Explore with your body
Savior and sadist: Cycling Panties

Savior and sadist: Cycling Panties

I participated in a call for contributions to a zine by a 2nd year student of Critical Fashion Practices in April 2021. I received the instructions below.

Hi Lianca,

Hope you’re doing well!

I’m writing this mail to invite you to join my research about women’s safe space–this edition focus on women’s insecurities indicated by a “reading” praxis of the panties.

I attached the manifesto that I wrote for the proposal of Reading My Panties; I hope you can find resonance here; please check the file attached.

About the form:

  • booklet(digital/print)

I plan to present the collective manifesto in a booklet that consists of 10 females who would like to share their struggles, stories, insecurities, etc., through their panties. I will share the outcome of it with you, no matter it will be digital or print.

  • a manifesto (text)

It will be an anonymous manifesto in which you could share your observations, pop-up ideas, stories, memories, etc. Please feel free to choose your own narrative and the level of privacy. 

Here doesn’t have any limitations of length, format, tone; you can choose the way that you feel comfortable. But it should be in English (otherwise I can’t read haha) or have the English translation.

Please put the text into the word file(.doc).

  • documentation (images)

I kindly ask you to document your panties in any way you want. For example, it can be embodied, represented, clipart, re-edited, etc. You can choose your way to experiment with the visual materials.

Please send the images to me as separate jpegs.

no limitations for the amount, the more the better:)

About time:

Would you mind send me your manifesto before 30 April? (Lemme know if you need more time)

If you’re interested in it, please reply to this invitation; please feel free to email me if you have any questions. 

Wish you have a good day!


Best regards,

Lu Lin 

My contribution

Savior and sadist: Cycling Panties

These are my cycling panties. I wear a pair of these every day as I head off for work as a bicycle tour guide. I spend around 8 hours a day, 5 days a week on a bicycle seat – protective gear, like these panties, are important to prevent damage to my groin area. 

Participating in cycle races in South Africa, the crowd always chanted: ‘Hou bene hou!’ (don’t give up legs!) as you zipped past. Bystanders assumed that your legs were suffering the burden for trying to maintain cadence. INCORRECT. It is your ass and genitals that are under fire when bumping against the seat saddle. The best solution is to find a great saddle but, as anatomy differs from person to person, it requires a great deal of trial and error. A wise friend and fellow cyclist once told me: ‘Finding a good saddle, is like finding a good lover. It’s not a one size fits all situation’. Swapping out saddles gets costly, so in addition, cyclists also invest in padded shorts to protect their fleshy bits. 

When working I prefer my cycling panties to the padded shorts, as I can wear them under any leggings or pants. We don’t move fast when touring, so I don’t work up a massive sweat (armpits excluded, they are smelly at the end of the day). Lycra is redundant.

If I don’t wear the padded panties, weird things happen down there. Ever had the nose of the bike seat slip snugly into your vulva so you straddle that baby with camel toes dangling off each side? It’s not an experience that warrants repetition. Padded underwear creates a protective barrier between you and the darned saddle. It absorbs some of the impact and prevents you from sliding back and forth chaffing from urethra to anus. But they are far from perfect.  

You’ve had a wedgy right? Your underwear bunched up in your butt crack? Imagine a wedgy in the front. If the shorts are not fitted properly (I don’t think I have ever owned a pair that was) the excess padding will lodge itself in that slit between your legs. Your butt also suffers but it’s basically soft fatty cushions covered in durable epidermis, and then also covered by padded briefs. Way more conducive to cycling than the soft pink tissue between your legs. 

The briefs are engineered to ergonomically fit the curves of your body. The seams, holding the padding in place, run across your belly, in-between your upper thigh and groin, over your butt crack and back. A shape that nicely outlines the most sensitive part of your body; an inadvertent bullseye beckoning: “Strike here!”. Why, for the literal love of me, would you put a seam on the transitional ridge where leg meets pelvis an area that is perpetually moving and rubbing when peddling a bike? No one can fault the designers for not anticipating that folded fabric and soft stitches would turn into razor blades slashing your skin upon rotation.

Also, forget about ever getting a Brazilian again. If you dare bring wax or a razor blade near your pubic region you risk ingrown hairs that combined with heat, moisture, pressure and friction turn into saddle sores. Even medical science struggles to prescribe preventative measures against these critters. Saddle sores can manifest as hard painful lumps, fluid-filled cysts or abrasions – a little like friction burn. I’ve even had blood blisters on my labia! The best solution is to just nurture your natural pubic hair and hope you find a lover that doesn’t mind bush-bashing.

Those sadistic briefs are there to prevent numbness and swelling, but it sucks at preventing UTI’s. That cushiony bit you lounge on is a breeding ground for bacteria. Ditch those panties and shower as soon as you get home from a workout. Frequent washing also reduces the lifespan. That $40-$70 investment was for comfort, not compound interest. 

The folly we suffer for our craft is not unlike to folly we suffer to be female. My cycling panties are kind of an allegory for the pressure from society to be a stereotypical woman. It’s suffering packaged as salvation. The constant strive to be feminine, glamourous and fashionable.  These societal expectations normalize acts of torture and humiliation – plastic surgery, dieting, keeping up with trends- and positions them as the answers to eternal fulfilment.

When cycling, my shorts don’t really make me faster. Will becoming the quintessential woman make me happier? Something to ponder as I head out for my moving meditation on the bike.