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  1. #1
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    For Women: Genitals and Saddles

    [though of course men should feel free to share if they have knowledge too!]

    For long distance touring - My wife has a few questions:

    1) are there issues with a woman's genitalia and saddle position?
    2) how do women deal with yeast infections - are they more common on
    long tours?
    3) how about during your period? Do women who generally use pads switch
    to tampons? Is there a tampon risk from biking. My wife doesn't use them, but
    is worried a pad will be very uncomfortable while riding all day. Any other issues
    surrounding menstration we should be thinking about?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Briefly ...

    1) My Brooks B-17 is VERY comfortable. I can ride LONG randonnees and tours with it without any difficulties at all.

    2) Yeast infections can occur when you are riding long distances in hot weather. Otherwise I have not been troubled by them at all. If a yeast infection happens to occur, there are easy-to-use 3-day products which will clear it right up.

    3) I always use tampons ... quick and easy and no problems at all. As for other issues, I find if I take more calcium (I use TUMS as my calcium source) in the week before my period, it can reduce the pain factor. Also, many women become more tired just before their periods start or in the early days of the period so you might have to modify your route or plans on those days so you aren't cycling as much. And your wife might become a little more irritable around then too, so that's something to keep in mind ... have some sympathy.

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    1. If you have a too soft gel saddle and spend too much time with your pelvis tilted forward, you can squish your genitals into the saddle, which can get rather uncomfortable.

    2. As Machka said, yeast infections can be a bit more common riding long distances in hot weather. A good way to minimise the risk of developing one is to get out of the cycling shorts as soon as possible after stopping for the day. Underwear made of natural fibres (cotton, silk, etc) will help as it allows better air circulation. If you can walk around without underwear, even better.

    3. I too, always use tampons, just make sure the string is run in a straight line. If you just let it bunch up any old way, it can create a chafe point. I have used pads, but not for long distances (usually 20-30mile rides). In Australia my preferred pad goes by the brandname Libra Goodnight Flex, don't know if this is the same in the rest of the world. It has wings, and you really need to be careful how you attach the pad to make sure it is stuck down properly and there are no high points to create chafe. The problem with pads is that if it is really hot and you are sweating a lot, the adhesive can let go and you end up with an uncomfortable bunched up pad causing chafe problems. Also, as Machka says, some women find their energy levels are lower during the early days of their period so distance may be an issue.

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    1. My wife sometimes would have problems with this. A nice seat has helped her a lot. She says it is much more comfortable and she enjoys longer rides more now. We got her a Selle Italia Ldy Gel Flow. She really likes it.

    2. My wife also takes her shorts off as soon as possible try to and help make sure she does not get one. We haven't toured together yet so not sure how she'll do with consecutive long days in the saddle.

    3. Tampons only for her as well.

  5. #5
    Senior Member dauphin's Avatar
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    why is it I never know when these are serious threads or just some Yay-hoo trying to cause trouble?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by dauphin
    why is it I never know when these are serious threads or just some Yay-hoo trying to cause trouble?
    I assure you this is a serious thread. Why wouldn't it be?

    And thank you everyone for the answers so far!

  7. #7
    Senior Member Polaris43's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dauphin
    why is it I never know when these are serious threads or just some Yay-hoo trying to cause trouble?
    maybe because you don't take women specific issues seriously?

  8. #8
    Senior Member dauphin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Polaris43
    maybe because you don't take women specific issues seriously?
    Well, let's see...an identical thread posts on the same day that is specific to men. Just seemed a little bit odd to me, that's all. Knock yourself out and discuss it all you like.

  9. #9
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    That did seem odd, but things seem to be proceeding normally since.

  10. #10
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    This is a very timely thread since we just finished a family bike tour and my wife was having some saddle chafing issues. Right now she is riding a women's specific saddle from Serfas (I don't remember the model) but she was still in significant pain on the last day. I think we'll have to hit the LBS to see if there is a problem in fit that is not obvious to my untrained eye.

    Other than the Brooks do women have any other recommended saddles in case we need to change to reduce pain?
    God grant me the serenity to accept the hills and winds I cannot change;
    courage to challenge the cagers I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
    (with apologies to AA)
    24 mi. roundtrip -- Maryland suburbs to DC and back.

  11. #11
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marylandnewbie
    Other than the Brooks do women have any other recommended saddles in case we need to change to reduce pain?
    I've tried quite a number of different saddles in my time, and other than Brooks, I haven't found any to be really comfortable for long distance riding. Brooks saddles breathe and that makes quite a difference!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by dauphin
    Well, let's see...an identical thread posts on the same day that is specific to men. Just seemed a little bit odd to me, that's all. Knock yourself out and discuss it all you like.
    Because I (the original poster) am a man, and my riding partner, my wife, is a woman.
    She does not use the internet much so I posted for both of us - The threads are different
    because the issues of men and women can be very different. It seems a pretty imature
    assumption to jump to thinking I have some odd motives. (you could have also taken a look
    at other postings I've made in the past and seen that I'm likely a person with legitimate questions
    about things)

    Anyhow, thanks again for all those who have responded - lots of good info which I will pass on!

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I'm not sure where you are planning to tour or for how long, but just a few other points:

    Whatever sanitary products your wife currently uses in the country in which you currently live may not be available in other countries. If you are staying within North America she will likely be OK, but I made the discovery that sanitary products are different in both England and Australia ... not significantly, but somewhat. I've never been to countries in Asia, India, Africa, and so on, but I would imagine that if England and Australia had slightly different products from North America, other countries could have significantly different products ... or none at all.

    Therefore, my suggestion would be to buy a box of the compact tampons to bring with you and keep in case of emergencies.

    And incidentally, this is a tip for both men and women ... a pad (even just a thin one) makes a great first aid kit addition. It can act like a large piece of gauze over a larger wound area (i.e. road rash) ... it absorbs the blood from the wound very well, and will protect the wound from outside elements.

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    You have to ride the saddle to see if it fits.

    Even with a women's specific saddle, fit is very specific to the person. My friend let me borrow her bike when I was bike shopping, and it turns out that we hate each other's saddles, even though we are the same height, the saddles are both women's models, and the saddles are the same brand, different model.

    Terry Precision has a 30 day return policy, you can buy a saddle and try it, and if it doesn't work return it or exchange for another one. My favorite saddle is the Terry Butterfly, I just tried a Terry Zero X and didn't like it. Terry has about 10 different women's models. You might find a bike shop that wiil let you test ride. REI also has a very liberal return policy.

    You can't "see" a fit problem with this, you just have to keep trying until you find the right one. Shape is very important, most saddles don't really break in very much (i am not speaking for brooks, which i haven't used). Some ladies like the saddle with the hole, some don't. Also, tiny changes in position can make a big difference, but only if the basic shape is right.

    The most important thing is to be patient, and listen to what your body is telling you, not the marketing literature that comes with the saddle. Even if it takes a lot of trips to the bike shop and even some extra money, it's worth it to find the right saddle.

    Good luck.

    (edit) damn, i swore to myself i wouldn't reply to this topic b/c of the title.... sigh
    ...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    I'm not sure where you are planning to tour or for how long, but just a few other points:
    We're headed to Central/South America. I think her main concern now is that she's always used pads and doesn't feel comfortable using tampons (she also fears they will add to the possibility of getting yeast infections which she's had bad experiences with in the past (not riding) plus it will likely be pretty hot where we're headed, adding to the yeast issues!). I've told her what you all have written about pads not working very well while riding so she will have to decide whether to take the tampon plunge. I figure after a couple of uncomfortable experiences with a pad in her biking shorts she'll reconsider...but maybe not, she's real stubborn!

  16. #16
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    1. You'll probably have to try a lot of saddles before getting one that works. Brooks saddles are a perennial favorite, but some people (like me) have a princess-and-the-pea complex about feeling the hard suspension points on the front and back. Some women prefer a hole in the middle of the saddle, some find that the edges put too much point pressure on the pubic bone. Some women prefer the shorter and wider women's specific saddles, some prefer the longer and narrower men's saddles. The key on any saddle is to point the nose down further than you would for a man. Even men in bike stores who do this all day make this mistake!

    Also, remember the magic of chamois butter, bag balm, and other lubricants.

    2. If you're going to be in foreign countries, I'd recommend taking your favorite yeast infection treatment with you. This guarantees that you'll be able to start treating any issues right away.

    3. I've had no problems with tampons though I do notice that tampon leakage occurs earlier while on the bike than otherwise, even if it isn't soaked yet. Good-sealing tampons like OB seem to mitigate this issue and let me keep riding longer without looking for a bathroom. As mentioned upthread, string placement is an important issue. either make sure it's straight or coil it up a bit and stuff it on in behind the tampon. Just make sure it isn't going to the front- OW!


    I don't see why this would be a joke thread, though the lack of women's forum here seems to indicate to me that women's cycling issues in general are a joke. Point her along to the teamestrogen forums to get a better reception.

  17. #17
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 8bit
    I don't see why this would be a joke thread, though the lack of women's forum here seems to indicate to me that women's cycling issues in general are a joke. Point her along to the teamestrogen forums to get a better reception.
    I don't see why this thread would be considered a joke either ... but then I've discovered that many Americans seem rather uptight about discussing these sorts of issues.

    As for the lack of a woman's forum, there IS one here, but it is hidden. If you are a woman, contact Joe Gardner and he will give you access to it. I, personally, believe that EVERYONE should have access to the women's forum like everyone has access to the 50+ forum even though a number of us aren't 50 yet ... but there are several women who seem to think that "women's issues" should only be privately discussed among women.

  18. #18
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by azitiz
    We're headed to Central/South America. I think her main concern now is that she's always used pads and doesn't feel comfortable using tampons (she also fears they will add to the possibility of getting yeast infections which she's had bad experiences with in the past (not riding) plus it will likely be pretty hot where we're headed, adding to the yeast issues!). I've told her what you all have written about pads not working very well while riding so she will have to decide whether to take the tampon plunge. I figure after a couple of uncomfortable experiences with a pad in her biking shorts she'll reconsider...but maybe not, she's real stubborn!

    If she is going to go the tampon route, I'd suggest she try it BEFORE she goes ... and go on practice rides too.

    I'll also mention that if her periods are fairly light, or if the beginning or ending of her periods is light, she can just go without tampons or pads. The padding in the shorts will absorb the blood just fine, and it washes out just fine later. I find that to be the most comfortable option on my light days.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlowerBlossom
    Your wife might find more women who have experienced the same problems that she has, including the issue of using pads vs. tampons...tell her join and ask Joe or any moderator (blue star at the name) how to get access to the Women's Forum. Once she joins and has access, she can search the forum and post her question. Lots of experience there, and, a great bunch as well.
    She's not so into the internet thing (and doesn't have access at work like i do all day...), which is why I posted for her. But thanks for all the good info. I've been passing everything on.

    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl
    (edit) damn, i swore to myself i wouldn't reply to this topic b/c of the title.... sigh
    SORRY about that! I wrote that at first because she had some questions that actually were
    specific to "gentitals" (she had heard somewhere about problems with labia comfort/rubbing on saddles)
    but it turned out that in the end most of her questions were not related to that. And the "edit" on the forums wouldn't let me change the title - i tried!

  20. #20
    My tank takes chocolate. FlowerBlossom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    I don't see why this thread would be considered a joke either ... but then I've discovered that many Americans seem rather uptight about discussing these sorts of issues.
    That's one of grossest stereotypes I've read yet in the BF. A new record for the BF. Thanks Machka.

    For any female who's interested, there's always the possibility of posting in the Women's Forum, where there's (obviously) a concentration of women with more experiences than the voices given here. Not everyone visits all the forums, thus many women might not read the touring forum. Your wife might find more women who have experienced the same problems that she has, including the issue of using pads vs. tampons...tell her join and ask Joe or any moderator (blue star at the name) how to get access to the Women's Forum. Once she joins and has access, she can search the forum and post her question. Lots of experience there, and, a great bunch as well.

    I don't have any experience with pads. I use very thin liners with tampons the first couple days, mostly to keep from staining my shorts. The only real issue with tampons these days is making sure your hands are clean for insertion....I carry baby wipes for that purpose...and of course, changing the tampons regularly are key. Eons ago, there was a tampon that was too absorbent, thus women could keep them in longer, and toxic shock syndrome (from bacterial toxins) came about. Redesign the tampon, emphasize hygenic use, and, wa-la, problem is mostly gone.

    Knock on wood, this is a rare treat, that this thread hasn't been hijacked into something perverse. Another new record, two in the same thread.
    Feminism is the profound notion that women are human beings.

  21. #21
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    A suggestion for tampons .... if she isn't keen on tampons, I suggest she try Tampax, I find them much easier to insert than any other tampon and the cardboard sleeve keeps your fingers off the actual tampon so less risk of contamination. Tampax also seem to be one of the few brands which remain consistent in different countries. As Machka suggested, she might want to try using tampons before the trip to see how she likes them.

    Using tampons will not increase her risk of yeast infections but long days in the saddle will, because yeasts love warm moist environments. As someone has suggested, it would be a good idea for your wife to take her favourite treatment with her because not only will she be able to start treatment early if she notices a problem, but she won't have the hassle of trying to work out what is a comparable treatment in a foreign country.

  22. #22
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by matagi
    A suggestion for tampons .... if she isn't keen on tampons, I suggest she try Tampax, I find them much easier to insert than any other tampon and the cardboard sleeve keeps your fingers off the actual tampon so less risk of contamination. Tampax also seem to be one of the few brands which remain consistent in different countries. As Machka suggested, she might want to try using tampons before the trip to see how she likes them.
    I personally like the compact Playtex. They also have an applicator that keeps your fingers off the actual tampon (I HATE tampons without applicators), but they are initially half the length of a "normal" tampon when they are in their packaging. That makes them easier to pack into a pannier, and makes them very descrete to use.


    Quote Originally Posted by matagi
    Using tampons will not increase her risk of yeast infections but long days in the saddle will, because yeasts love warm moist environments. As someone has suggested, it would be a good idea for your wife to take her favourite treatment with her because not only will she be able to start treatment early if she notices a problem, but she won't have the hassle of trying to work out what is a comparable treatment in a foreign country.
    Even within my own country I've discovered that some brands work better than others. It would be a good idea to know what works and what doesn't ahead of time ... and more specifically to know the ingredients. If you know that the one that works has 20% of this and 10% of that in it as its medical ingredients, then you can look for something with exactly that or close to it elsewhere.


    Which brings me to another point: medications. Here in Canada, I'm used to walking into any pharmacy and picking up ibuprofen or tylenol. However, I've discovered that in other countries, including the US, UK, and Australia, those two products may not exist (I couldn't find tylenol in the UK), or may come in different dosages (the only ibuprofen I found there came in 400 mg, whereas I'm used to 200 mgs), or there might be shelves full of other products! In Australia there seemed to be a vast array of painkillers at the one pharmacy I stopped at ... nothing that looked like ibuprofen or tylenol, but a whole bunch of others I'd never heard of. My cycling partner informed me that he was surprised to see one of them there because it was banned in the UK.

    And Claritin ... Claritin is a very necessary product to allow me to cycle among all the growing things and dust, etc. out there and breathe at the same time. Here in Canada, I've always been able to stroll into any pharmacy and pick up a box of Claritin with no prescription and no problems at all. However, until just recently, in the US prescriptions were required for Claritin. And in Australia, they do sell Claritin over the counter like they do in Canada, but they call it a different name.

    So, if your wife likes a certain type of PMS pill (for me it is Pamprin), it would be a good idea to bring a bottle of it (in the orginal bottle and appropriately labelled, of course) and to know the ingredients so that when you are standing in a pharmacy in another country staring at an array of foreign bottles, you have some idea what you are looking for.

  23. #23
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    This is the "better half" of tajsss. I had a horrible seat beofre. the seat that comes on the bikes are usually crap and that's what i dealt with for years until my husband rode it and said "Hey this seat really does suck". then we proceeded to go get me a new seat. I got lucky and found the Selle italia LDy gel flow in the bargain bin at a local bike shop. $40 and I have loved riding much more ever since. The hole in the middle has helped to relieve a lot of pressure on my labia and it has also i believe increased the air flow into the region slightly. i almost bought a terry butterfly the other day in the same bargain bin- again $40, but i decided since i'd found a seat i like i'll just stick with it. a seat is really a lot about trying them out though, so whatever you do- don't get a brand new seat the week before you go touring. you need to have time to break it in.

    On the yeast infection note- I have battled recurring yeast infections for the past year or so and it is not fun. I am allergic to most all of the topical treatments and over the counter medicines like Monistat etc. So my only option is the pill diflucan for my treatment, which takes at least 24-48 hrs to start feeling any better. whenever we go on a trip- regardless of if it's biking or not, i always ask my dr to prescribe some for me to take with me just in case. especially when we go to mexico because they actually don't have that drug anywhere in mexico. My ob/Gyn recommended that if i was exercising a lot make sure i was wearing "wicking" material to wick the moisture away from my body. get out of my tight moist exercise clothes as soon as possible after exercise, and take a shower as soon as possible after exercise. I haven't gone on tour yet, but I am going to do this same regimen when we go for our first trip. They make personal cleansing cloths now too that I am sure would work just fine if you can't get to a shower quickly, but the point is to get out of the damp clothes and dry off, or "air out." Also since I had recurring infections (and I mean one a month for about 3 months in a row twice a year) another thing i did was to eat more yogurt, i changed my shower gel to an unscented one, and i started taking a vitamin called Colostrum. It's bovine breast milk (like the first breast milk you get from your mother). it's extremely high in immune boosting properties, so it really helped me to ward off some yeast infections.

    i've always used tampons and i can't imagine wearing a pad again. i just have to make sure the string is placed in the right position. if you've never used tampons before then you need to get some and try them before you go. you also will probably do better with the ones that actually have an applicator, not the O.B. ones without an applicator. if you don't get it inserted correctly it is very uncomfortable and doesn't work like it's suppose to. this is where the applicator makes it much easier.

    good luck and travel safe!

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlowerBlossom
    Knock on wood, this is a rare treat, that this thread hasn't been hijacked into something perverse. Another new record, two in the same thread.
    It almost was... by you.

    This is the touring forum where generally there are mature people seriously interested in cycling who wish to discuss the issues that affect both genders. I have been a cycling educator as well as a touring cyclist, and well over half of my adult participants have been female. I mix with women in groups that are involved in cycle-touring. Women are inquisitive about these issues and have no qualms in asking advice... and I have no qualms in discussing them. Gaining access to knowledge and experience in threads like this is useful for me in that role. My most significant disappointment with BFs was when I, along with all other males, was locked out of what was an important resource for me.
    Last edited by Rowan; 10-05-06 at 02:42 AM.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  25. #25
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    +1 on the usefulness of this thread. My wife generally teases me about the Bike Forums and its inherent nerdiness. This thread, however, has caught her attention and offered several useful observations that she is considering to deal with her issues. So while not every thread is for everyone, chances are there is a thread for everyone.
    God grant me the serenity to accept the hills and winds I cannot change;
    courage to challenge the cagers I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
    (with apologies to AA)
    24 mi. roundtrip -- Maryland suburbs to DC and back.

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