle Soreness
Approximately 36 million Americans over the age of seven rode a bicycle more than six times in 2015. Of course, serious cyclists will spend a lot more time on their bikes. And while cycling can be great exercise, there's one widespread problem that plagues many of these athletes: saddle soreness.
Saddle soreness can be especially problematic for female cyclists. Part of the issue is that the perineal area isn't designed to withstand a lot of weight. But cycling puts a lot of pressure on this area -- as much as half our body weight, in some cases -- and can cause compression of the nerves and blood vessels in spots that are already very sensitive. In women, this can lead to intense pain and even sexual dysfunction.
Adding to this issue is the misconception that most women require a wider saddle than men do. It's true that some women's sit bones are wider and therefore require a wider nylon or leather bicycle saddle. But a lot of women end up choosing leather bike seats that are actually much too wide for their bodies. When a saddle is too wide, thigh chaffing usually occurs. And while some women like the types of bike saddles with a cut-out in the middle to relieve pressure on the main genital area, it can actually result in additional pain and numbness.
Fortunately, there are some steps that female cyclists can take to reduce their risk of perineum pain.
Choose the right saddle
Bicycle saddles are not one size fits all. One woman may love her leather bicycle saddle while her friend experiences pain and numbness using the same seat. A lot of women swear by bike saddles that are typically marketed to men. It's really personal preference and how your body works. The only way to determine the seat that's right for you is to try them out and see what feels best. Once you find a comfortable bike seat that fits your needs, you won't ever want another.
Adjust your bike and saddle
Even if you've chosen the perfect leather bicycle saddle, it still might not be totally comfortable due to additional necessary adjustments. If your saddle is too high or your bicycle handlebars are too close, you may still get sore pretty quickly into a ride. Your saddle should either have no tilt or should be titled slightly downwards. A tilt adjustment of just a degree or two can make a world of difference in your comfort level.
Wear bike shorts
There's a reason why bicycle shorts are recommended. Other types of clothing may bunch up or won't sit right, leading to pressure on certain parts of your body. Bicycle shorts are made to fit tight and lie flat, thus preventing the wrinkle issue. Seamless bike shorts with padding are definitely your best bet. They'll feel much more streamlined and comfortable during long or intense rides.