If you’re experiencing saddle soreness or discomfort when cycling, don’t ignore it. Along with the pain and harm you may be inflicting on yourself, your body will try to accommodate for the soreness and this can lead to secondary issues manifesting in the knees, hips or lower back.
For ladies suffering in the saddle, I would recommend working through the following checklist to help alleviate symptoms:
It’s vital that you prioritise care, hygiene and regular self inspection.
1) Check what’s normal for you and monitor this
Perform regular self examinations and be aware of any changes in comfort level on the bike, areas of redness or soreness, swelling or any other unusual symptoms or sensations.
2) Take action
If you do notice any changes, don’t ignore them and hope they’ll go away. Check for possible contributing facts and, if in doubt, consult with a healthcare professional.
3) Get those shorts off
Avoid sitting around after your ride in your shorts. Even on a dry day, they’ll be sweaty, creating a breeding ground for bacteria.
When showering, the aim is to get clean but not sterile. Don’t scrub and avoid using flannels, sponges and exfoliators. Avoid removing all the natural oils and bacteria, which both enhance the barrier function of the epidermis. Use a gentle washing cream, such as Dermol 500, and always rinse well with plenty of plain water.
5) Dry well
Pat dry and avoid rubbing. Wear loose clothing to aid drying and airflow.
Use an unperfumed moisturiser to improve barrier function.
Pubic hair helps with the transport and evaporation of sweat away from the skin. It also provides some friction protection. Hair removal methods, such as shaving, depilatory creams and epilation, are damaging to the epidermis and increase the risk of ingrowing hairs and hair follicle infections. Trim hair using a bikini trimmer
Finding a saddle that works for you is largely down to trial and error. Try a range of saddles and choose one that works best for you, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that wide and padded means more comfortable.
Shorts and chamois
Your kit can have a major impact on comfort. The fit, design and positioning of the chamois in your shorts will vary significantly between brands and can easily explain why one ride can be bliss and the next purgatory. Again, it’s a case of trial and error but, once you find a brand that works for you, stick with it. Also check seam positioning and go for a close fit without loose material that can ruck up and rub.
A common mistake that many novice cyclists make is to wear underwear under their cycling shorts. This, especially if they’re cotton, prevents the technical fabrics in the chamois and shorts functioning properly and will trap a layer a moisture next to the skin. This will increase friction and the risk of bacterial infection.
Finally, don’t forget chamois cream. It can feel a bit strange when you first set off if you’re not used to it but it does make a big difference.
Where is your soreness?
Where you feel sore can give vital clues to the cause of your discomfort.
If you’re suffering from sore sit-bones, this can indicate that you’re riding position is too upright and you’re putting too much weight through your backside. Check your saddle and handlebar height and also the width of your saddle.
If inner thigh chaffing is an issue, again this can be due to an excessively wide or narrow saddle. Also, if your shorts are poorly fitted and rucking up this can lead to rubbing.
Labial soreness is potentially very serious and should never be ignored. Look at bike fit, saddle choice and your shorts/chamois. Many riders think that a cut-out saddle can provide a solution and, although they can work for some, often the pressure is simply referred elsewhere.
Unilateral (one sided) soreness indicates a possible asymmetry, such as a leg length discrepancy. This needs to be professionally assessed and diagnosed with a physiotherapist led bike fit.
Physiotherapist Phil Burt has been at the forefront of pioneering work regarding female rider’s saddle health. Along with identifying and tackling this problem within the Great Britain Cycling Team, he was also a driving force behind a UCI ruling regarding saddle tilt.
Phil leads the Cycling Clinic at The Manchester Institute of Health & Performance (MIHP) providing a range of solutions including Saddle Health and Bike Fit assessments, and cycling specific injury assessments and treatment.
For more information or to book an appointment with Phil please call 0161 641 8300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org