One of the most common questions we get asked is around what to do about a soreness 'down there'.
First thing's first: if your discomfort involves soft tissue pain or numbness in the front - that is to say NOT your sit bones, but your genital area - you'll need an adjustment of your seat angle, height, fore/aft or the width/shape of the seat itself, because that is not normal, nor is it something you should put up with.
Also, as a disclaimer, it isn’t unusual to find a change in shape or size of your, erm, soft bits, when you’re riding a bike regularly. Some 'smushing' is normal, but if you’re worried about pain or specific changes you should pop into your GP or OBG for a check up.
Remember, there is no such thing as normal genitals. There's only 'normal for you'. Also make sure you talk to your health professional about hormonal changes at different phases of your life, as these can cause changes also.
If you're just getting started, and your discomfort doesn't involve numbness or pain in your front soft tissue, it's important to give yourself time to create some conditioning to the saddle. If you're experiencing butt soreness after a ride, whether it's on the road, trails or the trainer, there are two really simple things you can do straight away to really help.
The first is to skip the tight undies, the tight jeans, the tight pants. Not always, cos hey, we like skinny jeans as much as anyone, but directly after your ride, try and let your crotch area air out a little.
The second is to sit down, watch some Netflix/drink your coffee and pop some frozen peas down there. Frozen peas work a treat as they are malleable to fit your shape, corn will work too, or you can use a good old bag of ice cubes.
This week's training tip comes from world champion cyclist and Olympian Kate Bates for alleviating soreness 'down there'.
"Everybody at some point experiences a little bit of soreness... this is especially true when you're doing a lot of riding on a trainer where you're actually not moving around as much as you would on the road for things like stopping at traffic lights and intersections, getting out of the saddles, and general shifting around in the normal course of a ride."
It’s pretty common (and totes normal!) to have a sore butt when you start riding or significantly increase the amount of riding you’re doing.If the pain or pressure is around your sit bones, it's probably a conditioning issue. Sitting on any seat for a length of time, whether it's an office chair, a bike seat or even a saddle for horseback riding, take some getting used to.
Aside from conditioning, here are Kate's top tips this week to alleviate sit bone soreness:
In the normal course of going for a ride - whether it's on the road or the mountain bike trails - you get out of your seat a lot, whether you realise it or not.
On the road, you get off the seat everytime you come to a stop. So that would be traffic lights, intersections, resting, stopping to eat or drink, and waiting to regroup. To alleviate additional pressure caused by riding on the trainer, it's important to try and get out of your seat.
"It can be awkward on the trainer but you need to stand up - take the pressure off and let the blood flow return!", Kate says.
Just like if you wore a pair of pants crooked, When you sit on the saddle – check you are straight. Wearing your knicks incorrectly means the seams are sitting incorrectly and the chamois is sitting incorrectly! However minor this might seem, cycling is an activity that has a lot fo repetitive movements of your legs.
Think about how many times your legs move up and down in just a short bike ride to the shops!
"Make sure the centre seam of your knicks at the back are lined up with the centre of your butt crack", Kate reminds us. "Then, when you jump on the bike, run your finger down from the seam on your knicks to the centre of your saddle (which will often be either a gap or a point) and make sure they line up."
There are some clothes that are designed to be floaty and loose when you wear them - take shift dresses and maxi skirts for example. Then, there are other clothes that are designed to fit against your body closely, such as corsettes, skinny jeans and, of course, cycling clothing.
Put simply, your butt will hurt less if your knicks are flush on your skin, as it helps to prevent any chaffing or unnecessary readjustment when you get out of your saddle and sit back down. Also remember that you may require firmer or loose knicks depending on that time of the month, whether you're pregnant, whether you've lost or gained weight recently... Lots of factors may impact how firm your knicks fit.
When you put your knicks on, do a little bend and stretch to make sure your knicks are scooched right up against your body!
We often jump on the bike in the morning straight out of bed, or at night after a day behind the desk, without a lot of preparation or warm up.
"This is not what we’d call optimum priming for one's body!", laughs Katey.
To get the blood flowing throughout your body, it pays to do a few minutes of activation before jumping on the bike. It doesn’t have to be a complicated calisthenics routine, even a bend and stretch routine is sufficient to make sure those good juices are flowing!
Depending on your knicks, the age of them or how many times they’ve been through the washer, your chamois may get a little tough. This is normal, (and replacing your knicks isn't a bad idea) but there is an easy fix: chamois creme!
Despite its name, chamois creme is applied directly to the skin. There are some great products on the market you’ll find at your bike shop, or alternatively you can use some heavy duty moisturiser like sorbelene.
"Pop your knicks on, reach on down there, and apply directly to your skin... then wedge that chamois right up to your skin and voila!"
The best cycling knicks include a quality chamois (the pad itself), but how do you know what that means?
"Good quality cycling knicks are quick drying and made from a high wicking material. They're also made of a stretchy fabric so that there’s no flapping about. Most importantly, good quality cycling knicks will have a good quality anti-bacterial chamois pad."
Essentially, good quality cycling knicks feel as good as they look. A great design alone won't stop your tushy from getting sore, because if the fabric and the pad aren't high quality, it's like wearing a pair of cheap shoes... they just don't do the job.
One of the things people don't necessarily think about right away is the integrity of their saddle.
Just like your knicks, and any other part of your bike, the longer you've had your saddle and the more you ride, the more worn the foam inside the saddle gets. If you’ve had that saddle for a while and you’re feeling a bit uncomfortable, it may be time to replace it.
"A big sign you need a new saddle is if you’ve always been reasonably comfy but all of a sudden aren’t… then it may be time to check the padding on your seat.", says Kate.