The Real Reason Women Don’t Cycle?

(July 4th 2012)

Taking up cycling this year, I did notice that most other cyclists I saw on the road were men. On the cyclepaths I do see women, but on the roads it’s mainly men. At a bike shop, I asked if they had any long sleeved women’s jerseys, it turned out they had only two, despite having an entire room dedicated to clothing.  Is this discrimination, or simply lack of consumer demand? Looking on Google, I found some statistics from America, showing that only ¼ of cycle commuters are women. So what’s going on?

I’ve heard many women say to me “Oh, I can’t cycle, it would make my thighs too big”. Come on girls, it doesn’t make them that much bigger! In fact, it’s a hi-reps & low resistance exercise that tones muscle rather than building bulk – which I’ve heard is what most women think they are after anyway. I’m not convinced it’s the leg thing.

So, why don’t more women cycle?

My Chinese Grandmother: You don’t cycle with an umbrella.
Me: No. Why?
My Chinese Grandmother: You get arrested!
(photo credit- Richard Masoner via flickr)

After 6 months of increasing my bike riding, I think I might have found the answer.  If you mostly ride distances of more than 10 miles, you’re going to want a road bike really. And if you’re a woman riding a road bike, you’re basically leaning forward and sitting on your genitals aren’t you. Ouch!

Obviously some women don’t have a problem with this. And there must be men out there who struggle with sensitive bums too. But as a woman you’re onto a loser in the first place if you’re less sitting on your bum than on your cl%#*!&s!

I’ve never heard women talk about this problem, and I myself have never had a problem… until now. The reason it’s happening now is because I’m riding a road bike and I’m riding further. What’s worse is that nobody talks about this! It’s hard to go to a bike shop with mainly male staff and say “Hi, my genitals keep bleeding. Any advice?”

I’ve tried a few things, like getting padded shorts, but nothing’s solved the problem. In honesty it could be a deal breaker for me. I’d give up cycling if this proved unsolvable. Have many women come to this same conclusion and just never mentioned the real reason that they don’t cycle? Have some women even had crotch problems the first time they tried riding, so have given up before they’ve even started?

Having done some research on the internet, I found a few useful articles and the verdict is as follows: Most people, men and women alike, can ride very comfortably with the right saddle for them. I say again: the right saddle for THEM. Everyone’s bum is a different shape, so you need to buy a saddle that fits you, both in terms of shape and density. And actually, if the saddle fits, then you won’t be sitting on your delicate bits at all, but on your “sit bones”. This sounds much better.

But here’s the downside; apparently you can’t simply figure that out in a test ride in the shop – it takes a few weeks to know if you will get on with a particular saddle.  This process could be potentially painful and expensive and frankly, that too makes me feel like giving up. Imagine buying and trying a new saddle every month! What if it took you a few tries to find the one that fitted you? It would make your diary look like this:

January  – Crotch pain
February – Crotch pain
March – Crotch pain
April – SUCCESS!!

I just don’t know if I can go through with it.

A possibly alternative is as follows: A leather saddle
http://www.brooksengland.com/catalogue-and-shop/saddles/touring+&+trekking/B17+Imperial/

At £90, buying one of these would be an expensive mistake if it didn’t fit. However, leather saddles are not only meant to be the most comfortable kind of saddle, they are also much more likely to fit since they mould to the shape of your bum during a 200mile “break in” period. Possible drawbacks are that there’s still a chance it might not fit, but you’d be unable to tell until you’d fully broken it in, thus making it impossible to return it.  Could be expensive, but then who can put a price on genital welfare after all?

-Full-Time Fixie

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “The Real Reason Women Don’t Cycle?

  1. Reblogged this on Full Time Fixie – A Cycleblog and commented:

    what’s this?

  2. ian

    This was very informative. After just the title of this post, I was going to guess the commonly poor frame geometry for women’s bikes followed by helmet-hair, but your reason is far more of a detractant. Speaking of helmet-hair though, what do you do keep your hair presentable after riding? Thanks. Hope your trip is going well.

  3. brett

    My gf is having the same problem and Im having a really hard time figuring out how to fix it. Unfortunately, we both came to the same conclusions. Either trying them out very slowly (through the mail) or buying a super expensive one and hoping. Will let you know if any other option makes itself available.

    • Hey there. The conclusion I came to was to get a Brooks B17 womens saddle, with a cutaway. It was more expensive to get the cutaway and the sales assistant advised me that I wouldn’t need one since the saddle would break in anyway. I responded by saying ‘yes, but there’s NO WAY I’m breaking in that middle bit!’ That worked for me straightaway and even without breaking it in it was immediately more comfortable than my previous saddle.

      I think I made that decision based on two things. Firstly, if I ended up liking the 2nd or 3rd £40 saddle I bought, I may as well have bought a £90 Brooks instead. Secondly, I’m wanting to ride long distances – up to 100miles in a day eventually. I got the impression that many of the non-leather racing saddles were more suitable for distances of 20-40miles, and I didn’t want to find out 60-80miles into a ride that I’m made the wrong decision.

      Hope that helps. BTW – it’s best to get the “honey” or “natural” coloured saddle if you ever ride in jeans because the black ones stain any trousers that are not black.

  4. Ginny

    Amen! I’ve worked in a community bike shop for years and had men tell me that they need seats with holes in them more than I do. Funny, I’ve never seen a man ride around balanced on the tip of his dick…
    After a lot of research i found this gem: The “Selle SMP womens TRK.” You can find it for under $70 online. Because it splits and hooks downward in front it feels almost like a split or noseless saddle, but you don’t lose any thigh-steering. It stays completely OUT of your “BUSINESS.”

  5. Lindsey

    January – Crotch pain
    February – Crotch pain
    March – Crotch pain
    Rest of your cycling life – SUCCESS!!

    I had this problem (no bleeding though) when I started. I went through 3 seats in as many months. If you love biking, it’s worth it to stick it out until it works.

  6. Pingback: Save more than £4000 per year by cycling instead of driving? | Full Time Fixie - A Cycleblog

  7. Your post made me realise that I wasn’t the only one!
    Evangeline

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