Your saddle is a very important contact point with your bike.  It should provide the support & comfort you need to ride for as long as you like. Problems with compression of soft tissues can really restrict you from enjoying your bike.

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What Causes Compression Issues?

Time on the bike is a big factor in this one.  You may have no issues at the front of your genital area with short rides but as you sit there for longer discomfort becomes apparent and may turn into chaffing, burning, extreme pressure, numbness or pain. Some women are lucky and will never have a problem in this particular area as everyone is made differently so the shape and amount of tissue will be different from body to body.  Your experience will be unique to you.  Don’t put up with any odd feelings.  On going compression of nerves, bleeding or burning can lead to permanent damage.

The more upright your body position on the bike the more weight will be transferred directly down into your sit bones.  As you lean forward this weight gets distributed forward along your pelvic bones so any soft tissue that is in the way will begin to get squashed.  This area of your body has not been designed to take this weight or pressure.  This makes genital problems more common in forward bent riding positions.

To take this problem even further some riders out there experience pubic bone bruising.  This is usually only in prolonged periods of extreme forward bent riding.  A “Split Nose Saddle” can help, along with increasing the strength of your lower abdominal muscles.

endurance padded pant & chamois cream

Time on the bike can lead to unpleasant feelings of compression

How to Reduce Soft Tissue Compression Problems

Saddle Set Up – how your saddle is set up effects your ability to sit on it.  Make some adjustments to see if you can help resolve your issue.  A lot of women experiencing genital discomfort benefit from a slight forward tilt or nose down saddle position, please don’t over do this, the word is slight.  Please read…  Saddle Position – Height, Tilt and Reach

Saddle Shape – what is known as a cut out will definitely help alleviate compression.  This is a hole cut into the middle of your saddle.  Endurance saddles tend to have the widest cut outs and therefore offer the best relief.

Saddle Padding – soft, well padded saddles suit short distances.  If you have increased your riding time and started to experience soft tissue compression this may be because you are sinking too far into your saddle, usually around 30-45 minutes into the ride.  A saddle with a flatter surface and less padding or gel padding is a better choice for endurance riding.

Padding – it may seem counter intuitive but less padding in your chamois has been shown to help with genital compression.  So try more minimal style padding that you can’t sink into and is not competing for or taking up space that your tissue wants.

Handlebar Height – another bike adjustment to consider especially if you would consider yourself to be a more of a recreation rider, is to raise the height of your handlebars.  Again small adjustments can have big results.  If you are on a road bike with drop bars, rotating your brake hoods up and back can be helpful.

Chamois Cream – using chamois cream on your genital area when riding reduces friction and may help with pressure points.

Other Ways to Improve Comfort

To follow is a short list of suggestions that you can choose to explore or ignore.  For weight transfer issues that cause pressure, bruising or discomfort:

  • Be very mindful of your body position and shifting it when riding
  • Improve the strength of your core muscles and legs
  • Lose weight; get bags or packs off your back and acknowledge that if you are over weight this will be adding to your problem
  • Let a small amount of air out of your tyres on bumpy surfaces this allows the tyre to absorb some of the impact 
  • Get up out of your saddle (stand on your pedals) when going over bumps, dips or uneven surfaces
  • Choose shorter rides
  • Choose rides with varying terrain which will change your bodies experience during the ride

Correct technique is a large part of being comfortable when you ride

Comfort & Contact Points

Your comfort while riding is a huge part of enjoying your time on the bike.  It will also keep you protected & safe.  There are three key points where you make contact with your bike.  The seat, the handlebars and the pedals.  It is important to understand how to position your body between these points

For more information see the following stories:

womens endurance goUnders

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