Guest Post by Rhian Roxburgh 2 x ETU Age Group Champion
Do you find that you ache after a long ride or suffer discomfort that almost makes you want to stop riding altogether? You’re not alone: thousands of women are riding badly fitted bikes and are suffering as a result. This is wrong. Not only does it take the enjoyment out of riding, it reduces power and efficiency, and it can lead to injury.
In this series of posts, we look at some of the most common problems affecting women riders and offer some quick and easy solutions. Today, we’ll look at saddle discomfort.
Problem #1 Saddle Discomfort.
If you find that you suffer discomfort (sometimes severe discomfort) when riding, you’re not alone. When we first start riding a road bike, where our sit bones rest on the saddle can become a little sore. This is, more often than not, normal and just part of the process of our bodies adapting to riding a bike over longer distances. If, on the other hand, you are in pain or your soft tissue is tender, sore, or numb from pressure, or chaffed, this is not normal.
There’s no need to suffer – there are plenty of fixes that will get you sitting comfortably. So, before you spend any money or start changing parts on your bike:
Shorts – cycling shorts, with their padded inserts, help to give you a more cushioned ride. Remember, they are designed to be worn without underwear. Anything between you and the cycling shorts will chafe. Note that it’s worth investing in good quality shorts – the maxim ‘buy cheap buy twice’ definitely applies to cycling shorts.
Bike Fit – a badly fitted bike can distribute your weight poorly on the saddle meaning that instead of your sit bones resting correctly, your soft tissue may take the bulk of the load – ouch! Even if you haven’t had a professional fit, you should at least look at the basics as described in books, such as Simply Road Cycling, and various websites. Typical fit problems include: a reach that is too long (we look at this on Thursday’s post); a saddle that is too far forward or back; or, most commonly, a saddle that is too high.
Tilt the nose (front) of your saddle down just a little. Normally, saddles should be level to give good support to the sit bones and to keep your weight distributed evenly. Many women find that a very slight downward tilt helps reduce discomfort. Be careful though because if you tilt the saddle too far, you’ll push your weight on to your hands and end up suffering with numb hands and find your bike harder to control.
If you still need a little more assistance, you can try the following:
Chamois cream - this is available from most bike shops and it helps lubricate affected areas and reduce tenderness – these products are popular with both men and women.
Buy a women’s specific saddle. Just like frames, most saddles are designed for men. You don’t need to be a medic to know that there are some big differences between men and women below the belt. Women’s saddles are designed to reflect these differences, and many women find that they give a much more comfortable ride. Most good bike shops will have some women’s saddles and some, such as Specialized Concept Stores, will offer trials of saddles. Of note, don’t just buy a saddle that is bigger and more padded. These saddles are designed for the upright riding position of shopping bikes and the like; on a road bike you will slowly sink into them and be more uncomfortable than you were before!
With correct clothing, fit, and saddle you should find that saddle soreness soon becomes a thing of the past. Remember, that all changes to position take time for your body to adjust to. Next time, we’ll take a look at how reach can affect comfort and performance, and how you can get the perfect fit on your bike.
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Rhian Roxburgh is two times ETU European Age Group Champion, a level three British Triathlon coach, and founder of TriRox Training that helps develop and improve athletes in a fun, positive environment.