Cycling is a fairly intimate sport. Not in the sense that we’re bumping and touching other riders (though that does happen), but in the sense that we ride in form-fitting Lycra, we don’t wear underwear while on the bike, and the entire activity is spent with a narrow saddle between your legs. It can get… well, personal at times.
That means there’s often a lot of stuff cyclists aren’t comfortable talking about, whether with a friend, a fellow cyclist, or a coach. And it’s not a good thing.
“As a physical therapist, but also as a bike fitter and someone who teaches bike fit, teasing out a lot of those unmentionables is something that we do a lot of,” says Greg Robidoux, executive director of the Serotta International Cycling Institute. Especially for women, in a male-dominated sport where most bike shop staff and most bike fitters are male, the topic of crotch health can be awkward.
But that’s just one area we shy away from asking questions about—there are plenty of others. We’ve rounded up six questions you’ve probably never Googled, let alone talked to your riding partner about.
How do I wear a heart rate monitor strap?
For men, where to position a heart rate monitor strap is straightforward: across the chest. For women, the answer might not be so obvious. Margot Clyne, professional cyclist with team Twenty20, spent years wearing her own HRM incorrectly.
“My dad got me a heart rate monitor around early high school,” Clyne says. “I asked him how to wear it as a woman, and he was clearly uncomfortable. ‘Errrmm put it over?’ he responded. And I wore my HR monitor over my boobs like that for years. Unsurprisingly, the monitor never worked consistently. When another female cyclist explained to me this summer that I was doing it wrong, my mind was blown.”
For the record, your heart rate monitor should go underneath the breasts, snug along the bra strap line.
RELATED: The Worst Heart-Rate Monitor Mistakes You’re Making
What should I do about the hair situation… down there?
As a cyclist, you don’t want a wild, unbridled mane of pubic hair because it can trap sweat and odor, or add additional saddle sore-causing friction. But perhaps counterintuitively, you also don’t want to razor or wax it all off, either. “Get some clippers, clip that back,” cycling coach and former professional cyclist Giana Roberge advises. “It’ll be more comfortable.” Pubic hair provides a light barrier against chamois-area friction, and also helps with wicking sweat away from the skin. Heading into 2016, Team Great Britain studied this issue extensively with the team’s female track athletes, and issued a moratorium on waxing and shaving. The result: Their Olympic squad hadn’t seen a saddle sore for six months.
(Are you a spandex-clad weekend warrior or do you roll with pretty urban hipsters? Find your scene in Bike Tribes, a hilarious field guide to North American cyclists, published by Rodale.)
How should a saddle feel?
If you’re not riding more than eight hours a week, you might be inclined to opt for a more comfortable, squishy saddle. Avoid the temptation. “A saddle should feel supportive and comfortable,” says Alyssa Reyna, a certified fit specialist with Mike’s Bikes of Sacramento. “I like to give the example of a ballerina: If a ballerina is dancing on their toes for a prolonged period of time, they’re not going to want to do that on a soft squishy surface where eventually they’ll ‘sink’ into that surface and lose support. The same rules apply for saddles—the more we are propped up on our pelvis the less likely we are to sink in and sit on soft tissue.” Prolonged sitting on soft tissue may eventually lead to issues like pain, chafing, and saddle sores.
These 5 Stabilizing Exercises Will Keep You Strong in the Saddle:
How do I apply chamois cream?
There is no right or wrong way to apply chamois cream, but there are some things you should keep in mind if you decide to start lubing up before a ride. First, should you apply to your skin or your shorts? This is up to personal preference and the type of chamois cream you’re using (a waxier consistency may be easier to swipe onto your skin than your shorts). Second, you’ve likely decided to start using chamois cream because of friction, discomfort, or saddle sores. You want to apply the cream to any trouble areas. Lastly, it’s better to use too little chamois cream than too much. According to Steve Mathews, the inventor of Chamois Butt’r and head of Paceline Products, you only need to apply a quarter-size dollop, max—otherwise you may actually risk increasing uncomfortable chamois-area friction.
RELATED: 7 Chamois Mistakes That Ruin Rides
Should I pop my saddle sore?
Saddle sores come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but often mild saddle sores may appear as a small pustule or boil. Which begs the question… should you drain it? “You’re introducing the potential for problems when you start lancing things, especially when you lance them yourself,” Robidoux says. That risk—for additional pain and even infection—goes up enormously if you do so right before going on a ride. But if you’ve got to take care of it yourself, Robidoux has this advice: “Probably the best way is if you allow something to drain, let it heal, and then get back on the bike.” Regardless, you’ll want to make sure the area is properly cleaned and has time to air out before you slip on a chamois again. As for less invasive remedies, many cyclists turn to antibiotic cream, witch hazel, tea tree oil, and hydrocortisone creams as over-the-counter remedies for pain relief and speedier healing.
Can I orgasm on the bike?
Short answer: Yes. In 2012 the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, conducted a survey of 370 women who reported either exercise-induced orgasms or exercise-induced pleasure. While most (45 percent) reported their first experience was related to doing core exercises, 19 percent said the experience was linked to biking or spinning. However, it might be something that some folks are wired for, and some aren’t: In the study, many of the women anecdotally reported that they’d experienced exercise-related pleasure even as young as age 7 or 8.