A little history, and some helpful cycling comfort tips for women.
No wonder we couldn’t get comfy for so long! Now at last we have equipment, clothing and know-how to help cycling women achieve the comfort we deserve.
Women on Bikes: The early years.
• A threat to health, morals, and reputation.
• Physicians warned of “detriment to the organs of matrimonial necessity.”
• Women were encouraged to ride sidesaddle.
The Dawn of Rational Dress
• Women’s first step toward cycling comfort, as advocated by the Rational Dress Society:
• Bloomers – and freedom – to the rescue.
• The death of the corset, and the birth of the “loose” woman.
Anatomical differences & how they affect cycling comfort
• Wider hips – our sit bones are approximately 1/2-3/4” wider than a man’s so our saddles better be, too.
• Soft tissue areas are very vulnerable to pressure against the rigid nose of a saddle so we need relief up there.
• Our upper body muscles are generally smaller and placed differently causing us to sustain a higher degree of force in neck & shoulders when leaning forward.
• Our quads are significantly stronger than our hamstrings, putting ligaments at higher risk of injury (exacerbated by cycling). We’re 4-5x more likely to tear our ACLs than the guys are – bummer!
What to do if you’re uncomfortable on your bike…
Neck & shoulder pain?
• You might be too stretched out. Your bike position could use some altering.
• Buy a shorter stem or try rotating the handlebar slightly back toward you so you can ride more upright.
Feeling cramped and wobbly?
• Rarely a problem for women, but if so, scoot your saddle back slightly. If you’re maxed out, try a setback seatpost.
Having knee issues?
• If it’s in the front of your knee, it might mean your saddle is too low; if in the rear, your saddle is too high. Make TINY adjustments and go for a ride.
Saddle pain, sores or discomfort?
You’re not alone – this is the #1 complaint among women.
• Swap out the saddle that came with your bike and get the right saddle for you. Needs to support your sit bones and relieve pressure up front.
• The myth of softness is that softer = more comfortable. The reality Is that after an hour on a pillow, you’ll be ready to ditch the bike.
• Cut outs, gel and narrow noses. These are extremely effective solutions to saddle comfort.
• Positioning: height, fore/aft, tilt. These adjustments (one at a time only) can make a huge difference.
Tricks of the cycling trade…
• Invest in good fitting bike shorts with a ventilating, non chafing chamois.
• Eliminate bagging, bunching, extra fabric in the crotch area.
• Get off and stretch – 6 deep knee bends per hour
• Hydrate with water and electrolyte replenishment to avoid cramps.
• Immediately get out of your shorts after the ride.
• Treat yourself to the occasional massage – and embrace yoga to build flexibility and reduce injuries.
Lynn Munson says
Love the photos of women cyclists from the early days.