Uncomfortable cycling clothes

It all started about 2.5 years ago when I wanted to buy a padded bike shorts in a large local bike store. The saleswoman gave me the model with which most women are satisfied: thick padding, no straps, tight elastic waist and leg. I asked the saleswoman how I would clean the padding if something should go wrong during my period. She looked at me with a puzzled look and said that no one had ever asked that before. She called her colleague and she couldn’t give me an answer either. I bought the pants, was dissatisfied with them, but that’s the way it is with sportswear. They have to be uncomfortable, right? 

By Laura Pöhlmann 

I was dissatisfied, so I searched deeper on the internet, talked to other women and found out that there were products created for women and their needs. So I crawled further and further into my bubble. I talked openly about Saddle Sores, read books about how female hormones affect athletic performance, and exchanged ideas with other women about pubic hair and cervical mucus. I was and am on topic. But hold on, it’s not that simple and easy out there! My social media bubble started to burst at some point.

For women, or not?

I realized that I was not the focus of the vast majority of companies that produce for or around cycling. I was too enlightened, questioned and made demands. I started to get annoyed by the same women, or rather types of women, who were supposed to stand for the sport. No quirks, no edges, no values. Young, pretty, smiling. Slim, wealthy, not sweating.

It’s completely ignored that we age, we change, and our bodies are as diverse as our circumstances. I realized that many brands weren’t advertising with women for women, they were attracting new male clientele with it because their products are absurd. Absurdly short, impractical, only available in three sizes. These products are available in normal bike shops and I wonder what role these outfitters have for our world as women in cycling. Would more women get on their bikes if the clothing for them also fit their needs? What if sports magazines wrote about the fact that fertile women bleed once a month, that some get pregnant, that we age and thus menopause is upon us at some point, and that this has an impact on cycling? What if kids learned in gym class that we are strong when we have our period, how our hormone balance affects our athletic performance, and that we are not the weaker sex. It’s always about the fitness mindset, about faster further and more perfect. But it should be about education , encouragement and inclusion. Our bodies are insane power machines, women perform so hard, are brave, strong and diverse. 

Without pee, without me

I am firmly convinced that no man would buy a pair of cycling shorts in which he can not just pee quickly. Somehow it’s ingrained in our minds that women always compromise somehow. We need to stand up and make it clear to ourselves and others that a pee-friendly bib needs to be standard! We make ourselves small and put our needs on the back burner. A pee-friendly, functional and comfortable cycling bib is more than just a cycling bib. It stands for the fact that we are taken seriously as women! Our bodies are accepted, we do not have to be ashamed, we can openly express what and where just a problem. Because as long as women make themselves smaller, we will not be equal.

About Laura Pöhlmann  (born 1988, based in Ingolstadt, Germany):

My first bike, a squeaky colorful BMX, was lying under the Christmas tree in the early 90s. Growing up in the low mountain areas of Germany without access to a mountain bike, cycling community or infrastructure, I lost the fun of cycling, and only in the big city jungle did I rediscover it a few years later. In 2016 I bought my randonneur, and two years later a gravel bike. I share my experiences and adventures around the bike under the name “malpurajo” on Instagram, Strava, and komoot.

Pictures by Dimi Sardis & Liz Kellerer