Really, no undies?

Really, no undies?  A few things every female cyclist should know.

Last weekend’s doubleheader race at Alpenrose was off the charts.  Maybe it was the sunshine or the incredibly fun course design, maybe it was the good company, maybe it was the smile on my face as I pedaled to the start line, or the lack of stress and pressure I put on myself.  Whatever it was, I had fun – and I am going to keep on having fun.

Cyclocross is the most fun on two wheels – I am quickly remembering why!

Oh, but on to the real purpose of this blog post – A few things every female cyclist should know. 

I believe there are a few bits of important information that should be included with the purchase of every pair of cycling shorts and shared with every woman who makes the decision to ride her bike.  Information that should be shared but isn’t, for risk of embarrassment or ridicule, or simply because the “right question” isn’t even known.  

If just one person finds a bit of usefulness out of the following, I will deem it a success.

  • No need to wear undies with your chamois.  Cycling shorts are designed to be worn directly against your skin with the mission of keeping you comfy and chafe free.  Don’t mess things up putting a layer of abrasive cloth between you and your carefully engineered chamois.
  • And speaking of staying chafe free…. Chamois Cream, Butt Butter, Cham Jam – whatever you want to call it, use it, every time you ride your bike. My preferred method of application is to apply a generous amount directly to my crotch region / sensitive parts, but you can also lather the chamois directly, before putting on your shorts.  Either way is effective; figure out what works for you.
  • Take off your chamois as soon as you are done with your ride, race, or cool down. Do not walk around in your shorts because you think you’ll look cool. The best thing you can do is to air yourself out;  pull on breathable fabric underwear and loose fitting pants or a dress.
  • Do not put these shorts back on until they have been washed! This is not optional. Do not wear dirty cycling shorts. If you have worn them, they are dirty.
  • Eat more food than you think you need.  I can almost guarantee that you aren’t fueling yourself well enough. The worst thing you can do for your training or racing performance is to restrict calories.
    • Eat a solid breakfast on race day that includes carbohydrates and a little protein and fat.
    • Depending on your start time, you may need to sneak in another small meal three hours before your race.  This should be your last “meal” before the race.
    • Keep hydrating and fueled as you hang out around the venue and during your warm-up; drinking an electrolyte drink is a great way to keep your glycogen levels up and stay hydrated.
    • 15 minutes before the race, take a gel; quick energy that will allow for maximum performance off the starting line. My gel of choice is CLIF Shot Gel, Citrus Flavor with 25mg of caffeine.
    • Start your recovery ASAP.  Set yourself up for recovery success by getting in some calories (protein and carbohydrates) within 30 minutes of finishing your race or workout. If eating doesn’t sound good, make a recovery shake and force it down. I disguise my recovery fuel as a milkshake and look forward to it as soon as I walk in the door. 

My current recovery shake of choice:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 scoops chocolate CLIF Protein Recovery Mix
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup almond milk, Greek yogurt, or milk

On race day, or when I don’t have my Vitamix, I like to mix 1 packet of Orange Mango CLIF Protein Recovery Mix with water.  I keep a couple of packets of this recovery drink mix in my race bag so I have no excuse. Chocolate milk is also a great option if you are close to a market or gas station.

  • And last but not least, Embrocation.  Embrocation is a warming cream made with capsicum that can be applied to exposed skin for cold weather riding.  The ritual of embrocation application has a long history in cycling, and is quite romanticized in cyclocross culture. Embrocation looks very pro when you put it on, but you won’t feel so pro when you want it off. Embro application is not one of my pre-race rituals. I don’t typically use it; maybe I should, maybe it would make me go faster, but to be completely honest, the only time I ever notice the warming effect is when I want off my legs and they feel like they are fire.  This typically occurs when I am driving home from Portland to Bend in the dark or when standing in a delightfully warm shower – turned not so delightful by the bloody burning sensation creeping up my legs. 

If you do decide to use embro, which, I repeat, will make you look pro, be sure to apply it after you apply your chamois cream.  For more details on all things EMBRO, reach out to Matt Fox, he is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to application techniques.