Protecting the Undercarriage
It's starting to get the public exposure it deserves, but we are still finding it almost 'taboo' to talk about our “privates.” Ssssshhhhh...
Well, I'm not one to sugar coat things, and quite frankly, I WISH someone would have told me when I started cycling how much pain my crotch would be in.
Turning into a cyclist can involve chafing, bruising, ingrown hairs, unsightly swelling (as if it's a vagina beauty contest anyway?!?) and saddle sores that can feel like little mounds of demonic torture. Over the years, I've picked up some tricks, tried a variety of strategies and thought I'd list them out for other poor ladies trying to figure out: why the hell does this have to hurt so bad?
Problem: Bruised butt bones
Solution: Get back on the bike.
Seriously though. Your soft tissue, your muscles, your poor sitz bones (formally known as the ischial tuberosity) are not used to that kind of pressure. There is a natural response to this type of “trauma”, but just as the Crossfitter's hands callous, so will your undercarriage – in its own fashion. Over time, this pain will subside, but it takes time in the saddle. It's just a rite of passage into the beautiful world of cycling.
HOWEVER, having said that, two of the most important purchases (after the bike) that you should make are (1) a new saddle, (2) a bike fit. If you want to decrease the intensity and duration of said rite of passage, you will be wise to find a local bike shop who will help you choose a saddle that's right for you and then follow that up with a fit that is designed for both your body and your racing needs.
I personally preach the Cobb saddles with Cobb shorts. They have a women's specialist who can talk you through saddle selection. Bike fit is a very personal thing, however, dependent on how serious you are in your cycling goals. Make sure that whoever is fitting you is aware of any physical issues before hand. Knee problems? Lower back problems? Neck issues? Be very honest or you could end up putting yourself in a position you're not ready for.
Solution: Try Chamois Butter, Hoo Ha Glide, or the other various products out there to help alleviate the friction that creates the chafing.
And when it says be generous when applying, it means to literally cake it on! This isn't always a fix, though. I'll refer to the above explanation on saddle choice and fit before also explaining that:
Shaving right before a ride is a BAD idea.
Bike shorts with diapers... errrr... very thick padding CAN be a culprit.
Sometimes rubbing will be unavoidable for areas that chafe already (thick thighs, which by the way is a compliment in the cycling world, so this isn't a critical statement)
You should NEVER wear underwear beneath your bike shorts. For the newbies reading this, you read it right. NO PANTIES in any shape or form. Yes, that means commando. Yes, you might have a camel toe. Yes, we all do it. No, you do not look stupid or naked.
How to combat it after the fact:
Yes. Hemorrhoid cream. After you take a shower, lather it all around the area that has chafed (externally). This will help decrease swelling, and I promise in the morning you'll feel 10 x better than had you not used it. Other ladies swear by good ole fashioned Destin (diaper rash cream). Many of us moms have that on hand already. Voila!
Problem: Saddle sores
These come in a variety of flavors. Ohhh, yes. Sometimes they're hard little pellets under the skin. Sometimes they are pimple-looking, and you just know they're full of puss. Other times they look like a boil. All of them have the potential to hurt like hell, and you'd do just about anything to avoid having them touched.
Solution: See the above two solutions and then....
Keep the area clean.
Don't wear your sweaty, dirty shorts back to back (if at all possible)
Don't shave right before a ride (this can create an ingrown hair)
I have used Tea Tree oil to get rid of saddle sores. I have drained a puss pocket. I have pulled out an ingrown hair. I've done just about everything you can think of aside from having one lanced. I'd rather deal with the pain until it runs its course. In my experience, it has almost always been an ingrown hair, which is something that can happen with that kind of pressure/friction in the area. Applying heat compression (warm/hot, wet rag) can help with the discomfort and speed along the process as well. I've also used acne treatment (the ones with salicylic acid) to help dry out the sores.
Again, saddle choice and fit can greatly reduce the occurrence of saddle sores. I noticed many of my issues were resolved upon finding the correct saddle with the correct fit.
Feel free to comment on your own resolutions to saddle sores below!
I pointed out only a few of the common issues that arise for females and our undercarriages. There's not a one-size fits all solution, though saddle and fit are your best preventative options.
A direct word to the women: Don't be shy about this subject when you go to a bike shop. If the person helping you can't address that “area” of cycling, then you need to leave and find someone who can. Saddles aren't cheap, fits aren't cheap. Do not waste your money because someone can't address a unnecessarily delicate subject.
On that note... blessings to the undercarriage and may you be resilient in your rite of passage!