A Chat With Molly Hurford, author of “Saddle, Sore”

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Girl Bike Love contributor Clara Beard recently talked with racer, author and Cyclocross Magazine editor Molly Hurford about her latest book, “Saddle, Sore: A Women Only Guide to You and Your Bike.” Clara asked how difficult it was to write a book about “lady parts,” who she hopes it’ll help and what’s on the table next.

GBL: “Saddle, Sore” answers sensitive questions ranging from hygiene to saddle fit to cramping. When did you realize it was time for a book like this?

MF: Honestly, my inspiration came from other women emailing me questions over the past couple years. I’d also be talking with friends after races or rides and we’d ask each other things like, “did you ever have a weird skin thing going on down there?” And we’d say, “well, yes, but I wasn’t going to say anything about it because it feels like an uncomfortable topic.” The more I realized there were women, even professional women, saying, “I don’t know what to do about this,” I thought, “well, crap, if pro women are having this much trouble imagine what beginner women must be going through.” Then I remembered what it was like when I first got on a bike. I didn’t even know what a chamois was for three years!

GBL: To find answers, you interviewed an array of gynecologists, coaches, professional waxers and athletes. Was it hard to find the right people who understood cycling issues?

MF: Luckily, I have a big network of people from writing in the cycling industry for so long and riding that it was pretty easy to round up a ton of experts who knew a lot more than I did. I think the hardest part was asking them questions, I was finding that I was having a lot of trouble even saying, “vagina.” The hardest part was to figure out the vocabulary in which to have these conversations, and have them in a way that you’re not cringing why you’re saying it and feeling awkward and uncomfortable. So a lot of it was me having to work out my own discomfort and say, “okay. I’m going to write a book about lady parts. And my mother is probably going to kill me.” But I thought it needed to be written.

GBL: I can imagine that part of the challenge would be the stigma society puts on those words, so writing about it in an educational, yet accessible way must have been tough.

MF: It’s funny. I didn’t even think about it at the time, but there’s a woman who’s filming a documentary about women riding in Afghanistan. They’re doing something that could get them killed. The filmmaker said “I’ve been over to that country a lot and I think that we are more sexually repressed than they are.” I mean, we can talk about sex topics but we can’t talk about sex organs for God’s sake. It’s the strangest thing.

GBL: I like how you encompass all riding levels. It’s not just for beginners, but for young, old and even professional riders. Anyone can pick up the book and learn something from it. What kind of rider do you hope picks it up the most?

MF: For me, the junior aspect of it is the most important. When I initially asked people if anyone would be interested in a book like this, I got a ton of responses and one was a guy who said he was a single dad and had a 14-year-old junior bike racer. It was getting to the point where they were starting to hit some issues. So it’s not just women, it’s 12-year-old’s who are just getting into it and they don’t want to ask their coaches, their dad, or even their mom about it.

GBL: Did you learn anything from writing this book?

MF: Oh yes. I will never again stand around in my chamois – not even to make a smoothie or something. I will get the hell out of it very quickly. I didn’t realize the healing power of tea tree oil and I definitely didn’t realize that Brazilian bikini waxes were better for me than any other type of maintenance. I thought they were a little invasive, but after talking to a waxer and a gynecologist about it they said it’s good because it keeps everything really clean. You don’t get razor burn, you don’t get ingrown hairs on a regular basis, it keeps things simple. That was a game changer for me. Again, that’s a weird thing to talk about in public and it’s something i’m still getting used to.

GBL: And to get other people used to talking could avoid all kinds of preventable issues.

MF: Every time I start talking to someone about the book, everyone has a story. The fact that they are even telling me about it is awesome. At least it’s getting into people’s head now. This was the most fun i’ve ever had writing. I got to talk to so many awesome women and got a lot of women talking and thinking about it. I was talking to one expert about chamoises and she stopped mid-interview and said, “wow, if women just knew these five tips when they got into riding, so many more women would stay riding bikes.” That was super interesting to me. That’s my hope. If more beginner women read it, then maybe more beginner women will stay interested in biking.

GBL: This isn’t your first book, you’ve also published, “Blood, Sweat and Cyclocross,” and are the managing editor for Cyclocross Magazine, I’m curious to know how you got hooked.

Molly Hurford: I got started in cyclocross back in college, I was, embarrassingly enough, a triathlete and realized I needed to get better at bike handling. I joined the Rutgers Cycling Team and they bullied me into trying cyclocross. They dragged me to a race, threw a bike at me and made me do it. The rest is history.

GBL: And eventually you wrote your first book. How did that come about?

MF: Cyclocross and writing have become what I do with my life. So I decided to write a book on the subject. One night I was up really late and wrote a book proposal that I didn’t think I’d do anything with. The next day, I was at a bike show working, ran into a guy and mentioned the book proposal. He said, “you know i’m a publisher, right? You should probably email me the proposal.” I did and then later he asked, “how fast do you think you can write it?” I thought, “oh, crap, I have to write a book now!” And that’s how “Blood, Sweat and Cyclocross” happened. It came out the September before last – it was very exciting. My goal in life since I was like, seven years old, was to write a book. Getting to write about bikes is pretty rad.
In fact, my great great uncle rode across the country back in the early 1900s when riding across the country was insane because there weren’t that many roads back then. He wrote a book called “Frisco or Bust” because he was riding from New Jersey to San Francisco. It was kind of cool to get a write a book about bikes like he had, 100 years later.

GBL: Have you thought of any other book projects or are you taking a break now?

MF: I’d love to take a break, but I have a million ideas. I want to write more stuff on biking and more stuff on cross. I think my next project will be “Saddle, Sore” for men. As I explain the book to women and men are around they ask, “do you have one for men? What about when I go numb?” I want to do more with it. I have the website going and I want to answer more questions. Eventually I’d like to do a junior friendly version.

Keep up with Molly on her website  or on Twitter @mollyjhurford.

Follow GBL race contributor Clara Beard on Twitter @FernCoyote.