It always seems like the best trails are the semi-secret ones. They require a drive out of town and up the mountain, through some back roads, and usually some directions like ‘turn left at the big rock.’ When you arrive at one of these hidden gems, it almost feels like you’re a part of an exclusive club of people.
As I arrive at the trail, I get out of my car for a little stretch, preparing to kit up and get on my bike. Suddenly, I watch someone arrive at the trail and step out of the car already decked out in a chamois. I feel fear for this individual as I watch her mount her bike and ride off. Let’s get one thing straight; chamois time is not training time.
I frequently drive thirty minutes to two hours for the perfect trail that meets the needs of my training on that day. If I ride for three hours and drive an hour there and back, that’s 5 hours in my chamois! What is particularly concerning is the drive home. All the sweat and dirt has penetrated the bike shorts and is soaking into your gentler areas. Please, just bring a change of clothes.
My friends frequently ask me if it hurts to sit on a narrow bike seat for hours on end. The answer is, it shouldn’t. Unfortunately, I’m constantly reading literature on cyclists suffering from a variety of skin conditions due to their tight, lycra outfits. Most cyclists try to lighten the subject by calling most of these skin issues “saddle sores.” What is a saddle sore though? It sounds like a common issue that cyclists are forced to deal with. The reality of the situation, however, is that if you have a saddle sore, you have probably done something wrong.
A saddle sore is usually a boil. If we are truly getting down to brass tacks, a boil is medically known as a furuncle. A furuncle is an infection to a hair follicle most commonly caused by the staphylocci orgamism. Now that I have your attention, let’s discuss how to not get a staph infection on your bum.
One of the first things you can do is pick the correct saddle. People come in all shapes and sizes and so do saddles. There are narrower versions and wider versions. If you pick the wrong saddle you may risk a knee-in posture and feel like you are lacking support. Riding with a knee in posture can predispose you m to certain injuries such as IT Band Friction syndrome. On the other hand, some saddle shapes can cause a sensation of numbness or tingling by placing too much pressure on nerves. It can also cause excessive chafing and lead to; you guessed it: saddle sores. It’s important to do your research before you subject your rear to any old seat. Your sit-bones will thank you.
Next, not all chamois are created equal. A good chamois can make or break your ride. How thick is your chamois? Does it go down the inside of your thigh? Does it cover the entire saddle area? Does it feel like there is extra material? There are many questions that should be addressed. Garneau actually has a page on their website dedicated to “choosing your chamois.” I would go use it.
Now you have your saddle and your chamois and it’s time to get on the bike. A lot of people like to apply some sort of chamois cream. There are a variety of kinds, but you should look for one that has an anti-bacterial agent and that is viscous in order to prevent friction. As a woman rider myself, I feel that it is important to highlight the fact that women are definitely different than men, so we shouldn’t be asked to ride the same things.
Ladies, pick the saddle, chamois, and cream that best meet your needs and body shape, whether or not it is labeled as a male or female product. Based on natural biomechanics, women tend to have weaker gluteus medius muscles and a higher Q-angle due to our wider hips. These are factors that can come into play when assessing what products are right for you. Additionally, some companies dedicate themselves to making products specifically for women’s issues. Petal Power is a women’s specific chamois butter, and Replens is a women’s specific moisture restore gel.
Replens focuses on moisture control for external vaginal dryness. This can become an issue for some women of post-menopausal age. Unfortunately, this issue is known to cause discomfort on the bike, and just because your body is aging doesn’t mean your rides should have to get shorter. This gel uses Vitamin E and Pro Vitamin B5. Vitamin E can help fight free radicals and when applied to the skin can prevent wrinkles. Vitamin B5 on the other hand, can work as a skin moisturizer and anti-inflammatory. Through this mechanism it can help with lady issues as well as help prevent cycling specific problems such as aforementioned saddles sores.
The bottom line is that it is important to be fully aware of your hygiene when partaking in cycling adventures. Companies work hard to create products that are extremely specialized. If you have a specialized need, then please seek out the product. These companies don’t spend time thinking up uniqueness just for their health. Have fun, ride long, and leave saddle sores, um, behind.
Spencer nearly lost his sanity in the off season but it seems to have resulted in his having written you a little poem.
CG says there was a time he was convinced the hardtail was going to be a forgotten relic of mountain biking’s past. Psychic he is not.
Ride & Seek says there’s no better way to experience Barcelona to Rome than from the saddle. We agree with this logic regardless of the starting and end point.