Tushie. Bottom. Bum. Bootie. A$$. Butt. Glutes. Rear. Fanny. Rump. Behind. Posterior. Derriere. Seat. Saying these words out loud brings back memories of butt, fart, and underwear jokes as a child. For some reason, butts are still funny.
No matter which word you choose, cycling can sometimes be a literal pain in the ass. As a spin instructor, the number one complaint during and after a first class is about pain related to the saddle of the bike…either due to pressure in the perineal region or due to chafing related to the clothing chosen to cycle in. I honestly believe that most of our bodies adapt to pressure pain—we simply get used to the fit and feel of the saddle. Having had 5 bikes in my adult life and riding on dozens of studio cycle saddles, I can tell you that most of them are about the same. And, if one doesn’t feel or fit quite right, it can probably be adjusted (height, forward/aft, or angle/tilt) to be more comfortable. For saddle fit suggestions, check this out: REI saddle suggestions here.
For those who stick around cycling long enough to develop tolerance for the saddle, a different type of pain, related to skin breakdown, becomes more of a concern.
Chafing can affect both men and women and happens in most repetitive use sports. Runners and cyclists share this pain…just in different areas. A t-shirt can become a painful weapon when rubbed repeatedly across the skin. See that marathoner cross the finish line with bloody spots on his nipples?His shirt rubbed holes in his skin. Some chafing pain shows. For cyclists, our pain hides in our shorts, but it’s real, and most people suffer silently because talking about ass pain isn’t socially acceptable at most dinner parties.
So, let’s prevent this and save our friends from painful discussion:
1) Invest in quality bike shorts. First time? Do a little research first, then go to a local bike shop and look at/try on all the varieties. Remember they are gender specific with seams and pads placed strategically. Look for smooth seams and padding that matches your needs. There are several materials and types of padding. Buy just one pair. Make sure you understand the store’s return policy. Wash them first, but never dry them. Hang them indoors to dry (the sun can make the fibers more brittle). Wear them for a “short ride.” Then, if you have no trouble, try them for a longer ride. Only after a few wears should you cast judgement. I have lots of shorts that can be worn for short (less than a couple hours) rides. I save my favorites for longer/full day type rides.
2. There are products available to provide lubrication and minimize chafing.
Most of these products are designed for both men and women. There are two basic types—one comes in a tube and is applied like a lotion; the other is in a container more like stick deodorant that is applied directly to the skin. My favorite product is called, get this, “Hoo Ha Ride Glide.” For real. It’s designed specifically for women and has an interesting “cooling” (tingling??) affect. It’s more expensive than other creams, but in my opinion, is totally worth it.
I have recently become aware of a new stick called, “the BOMB,” organic anti-friction, anti-chafing stick. I have only had the opportunity to use it on 40-50 mile rides, as it’s a new product and it’s May in Minnesota. However, my initial impression is good. I like stick products, because they can be applied in a “port-o-potty” without access to hand washing stations. They have a whole line of cycle specific products and a large skin care line that goes back to 1975 which is a long time in the “organic” world. Check out Evening Shade Farms here.
Want more information or ideas on how to solve seat related problems? Read more here.
Okay, if you have a Y chromosome, you should stop reading now. Seriously. There are things you really don’t want to know. Do a new search. Go away. I know you’re tempted, but I’ve warned you.
Girls, here’s the deal. You need to get out of your bike shorts ASAP after you’re done riding. There will be temptation to run to the store or to have beer/glass of wine with a friend. Don’t do it. Take a few minutes to soap and rinse off and put on a clean, dry, breathable pair of pants/shorts/skirt. I like a skirt because it maximizes airflow…and it’s cute! But you choose for you.
Sweat and lubricant plus bacteria left unattended in your bike shorts can grow and multiply, and take up residence in your private space. A long ride can turn into a yeast infection if given the chance. Yeast infections, while not life threatening, are SO itchy, and uncomfortable. And, a yeast infection left untreated can quickly turn into vaginitis (sorry for using that word) or a urinary tract infection. And, to add to the disaster, there’s a chance you smell bad. Really bad.
Mayo Clinic link to vaginitis. (I said it again.)
As my grandma used to say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So, get out of your cycle shorts right away. And, if you think you might have one of these infections, you should seek help from your physician. Don’t be embarrassed, chances are he/she will have seen similar cases and can get you on a fast track to recovery minimizing the amount of time you need to be off your bike.