Razor Burned Legs, Cyclists, and a Few Solutions

© Tamara Bellis via Unsplash
© Tamara Bellis via Unsplash

Lady parts aren’t the only sensitive skin we deal with on the bike. Anyone else have some leg/shaving issues? (Hand up!)

Now, before I start this post, I’ll say that this is mostly a female-oriented issue, but I do know a few male cyclists who shave their legs and wear compression tights a lot, so it’s certainly applicable to the gents out there as well!

Anyway. I was having some leg shaving/skin issues on my legs all through December and January, so much so that a sweaty bike ride in tights would leave my calves and thighs covered with angry red bumps that mimicked razor burn. Of course, shaving was also leaving me with razor burn and tons of tiny cuts, so I knew something had to be wrong. I went back to the basics: clean, dry, etc. but the only thing that really helped was finally stopping shaving for three weeks, and then getting my legs waxed.

Now, a month later and looking back, I’m realizing what happened. My legs were so freaking dry from a cold few months, and I was shaving them almost daily. No wonder I was having razor issues! But more than that, I was living in leggings when I wasn’t on the bike. That meant that the slightest amount of stubble—those days I simply couldn’t shave because it actually hurt too much—was making things worse, because the tiny stubble was catching on the tight leggings and dragging it in the opposite direction. No wonder I was rash-covered and miserable!

I know plenty of you out there are like me and live in leggings when not on the bike, and that’s usually fine. But if you do find yourself in a similar skin position, do yourself a favor: take a couple days away from shaving, and from wearing leggings. Go to boyfriend-cut jeans or sweats, or dresses/shorts if weather allows. That was what happened for me: the last month, I was finally able to wear shorts and dresses in slightly warmer weather, and sweats most of the time otherwise since I was at a training camp, and within a few days, my legs were feeling infinitely better.

Typically, I don’t recommend leg waxing to everyone… But if you regularly deal with serious levels of razor burn, it is really worth trying at least once. I’ve found it’s painful day-of, but frankly, I am terrible at shaving and not cutting myself, so I’ve found it works really well for more long-term, and I don’t have issues with razor burn as often when I wax my legs every couple months. It’s a trade-off, for sure, but I’ve found it’s super helpful for me.

Lastly: if rashes/razor-burn are persistent problems for you, see a dermatologist. You might have folliculitis, which is treatable but may require some more intense prescription creams or even antibiotics. Don’t let it go until you’re absolutely miserable on and off the bike!

The 2016 Christmas Wish List

It’s almost time to start holiday shopping, so I wanted to put together a wishlist for the women cyclists in your life!

New, Updated Edition of “Saddle, Sore: Ride Comfortable, Ride Happy” by Molly Hurford

by-molly-hurford-copyI realize there’s something sort of weird about putting your own book first on the list, but the new and improved update is worth reading and sharing, with new chapters on pregnancy, post-pregnancy, hormones, pelvic floor, bike fit, and male cyclist issues, plus an overhaul of the rest of the book. If there’s a new woman cyclist in your life, consider giving her this guide so she can ride comfortable and happy—not awkward and chafing!

Buy it here


Petal Power Joy Ride System Women’s Natural Anti-Chafe Chamois Cream System for Cycling

This is still one of my favorite things to give out. A three-part system designed to clean your nether-regions pre-ride, a fantastic chamois cream, and a post-ride gentle cleanser for down there? Really great—and a less invasive way to introduce a friend to proper chamois hygiene.

Buy it here


Velocio Signature Fly Bib Shorts

I have a few pairs of shorts in this guide, since that’s a huge part of what I talk about and not everyone fits the same in the same pair of shorts, but I do truly love Velocio’s Signature Fly Bib Shorts, with convenient zipper in the back for easy nature breaks. They fit great, feel great, and look great—no matter how long the ride is! (PS: the whole kit above is Velocio and I freaking love this jersey as well.)

Buy it here


Terry Butterfly Saddle

This is a great saddle in general, and you’ll notice that the link goes to a huge variety of the Butterfly, from entry level pricing to ultra-racey titanium and carbon versions. I think it’s a great saddle starting point, since so many women find it fits them well. It’s got just enough padding to keep you comfy without overdoing it and making your sitbones sink, and it’s truly built for women, not just shrunk from a men’s sized and designed saddle.

Buy it here


ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life by Stacey Sims

ROAR just came out and my dear friend Selene (The Fit Chick at Bicycling mag) was the co-author, while Stacey Sims is one of my nutritional heroes. You may know her from the “women are not small men” slogan that she created when she helped start Osmo Nutrition a few years ago, and this book really showcases a lot of that research. If you’re interested in women-specific nutrition, I can’t recommend this book enough.

Buy it here


SheBeest Petunia Bib Shorts

These bib shorts have a sweet halter style neck so it’s easy-on and easy-off for bathroom breaks, plus it’s made with mesh so it’s super-cool looking, and doesn’t mean an entire second layer of clothing for those hot ride days. The inseam is a little shorter than a lot of other shorts, but the leg bands are ultra-comfy and I’ve worn these hundreds of times with no problems whatsoever. (You’ll also notice the super-rad patterns on the jersey and shorts. The jerseys are also crazy comfortable and really well-designed, and very, very stretchy!)

Buy it here


Performance Women’s Sport Print Knickers

I added these to this list because of their amazing price point (on sale for $40) and the fact that with their ultra-thin chamois and more generally sporty aesthetic, they’re a perfect intro chamois for a female cyclist who hasn’t tried one yet. Case in point: my own mom is just starting to ride more and had been going in normal leggings and underpants, but I just convinced her to upgrade to these and she loves them. She absolutely turned down all the other shorts I offered her before, saying the padding was too weird for her. So think of these like a gateway-chamois.

Buy it here

Chamois Butt’r Her’

Another great chamois cream option to introduce a new cyclist to the joys of friction-fighting!

Buy it here



Performance Women’s Elite Flurry Jacket

I love a good winter jacket, and this one from Performance bike has an insane price point (around $100) with some of the most high-quality features I’ve seen on any jacket. Personally, I’ve been loving the magnetic neckwarmer piece that keeps you as cozy as a scarf, and the slightly offset zipper is really quite cool looking, while the zippered pocket in the back is massive enough for anything you’d need on a ride. The bright blue is fantastic, and the jacket is just really warm and well-made.

Buy it here

The Willary Core Dress

I’m a major fan of a commuter dress, since it means it’s easy to wear bike shorts or tights under it and then pull a quick switch at your destination. Much better, in my opinion, than sweating and sitting on the saddle in jeans, and then wearing them the rest of the day. Plus, this dress is super well designed for pretty much any occasion and can be dressed up for whatever your ride entails! PS: Use code RIDEHAPPY for Free Shipping through 12/31!

Buy it here

How Do I get Back to Riding Post-Birth? — Reader Question

From one of our experts featured in Saddle, Sore, Esther Yun:

Postpartum, the limitations on your activity are very different.  There is a great deal of variation in recommended activity and recovery time depending on what kind of delivery you had and any complications of delivery that occurred.

All women should have a routine postpartum visit within 6 weeks of delivery.  Most women are medically cleared to return to normal activity after this visit barring any additional complications.  If you plan to return to activity before your postpartum visit, please discuss your plans with your obstetrical provider.

For those women who had a normal spontaneous vaginal delivery without lacerations or with minimal tearing, it may be possible to return to exercise within days of delivery.  For those that had more extensive lacerations or who underwent cesarian section, there is a longer recovery time.  If you had a significant laceration, it may take 6-8 weeks to heal completely and you should have your laceration healing checked before starting to cycle again as being on a saddle can cause compression, pain, and delayed healing.  If you had a cesarian section, exercise and heavy lifting is not recommended for at least 4 weeks to allow the abdomen and all sutures to heal completely.  Most women require 6-8 weeks of healing after a cesarian section before complete return to normal activity.

When you return to exercise, please keep a few things in mind…

Most women have some degree of period-like bleeding, called lochia, for several weeks after delivery.  It is not recommended to use tampons or Diva cups during this time due to risk of infection, as the cervix is still open and lacerations may be healing.  This alone may make it difficult to start cycling soon after birth.  Please change pads frequently and keep the area clean and dry as much as possible.

There are also many physical changes that women undergo during pregnancy and after birth, including a loosening of ligaments, resulting in joint laxity and hypermobility.  This can make one more prone to strains, sprains, and other muscle injuries, so please ease into any exercise program slowly.  The pelvic girdle can also become weakened and sometimes even separate in the midline.  If you experiencing severe pain with walking or movement, please consult your provider for further evaluation.

Core strength is also greatly diminished because of the stretching of the abdominal cavity.  The abdominal muscles can even separate at the attachment in the midline, called a diastasis recti.  If this occurs, it is important to strengthen the obliques and support muscles to help bring the rectus abdominus (the large up and down muscles most people associate with “abs”) back together in the midline.  Exercising this large muscle group before strengthening the surrounding muscles can result in a worsening of this separation and may require physical therapy.  Your provider will check for signs of this at your postpartum visit.

Most importantly, the postpartum period is integral for bonding with your newborn, establishing breastfeeding (if desired), and learning your baby’s signals and habits.  It can be a stressful and highly emotional time, and support from family and friends is integral.  Many women experience “baby blues” from lack of sleep, but if you are experiencing severe depression, lack of desire to care for yourself or your baby, or any thoughts of harming yourself or others, please consult your provider immediately.  Exercise in the postpartum period can be integral to a mother’s well-being, especially for those who were highly active before pregnancy, so it is important to make time for yourself to exercise once you have been cleared to do so.  A healthy mom is essential to having a healthy baby.

For those that are expecting and those who are new mothers… Congratulations, and I wish you health and happiness in your endeavors!

Can I Ride While Pregnant? — Reader Question

via jasecampbell on Flickr
via jasecampbell on Flickr

Can I ride while pregnant?

I’ve been hearing from a lot of friends (it seems like I’m at the age where a good chunk of women I’m close to are having babies!) about riding while pregnant. Obviously, this is a super individualized question, since some women I know were able to spin almost up until their due date (I’ve even heard a story about a woman riding herself to the hospital when contractions started!), but some women just don’t enjoy it, or find it comfortable, relatively early on in pregnancy. I’ve asked a few of our experts to weigh in, and this is the first answer of several.

From one of our experts featured in Saddle, Sore, Esther Yun:

Exercise is very important for the health and well-being of individuals, and this remains true during pregnancy as well.  There are however, several factors to take into consideration when one is pregnant.

In the absence of medical or obstetrical complications, 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most or all days is recommended.  For those individuals who exercise more frequently and at greater intensity, it is generally safe to continue to exercise at the same level barring obstetrical complications.  For those who are not regularly exercising, it is recommended to work up slowly to avoid undue stress. There are however some caveats to be aware of, and all pregnant women should consult an obsetrical provider (MD, DO, PA, NP, or CNM) before continuing or starting an exercise program.

The recommendation by the American College of Obsterticians and Gynecologists during pregnancy is to avoid full contact sports such as soccer or hockey, as well as activities with a risk of abdominal trauma, such as downhill skiing or cycling.  That having been said, there are many women who choose to continue some of these higher risk activities during pregnancy.  If you do so, please understand that it is against the recommendations and is at your (and your fetus’) own risk.

If you choose to continue to cycle during your pregnancy, please make sure there are no obstetrical contraindications to exercise, such as placental abnormalities or cervical shortening.  There are also some medical conditions that may worsen with pregnancy, such as certain cardiac disorders or lung diseases, so please review any medical problems with your provider as well.

For those that choose to continue cycling, there are some basic precautions to keep in mind.  The greatest danger is direct abdominal trauma.  This type of trauma can cause, at worst, significant risk of bleeding (both fetal and maternal) and pregnancy loss.  If you should fall, please contact your care provider IMMEDIATELY, even if you did not hit your abdomen.  Falling can cause a shearing force that may cause the placenta to separate early, which can be a life-threatening emergency for both you and your fetus.

Cycling indoors on a stationary bike, spin bike, or stationary trainer do not pose a risk of falling and are generally considered safe.  Again, please discuss activity with your care provider before proceeding.

If you choose to cycle outdoors there are several things to keep in mind.  Please wear a helmet.  Always.  If you are an experienced cyclist and continue to road bike, please use caution with cars and avoid busy roads.  For cyclocross and mountain biking, please avoid highly technical areas that increase your risk of falling.  Pregnant women in the second and third trimester experience a significant change in their center of balance which increases the risk of falling.  In addition, as the uterus grows, the ability to bend at the waist to reach the bars and the ability to mount and dismount your bicycle can be compromised.  Although it may not be exciting, it may be safest to be on a bike with a low standover (or a step-through) and higher (or raised) handlebars and to stick to bike paths and rail trails where there is no car traffic and less risk of needing to come to a sudden stop or quickly dismount your bike.

Diva Cup Versus Tampon: Reader Question


Are Diva Cups better than tampons for riding?

In Saddle, Sore, we look at pads versus tampons, and tampons came out the clear winner. But what about other alternatives?

Answered by: Esther M Yun, M.D.

I don’t think there is a clear cut advantage to either. The main thing to emphasize is to not leave either in for extended periods of time.

A diva cup may present a challenge in a race situation where only port-a-potties are available, so it would be wise to find a real restroom shortly after racing. I would recommend soap and water wash before and after diva cup use to help prevent any unwanted bacteria or dirt. It can also potentially shift during a race, so I would recommend that you make sure there is a good fit and seal if using.

A tampon has the advantage of an applicator, which is easier in the above situation. The string should be tucked just inside the opening to the vagina to prevent chaffing of the labia while riding. They can also be a challenge to remove if the string is not easily accessible after riding.

Generally I think if someone is very comfortable with one more than the other, they should use that method. Again, just being sure to be aware of hand hygiene and extended time periods of use.

Hope this helps!

Haven’t bought your copy of Saddle, Sore yet? It’s available as an ebook here and in print here.

Have you had any experiences with Diva Cups while riding? Feel free to share in the comments below!