If you're someone with a vagina/vulva who's taken up cycling or just been on a bike in general, chances are you've experienced some crotch pain at the hands of a skinny and uncomfortable bike seat.
Well, you're not the only one. And Emma Renner, a 24-year-old mechanical and systems engineer from Washington, recently went viral on TikTok for explaining why standard bike seats are NOT meant for people with vaginas/vulvas.
In the video — which has nearly 3 million views — Emma explains, "I spent my whole life thinking I can't bike because I'm not tough enough to stick out the pain, when it turns out that you're not supposed to have pain in the first place. For us, these bike seats can cause discomfort, pain, injury."
She continues, "We have wide hips, so we sit on our soft tissue. [Our hips] are downward facing. [This bike seat] is so thin, and we end up putting our entire bodyweight on our soft tissue, on this thin, tiny part of the seat, when it's made for people with front-facing genitals that aren't sitting on their genitals."
Then, Emma saves our collective crotches by sharing the type of bike seat we should be using instead! She says, "You can tell [this bike seat] is so much wider for our wider hips..."
"...and the padding on the back is so much thicker."
"It has this little slit in the middle for ventilation, and so you are definitely not putting all your weight on your soft tissue up front. It distributes your weight through your glutes in the back, which is what your glutes are there for, [they're your] sitting bones."
"So, go buy a seat that's made for you!" Emma says in the video. "And remember, if something feels so uncomfortable, and you feel like you're not tough enough for it, it's probably because the thing isn't built or designed with you in mind, and that's not okay."
My mind was completely blown after watching Emma's TikTok, and it turns out, there's tons of merit to what she's saying! According to a survey from the cycling blog Exploring Wild that analyzed responses from nearly 300 female cyclists, more than half reported feeling at least some type of pain on their rides, whether it be "frequent" or "somewhat frequent." It's also been long established that male pelvic structure and female pelvic structure is very different, so it makes sense that those of us with the latter would need a bike seat that supports us the right way.
BuzzFeed reached out to Emma for more info on her cycling journey, and she said that she previously wasn't an avid cyclist, "mostly because it hurt so much."
"I would ride my bike around my town growing up, and rode some in college, but never consistently due to pain. My groin area would be in pain while riding, and then after it would hurt to sit/walk/urinate, etc. I assumed this meant that I wasn't tough enough or was too fragile to ride bikes."
However, things changed when Emma confided in one of her friends about her riding pain, and Emma's friend shared that there are bike seats better suited for people with vulvas. "I no longer feel as if I'm sitting and putting immense weight/pressure/heat on my vulva, but rather sitting on my glute muscles, which doesn't cause discomfort. When I finish my bike ride, I don't feel any pain in my groin, and am able to ride again the next day."
Emma decided to share this invaluable bike advice on TikTok because she wanted others to know about it on a wider scale. "I was so shocked that I had never heard about these seats designed for people with vulvas, and that I had immediately assumed it was a problem with myself. I was so grateful for my friend who told me about this, but upset that I had to hear it from a network of people with the same problems, rather than a larger source."
"The response has been huge," Emma told BuzzFeed. "So many people saying they had no idea there were different seats, that they stopped biking as a child because it hurt so bad, that they had to go to a doctor after a bike ride due to the trauma to their vulva, and that they also thought it was their own fault, that they were too weak to cycle. So many comments are just shock that others feel similar vulva pain as they do, and that it isn't their fault."
When asked what she thinks this says about product development in general, Emma responded, "Once you realize that one thing isn't designed with you in mind, you start to realize that nothing is designed with you in mind. Products and systems are designed to work for and satisfy cis white males. Then, the rest of us are told that if we feel uncomfortable or unsatisfied with the product or system, it's because we aren't tough enough, or smart enough, or strong enough, or in some way less-than. They shame us into not complaining or discussing these shortcomings."
Lastly, Emma wanted to specify exactly who and what her video was for: "Many people have commented on my page saying serious cyclists, or those who race, use very thin seats. Which is true. I didn’t make the video for professional or serious cyclists. They lean forward and have low handlebars, so the seat needed is different and they are already well-informed on these topics. I made the video for people with vulvas who want to go on bike rides for joyful exercise, commuting, or spin classes. And by the response to my video, this is not well-known information in those communities."
Love it! Emma, thank you so much for sharing something that'll help many, many cyclists. You can follow her on TikTok for even more great content.
And if you're curious about the exact bike seat Emma recommended in her video, you can find it here. For more vagina/vulva-approved options and recommendations, click here.