top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoy Ma

Day 17: If you’re in this 50% of the population, do NOT buy padded bike shorts/Baby’s first flat

Wednesday June 21, 2023

Mammoth Cave, KY -> Utica, KY

77.25 mi 3627 ft elevation gain

In today's news:

Vin got our first flat, Joy and Duha performed tire surgery, we showered with a hose, cooked and ate mac and cheese, adopted a random French biker person

Okay, now onto the article:

Tldr tldr: padded bike shorts made one spoke cry, injured three other spokes, and have been disowned by 1/3 of the team.

Trigger warning: descriptions of the human body when exercising that are meant to create the feeling of disgust that I had when I was experiencing this but is not as gross in comparison to the scale of the harms of this male-dominated sport and society

Tldr: padded bike shorts are actually just a breeding ground for chafing and yeast infections that sponge up all your bodily liquids and design for body parts that most women do not have. Do not buy them. I don't know how some terrible but also genius now rich hopefully person somehow found a way to market a product that is only useful for male body parts and harms people with vulvas, they are a complete hoax (from anecdotal evidence). Either way, Audrey and I are doing so so much better after we stopped wearing padded biker shorts and traded them in for normal exercise shorts :)

Me: How necessary are padded bike shorts?

Andrew: Extremely

Me: I don't get it

So, as a quick overview, a staple of bike gear are padded biker shorts/pants which contain extra foam padding around the crotch area that is in contact with the seat. When I first started biking, I thought padded bike shorts were primarily to relieve pressure and pain on the butt area. And I mean, the first times I went on long bike rides (pre Spokes), my sitbones were pretty sore from sitting on a tiny seat for 6 hours straight, but that happened regardless or not I was wearing extra padding or not.

Fast forward Spokes and our lunch break last week, teammate Vin noticed that I'd changed out of my padded shorts into a pair of running shorts, and was surprised that I wasn't wearing any padding down there whatsoever for the rest of the ride. I also recalled the advice I'd gotten from a previous (male) Spokes member about the necessity of protecting the region down there, and it wasn't until later this day while scrolling on cycling TikTok that I connected the dots.

This TikTok, made by a (cis male) cycling TikToker, walked through the process and the pain he went through and the products he used with his padded bike shorts to protect a certain body part. And then I realized, padded biker shorts are not primarily for your butt, but for body parts that 99% of WOMEN DO NOT HAVE.

I had been biking, suffering 10 hours a day of suffocation which lead to itching and chafing and creating a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria with a diaper that sopped up all of the bodily fluids that exuded during a 10 hour day of biking. If you've never worn one of these padded bike shorts before, they are literally an extremely airtight unbreathable diaper.

Talking to the other female teammates on Spokes, I realized they had also been silently suffering through these same issues. All of these issues disappeared the second I changed out of my padded bike shorts, into shorts that were breathable, light, and actually made sense to wear given the sport we were doing.

So, I'm upset. I'm happy I found a solution, but I'm horrified that I willingly put my body through this suffering and harm because I followed the norm of this male dominated sport in a society which constantly is designing products and processes for men first then copy pasting to women to capture greater market share. Or something like that. And now, this product is out there that not only supports a pattern that puts men first, it actually harms and is DANGEROUS to the women it harms--replacing normal exercise shorts with padded bike shorts guarantees infection, pain, injury, itching, and discomfort that would not have occurred before, from personal experience. Symptoms that appeared from day one of Spokes, and that practically disappeared the MOMENT said padded shorts, shorts that were "designed for women", were removed from the equation.

The moral of the story: question everything. Why do you do things? Why should you follow a process or trust something? "Because that's the way it's always been done" or just "because" is not good enough. (By the way, this is what I hope my students learn from us and our workshops! The why is most important.) Maybe padded bike shorts works for you. But it doesn't for me. To me, they will always be a way that society has taken advantage of and steals money from women and taken away my autonomy of choice and what it has done to and harmed my body.


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page