SOFT TISSUE PRESSURE/PAIN: Soft tissue discomfort is one of the biggest comfort issues faced by women in the cycling industry, and can be relieved with the correct saddle.
For women, the parts that make up the external soft tissue that causes the most discomfort in women cyclists includes the labia majora, labia minora, and clitoris.
Labia majora: The labia majora enclose and protect the other external reproductive organs. Literally translated as “large lips,” the labia majora are relatively large and fleshy.
Labia minora: Literally translated as “small lips,” the labia minora can vary in size and can be very small or up to 2 inches wide. They lie just inside the labia majora, and surround the openings to the vagina and urethra.
Clitoris: The two labia minora meet at the clitoris, a small, sensitive protrusion at the top of the external reproductive system in females.
Most women encounter soft tissue pain and/or clitoral pain when their saddle does not have the proper relief channel for the size of their exterior reproductive systems (the reproductive parts listed above).
The soft tissue discomfort can vary from woman to woman. Some examples include: experiencing a pinching sensation with the outer exposed soft tissue; pressure in the entire soft tissue area, which can lead to swelling of the external reproductive organs; overall pain in the sensitive soft tissue. These problems occur when women ride on a saddle with either no relief channel or with a relief channel that is too small for their soft tissue area.
Larger exposed soft tissue areas typically call for saddles with a larger relief channel in order to allow room for the soft tissue to sit comfortably. Women with a smaller surface area to their exposed soft tissue can work with a smaller relief channel in their saddle.