You only have to skim a few social media posts to know that I love to bike. It really helps me stay strong, mentally, physically and emotionally. People often tell me that they also enjoy biking but don’t ride too far because of a sore bottom. Ouch! Biking is a lot of fun, but a sore bottom can definitely stop you from wanting to ride. So I wanted to share 4 tips to enjoy biking, regardless of the type of the bike you have.
Love being on the bike
Before I bought my road bike almost five years ago, I biked a lot on my hybrid, however, didn’t think much about cycling clothes, bike seat or products that could make my ride more comfortable. If my butt was sore after a bike ride, I simply didn’t ride again the next day. But when I bought my road bike and began training to ride across Iowa during RAGBRAI with Team Livestrong to raise funds and awareness for their cancer support programs, I realized that I needed to learn how to keep my seat bones and delicate skin ‘down there’ from hurting. Thankfully I had a wealth of knowledge in my new cycling friends, local bike shops and my own reading research.
Being prepared before biking can be really easy, and a game changer to enjoying a bike ride. It also can be the difference between being able to bike often or not. For instance, preventing saddle sores is a big deal. Because saddle sores and tender skin suck. Trust me.
My skin has gone from sensitive to super sensitive after chemo and radiation. So it doesn’t take much to irritate it. A few years ago toward the end of RAGBRAI, I forgot to reapply chamois cream at our mid-way stop of a 50+ mile day. I felt some discomfort on my skin the last 30 miles but kept adjusting my seat and biking. The friction caused a saddle sore on the skin between my bottom and outside of the vagina. Ugh. It unfortunately hurt enough, and I didn’t want to risk an infection, so I had to sit out the last two days of biking. I learned my lesson and now apply liberally all over down there before a ride, even a 5-mile ride. And if it’s a longer ride, I take a travel size packet to reapply as needed.
Keep reading for 4 tips to enjoy biking, regardless of the type of bike you have and the distance you like to go (don’t forget wear a helmet!).
4 tips to enjoy biking:
Wear padded shorts.
The chamois, or padding, on cycling shorts is typically made from fabric that wicks moisture and dries quickly. This helps keep your skin comfortable and also decrease chafing (friction), which causes sores and rashes. As RoadBiker.com explains, the “padding helps keep pressure off the points of contact with your saddle, and also helps absorb the vibrations from your bike tires on the asphalt.” The chamois also helps prevent chafing from your legs moving against the saddle when pedaling your bike. I know, I know, you may think that wearing snug lycra shorts with padding on your butt isn’t fashionable. But you get used to the look and the positive difference in comfort will make up for the self-consciousness of fashion. There are looser shorts, cycling skirts and other clothing that can cover the tight padded liner if you prefer. And keep in mind that the more you bike, the better your butt will look anyway!
TIP: Change out of your padded shorts as soon as you’re done biking. Even if you can’t shower right away, putting dry clothes can help avoid additional friction risk (and cause yeast or vaginal infections in women). Another TIP: skip underwear when wearing bike shorts as the extra fabric can cause friction against your skin.
Stop the friction ‘down there.’
A great way to stop friction between your skin and clothing while biking is using chamois cream. There are a LOT of chamois cream options, from ointments to creams and more. Most are gender neutral. Some are non-greasy, cooling and contain natural ingredients like aloe vera and witch hazel. Apply liberally. I’ve learned to feel where my bike seat puts pressure on my butt and lady parts, then apply chamois cream to those areas. I typically apply directly to my skin and if it’s going to be a long ride, I’ll sometimes apply to the chamois too for added barrier.
TIP: test any chamois cream on your inner arm or even inner lower thigh BEFORE using ‘down there.’
Ride the right bike.
Proper bike fit is critical to enjoy biking. The height, tilt, size and more of a bike seat can make or break the comfort of a bike ride. Handlebar placement/measurement and even the size of the bike matter too. I recommend a bike fit from a professional at your local bike shop, or at least asking their input on your seat height and fit. Or even a trusted cycling friend. There are numerous bike seats available so talk to a local shop expert for advice.
TIP: There are a lot of people who will give opinions on your seat position, riding style, etc. (even as they glance at you for five seconds while cruising by). While they probably mean well, don’t make adjustments based on what a random person says. We all have our own physical adjustments and YOU know best how the ride is feeling (with a titanium rod in place of my femur, my riding style varies almost daily based on how my knee is feeling!).
Get on your bike.
The more you bike, the better your endurance for longer rides. When you first start biking, the muscles, tendons and skin on your butt aren’t used to the pressure. As you ride more often, your butt will get used to the bike seat and riding longer distances. Even in the winter, I ride my bike trainer to keep my bottom used to my seat as much as I do to maintain endurance. But you won’t feel stronger or better unless you get on the bike!
TIP: You don’t have to be a ‘serious’ cyclist to build up endurance and your seat muscles. Even a mile or two at a time will help with comfort.
Hopefully your ride will be more enjoyable with these 4 tips to enjoy biking. What activities do you enjoy? Share in the comments below!