Saddles for women and trans-masculine people
Saddle discomfort can be a key barrier to increased cycling but people are often too embarrassed to ask for advice and support. BfG non-binary staff member Robin shares their experience
Cycling has been a core part of my life since I started cycling to school at age 14. As time went by, I began to wonder if I’d have to stop due to the saddle discomfort I was experiencing. As a trans person I couldn’t imagine asking for support on this issue.
I began to try to stand as much as possible when cycling but still experienced debilitating pain afterwards. My sister saw this and suggested I tried a body geometry seat. Which subsequently changed my life.
A few years later, before my first cycle tour, I did a bit more research to ensure I’d be comfortable in the saddle all day.
After diving into these articles I decided to purchase an ISM saddle, a pair of Bellwether padded cycling shorts (putting aside the joy I’d gained from overtaking people in lycra) and some chamois cream.
I liked ISM’s gender neutral explanation of why their design is more comfortable. I used their handy guide to select a saddle suitable for long days on the road. When buying shorts I searched for a discounted pair of quality shorts (try Wiggle, Decathlon or GoOutdoors). For folks who might not want the skin tight look, it’s fine to wear a pair of baggy shorts over the top. For those that would rather not expose their legs for religious or cultural reasons, it’s fine to wear a long skirt or abaya over the shorts, so long as it’s not super flowy as you don’t want to risk the fabric getting stuck anywhere.
The saddle I chose was quite narrow but ISM also do wider squishier saddles. It was around £100 which is quite expensive! There are cheaper options out there, like this £20 Bioflex saddle, or a mid-range Selle Italia SMP saddle for £46. Perhaps one day, brands will learn to use gender-inclusive language…
When the saddle arrived I followed the set-up videos to ensure I’d fitted it correctly. From my research into the shorts, I knew airflow was important, and that the done thing was to apply chamois cream before your ride and go commando! I felt like I was being inducted into a secret world of cycling that no one ever talks about, and 20 years in, I was finally a member!
Now I was ready to roll. After some training, I joined a Time to Cycle ride from London to Germany. Gliding off the ferry on arrival in Holland felt so liberating and the cycle paths were AMAZING! We cycled between 80 and 120km each day, our climate campaign banners flapping in the wind, spurred on by the tunes from our mini-rigs and the feeling of being part of a movement for positive change. We were the bike gang; beaming with life, enjoying the expansive views, connection to nature and the elements. We stayed at community gardening projects and heard their stories of resistance. We stopped for sustenance and well-earned swimming breaks enjoying these sensory experiences. On the 3rd day, we arrived at a coal protest camp in Germany and had the euphoric experience of being cheered on arrival. It was an experience I’ll never forget. I felt so free and so pleased I’d persevered with my research into the ultimate saddle.
Now for everyday riding my saddle is great, but for longer rides I would still wear my shorts.
Written by Robin – a non-binary Bike for Good staff member who is part of our Diversity Working Group