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Intimate Shaving Controversy: Lessons Learned from the UK National Women’s Cycling Team

By Adam Marsal

There have been concerns about intimate shaving since the invention of a razor. Shaving of pubic hair seems to help with maintaining better hygiene but also increases the chance of ingrown hairs and infections. Causing invisible damage of the outer layers of the skin, shaving and waxing make cyclists more prone to the development of folliculitis. According to several studies, up to three-quarters of people who shaved their pubic hair experienced genital itching afterwards while 40 % complained of a rash.

Many cyclists are therefore considering whether to shave and wax or not. Four years ago, the UK women’s team pursuit squad was standing before a similar dilemma. Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker, Joanna Rowsell-Shand and Laura Trott, training ahead of the 1996 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, were advised to reconsider their habits concerning intimate care and hair-removal techniques. The team managers were worried that a possible saddle pain might eventually lead to the weakening of the chances to win precious medals.

Katie Archibald and Laura Kenny during the Track Cycling European Championships Glasgow 2018. © Bettini Luca / AFP / Profimedia

After the ladies ended up on a Buzzfeed list named something like ‘10 Strangest Things Olympians Do for Success’, the foursome was asked by a journalist if they were banned from waxing the nether parts. One feature even speculated if Team GB supplied women with beard trimmers. While some of the riders found it funny, others were upset about friends and families reading stories presenting their pubic hair in the news. Despite tabloid rumours, the quartet won the gold medal in the women’s team pursuit at Rio 2016, producing a sixth consecutive world record in Olympic competition. One would say by a hair before their competitors. What is your experience with shaving your pubic area?

5 helpful tips for your saddle health (apart from wearing underwear)

1. Clean but not sterile. Avoid using perfumed cleaning products and stay away from removing all-natural bacteria.
2. As the right choice is crucial, try as many saddles as possible. The same goes for the position and angle. If the ride has not been comfortable, fiddle with the positioning before the next one.
3. Use chamois to minimise pressure and friction.
4. Change shorts if yours seem not to fit well. Wash them after every ride.
5. Mobilise your hips before the ride to get a better position on the saddle and help the more comfortable movement of the thighs against the saddle’s surface