Things Your Bike Shop Probably Didn’t Tell You :: Sex in the Saddle and Other Unmentionables



It just feels wrong to talk about certain things with bike shop guys.  Like, for example, anything to do with my woo-hoo. Which is unfortunate considering how much time I spend in the saddle.

Nether regions take considerable abuse on long rides and, actually, should be considered. I don’t want to start an argument here, but tending our tissues might even be more important than finding jerseys that match our bikes. Trust me. A cute jersey doesn’t seem nearly as alluring when numbness and chafing are involved.

So let’s talk girl talk. A few things you should know:

1. Your sex life depends on your seat and handlebar positions. Seriously? The Journal of Sexual Medicine studied female cyclists who rode at least 16 kilometers a week, four weeks per month.

They found that riding with handlebars lower than the seat increased pressure and decreased sensation, which reduced ability to detect vibration. Lead study author, Dr. Marsha K. Guess, of Yale University School of Medicine is quoted as saying, “Chronic insult to the genital nerves from increased saddle pressures could potentially result in sexual dysfunction.”

As if we don’t already have enough trouble lighting the fire.

So girls, get yourself a custom bike fit. (Don’t just raise your bars because you might jack up your neck muscles.) Whether you tell the shop guy why you want a fitting is up to you. But this I know. Your partner will be pleased.

2. Chamois cream. Buying chamois cream is kind of like buying tampons from a male clerk but, in truth, bike shop guys won’t bat an eye when you toss a tube of lube on the counter. Think about it. For once, we have the anatomical advantage. Guy cyclists have been dealing with nether-region woes for years.

Chamois cream acts as a film of protection between your bare areas and chamois (the diaper-like pad in cycling shorts). It lubricates, reduces friction and, depending on the brand, might include anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.

Getting the chamois right in the first place is vital (and worthy of an article all its own) but it’s not going to be enough, especially as you increase riding time and mileage. The first time you come home with chamois seams cut into your buns, you’ll know what I mean.

Try different creams and see what works best. DZNuts Bliss and Chamois Butt’r are two popular brands. You’ll find an array of soothing, tingly and/or organic options.

3. This might seem obvious but…leave your underpants at home. Our women’s cycling clinics tell me this isn’t as obvious as it seems because our chamois cream talk is frequently interrupted by someone who says, “Oh, I don’t need chamois cream. Probably because I wear my underwear under my shorts.”

This usually causes a stir as some are flabbergasted while others try to defend the underwear-er.

Bike shorts aren’t just lycra. There is a reason they aren’t cheap. Scientists have thought about your tender tissues and every year, clothing collections include newer, better and drier fabrics and chamois.

Your polka-dot hipsters negate whatever benefit millions of dollars of research produced.

I know. It feels a little squiggy to go commando but I guarantee you, by the end of your first ride you’ll get it. Besides, women have shunned panty lines for years. Let’s not bring them back.

By Carrie Schmeck – Redding, CA

  • Kaitlyn

    Number 1 is so true! I just got a professional bike fit today and the guy mentioned my handlebar to seat height. This article couldn’t be more timely for me!

  • Carrie Schmeck

    Awesome Kaitlyn. We aim to please! :-)

  • Sarah

    Have you looked at all the data and info about ischial tuberosity width and saddle “sit zone” width?

    So many of these issues would be solved simply by having a saddle that fits.
    Wide enough for the sit bones
    Not too domed
    Narrow enough nose
    Minimally required padding
    Cut-out if needed

    Team Estrogen has many discussion threads about saddle fit. You too can pull yourself out of the murk and dismay of chamois, saddles, and butt cream.

    If the saddle fits, you don’t need the sh*t.

    • Sarai Snyder

      Don’t worry, the saddle talk is coming! We just wanted to start the conversation…

  • KYouell

    I feel very fortunate that when I started biking all the time it happened to be on a Bakfiets. Dutch upright posture, too heavy to start riding a lot right away, etc. I only recently started riding more that 10 miles before a break to let the kids get out and run around and that’s when my delicate tissues started telling me I’d better think about them. I’ve found 2 solutions that have helped me.

    First, diaper cream works, should you happen to already have some of that around. Second, boy shorts-style underwear. This is not to counter your don’t wear underwear with bike shorts advice, but I don’t wear bike shorts. I bought some boy shorts because I thought they were cute and BAM all ouches gone even when I forgot the cream.

    Great post! I love that the conversation is happening.

    • Sarai Snyder

      Great idea… diaper cream is the same idea as chamois cream but much more handy for some! Lots of bike packers use it because they can get it at any store.

  • Madeleine

    Thanks! Very informative!!

  • littlewheel

    Having just broken in new saddle and learned the hard way about all the above. Get fit. Get creamed. Save your tushy!

  • Suzie

    All So true. I’ve recently had issues due to riding in the heat and had trouble finding info for women riders. Luckily Ive had good female coaches and found Gale Bernhardt’s bicycling for women and I had no idea how much we need to consider. Highly recommend her book.

  • Marion

    “female cyclists who rode at least 16 kilometers a week, four weeks per month.” That’s just under 10 miles. My commute is 4 miles one way. I’m not going to wear shorts to ride to work or anywhere else, unless I’m out specifically to ride. Sooooo… Now what?

    • Sarai Snyder

      I think the point they are trying to make is that most longer rides are on bikes that have a more aggressive positioning…

      For shorter commutes a bike with a more upright position usually works really well. This takes the pressure off of sensitive areas and you probably won’t need padded bike shorts. If you are still unsure, get a good bike fit and a saddle that fits your size and style of riding. You can have a fitting done on any type of bike!

      • Marion

        Hmm, thanks! I guess that changes my choices when I start shopping for a new city bike.

  • aly

    My husband finally got me super serious on the road bike. Newly married this year, I took on an ms150… and talk about breaking down the walls on embarrassment and personal issues real fast. He has been riding since he was 13, runs a bike shop here in town… But he says living with a female rider has opened his eyes to our issues. Its a man’s world. I cannot come across a lot of women cycling blogs or forums that touch on the nether regions and what nots… I found your article to be right on…I wanna see more. Thanks

  • hillary

    thank you for starting the conversation! Now on to the hard part: getting the right bike fit!

  • andrea

    Awesome information! What are people’s thoughts on layering? I am on a bit of a budget and getting into the sport… is wearing a pair of bike shorts, with running tights over them kosher? Is there anything I need to worry about (in terms of chaffing, etc)?

    • Sarai Snyder

      Andrea, tights over bike shorts is a great idea! They might droop a little in the back but that is a small price to pay to stay warm! You might also look in to leg warmers, the price is usually right and you’ll find they come in handy in all kinds of weather.

      As far as chaffing, well, that is a potential for any garment. You’ll never know until you try. A good chamois creme or body butter can help with this too! Keep us posted on your riding!