When you spend a lot of time riding a bike it becomes as normal as brushing your teeth. There’s not a lot of thought that has to go into it, you just get on the bike and ride. After a while your muscles get so used to riding that you have to consciously put a hard effort in just to get that familiar soreness back, so accustomed do they become to the action.
True bike riders, and when I say “true” I am referring to that (some would say) strange breed such as myself that knows only of a world with a bike in it. You will find that these types of riders never spend much time away from being in the saddle.
A long time ago I was given the wise advice to not stop riding in the break in between seasons. At the time I had thought it was a fitness thing, “don’t stop riding or you will lose all of the fitness gained over the season”, but that wasn’t the reason. These past few weeks since returning from a two-week vacation have sharply reminded me of the real reason why bike riders never stop riding – it’s all about being back in the saddle, or as I like to call it, that old familiar ache.
It’s the ache in that place that we don’t like to talk about, so let’s talk about it.
Now I will admit straight off the bat that I can only speak of experience as a female bike rider, so for all of the men out there reading this I can only say that you may not find any helpful tips for your own bits but pay attention because it will help your female riding buddy and trust me, you do want to help her.
So ladies, where to begin? Well the obvious place of course is the points of contact – your seat, pedals and handlebars. These are the pressure points that support your weight. When I say ‘pedals’ that is in relation to seat height. The seat is the obvious culprit but then how do your pedals and handlebars contribute to that ache you get in that part that you don’t usually talk about to strangers? Looking at the male anatomy there is a small but obvious place available for them to sit but where do women find such a space in all of their wonderful folds and flaps?
Keep reading and all will be revealed.
Back in the 80’s when I first joined the ranks of the racing elite the misogynistic national coach told me that ‘girls’ shouldn’t ride bikes because they had ‘nowhere to sit’. At the time his ignorance annoyed me but in hindsight I realise that he had probably never been close enough to a vagina to actually know what it was capable of.
Despite their softness people often forget that these lovely lady bits can take one hell of a pounding, push a human out of them; be cut open with chicken snips then stitched up and ready to do it all again a few months later. If there’s one thing I have learnt over the years it’s never to underestimate the power of a vagina or the woman that truly knows it.
Before I talk about where to sit on the saddle let’s talk about saddle height. If your seat is too high you will get sore from trying to reach the pedals on every down stroke, too low and your knees will get sore – a tricky trade off that for women usually results in them riding with seats too low. To arrive at the correct seat height you can follow the mathematical formula of measuring your inseam leg length and multiplying that number by 109%. This will give you the height that your seat should be when measured from the pedal axle to the top of the seat. The other mathematical formula is to multiply your inseam by 88.3% and this will give you the height that your seat should be when measured from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of your seat.
The easiest way is to adjust your seat so that when you are sitting on it only the tips of your toes can touch the ground.
Next let’s look at the handlebar position. If they are too far away you must lean forward and you end up sitting on the front of your vagina – which may be enjoyable for about a minute but then very regrettable for the minutes to come. If your handlebars are too close you will not put enough weight on them as your weight will be shifted back entirely to your seat. The happy medium is in between these two extremes. On a racing style bike you can put your elbow on the front tip of your seat and stretch your arm and fingers out straight. Your handlebars should be about an inch past the tips of your fingers. On more upright style ladies bikes or sports hybrid bikes you will need to feel your way into position. This will make sense in a second when I talk about choosing a side.
Finally and most importantly let’s look at the seat choice.Big wide seat doesn’t equal comfortable seat. A comfortable seat is one that supports your sit bones. These are the bones you feel when you reach under your bottom and press in. They are the bits that make contact with a chair when you are sitting and they are the bits that you want bearing the weight of your torso. If you get a seat that doesn’t support your sit bones but instead supports the extra layers around your sit bones you’re never going to be able to ride for longer than 30 minutes without screaming out to Jesus to make the pain stop.
Now let’s put it all together – your seat height is right, your handlebars are right and your seat supports your sit bones but those fleshy front bits are probably still not happy. Three pieces of advice here- firstly buy a pair of riding shorts with a lovely padded chamois, secondly make sure when you are riding you get off the seat often giving yourself a break from the pressure, and thirdly try shifting your bits to one side. Most women that ride in excess of 150km a week will naturally do this, sacrificing one lip for the sake of the whole. As much as your sit bones will take most of the weight this technique of picking a side will help preserve the rest of your bits.
Of course even for those of us that have spent thousands of hours in the saddle over the years, getting back into it after a break is always an interesting experience . The first ride is absolute joy, you are so happy to be riding again that you practically hover over the seat. The second ride back let’s you know that the muscle soreness isn’t the only thing feeling bruised and by ride number three you are wondering if you’ve been visited in your sleep by some rough trade.
Stick with it because by rides five and six your lady bits will adapt to this new/old normal and you’ll vow never to leave it so long out of the saddle ever again.
We may be able to take a lovely pounding down there but it shouldn’t be from our bike seats! Happy riding ladies.