Women in the Bike Industry, Who is to Blame?

There is a hot debate going on at Bike Hugger.  Two articles are to be mentioned : The first is “Women as Outcast’s in Cycling Industry.”  The author goes on to tell about how it was very difficult for his wife to find a bike that truly fit her, even after trying several different types of bikes and bike shops.  He ends his story with a suggestion that every shop have a key individual for fitting problems. The follow up to the above article is “It’s Women’s Fault.”  After a tweet, that mentioned that women are walking into the bike shop without knowledge.  Changing blame from the bike industry, to the shoppers themselves.

How Original

My original thought to this was, how ironic that both of these articles are wrote by a gentleman.  A well rounded, educated, cycling, gentleman – but a guy. My brain then went in full tilt as these are things I deal with daily running a bike shop, and monthly in the cycling culture surrounding the internet.  Cycling is a double edge sword when it comes to education, training, customer service and what I will call “the boys club.” Many people walk into a bike shop every day, not knowing what they want or why they want it.  Apparently, all customers can be broken down into 2 of 4 personality types.   All the sales training classes, education and personal experience I have had.. its true!  Here’s the catch, it doesn’t matter if they are male or female!! Why do companies such as the Ikea or Apple excel in a hard economy?  They know how to educate their staff, keep a store and help their customers.  Sure, it sounds great and easy but it isn’t.  The bike industry is a hard one to walk into, most employees are paid less than a comparable job in a different industry, the learning curve is steep, products change daily and that damn internet is telling customers all our secrets. (Half joking on that last one.)

Why do women notice?

Women notice how a store is kept, customer service, knowledge and experience because they tend to be shoppers.  They are sensitized to all of the above thanks to shopping with companies that have their act together.  Walk into your local Gap or Brookstone, follow by walking into three of your local bike shops and then tell me your feelings as you left each one.

Women Spend Money

Make two different fitting bikes, create a line of women’s clothing and now multiple it by 2 because you need choices for a woman to pick between.  Create a buzz, a community, a clean store with knowledgable, well kept employees and you’ll see the bikes and clothing. Why? Because women want to buy those things, they want to be better cyclist, outfit their bike and body and feel GOOD about it.  Make them feel good, give them a reason for purchasing and they will buy it.

The Boys Club

I’ve worked in the industry for a long time and have a pretty thick skin.  Still there are things that once in a blue moon will kick me off my rocker.   If you want to become your local area’s “women’s shop” I would recommend to hire 2 women that know something or another about bikes, and can learn.  Pay them $2 more per hour than their male counterpart, believe me they will earn it and will deal with more crap than $2 per hour can make up for.  If you happen to be a bike shop owner or manager, don’t let the boys club get out of hand.  A joke here or there is good thing, but comments about female customers, employees or female products should be stopped quickly.

There is No Easy Answer

Changes need to happen from both ends.  Bike manufactures need to stop painting bikes pink for floor models, and need to give more choices to women.  They also need to encourage training, merchandising and demo’s.   Bike shop managers and owners need to take large jumps forward from human resources to store design.  Create a shop you would be proud to show to your mother for a week at a time, not just for a drive by visit.

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Clipless Pedal Advantages and Disadvantages

We recently talked about the different types of pedals, and left the conversation with the question “Do I Need Clipless Pedals?”

Advantages of Clipless Pedals

There are three main advantages that I tell every customer thinking of getting a pair of shoes and clipless pedals.

  • You will be more efficient and faster on the bike. You are able to use the whole pedal stroke, not only the down stroke.  Pulling up and making round circles with your pedaling technique will allow you to keep a higher cruising speed or get up those hills faster with less effort.
  • The sole of a cycling shoe is stiffer and does not flex as much to cause arch or foot pain.
  • You are in a locked position in the pedals for a more dynamic fitting on your bike.

Disadvantages of Clipless Pedals

In my mind the advantages out way the disadvantages, clipless pedals will make you a stronger cyclist.

  • You are locked in and need to be educated how to “un-clip” your pedals
  • There is a learning curve, try to learn on a trainer or in a quite community
  • Your bike fit is now more important and you could injure yourself if you aren’t properly adjusted from toes up to your shoulders.  It all links together in the human body chain.
  • The cost for pedals/shoes starts about $150 – 250 for the common types of shoes and pedals.

Types, Styles and What to Look For

This is a follow up article to help aid you in finding your perfect system.  We will discuss different types of shoes, pedals and why each is useful.

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Different Types of Pedals

There are a variety of pedal types out in bike land these days.  The three top types of pedals are the following :

Platform Pedals

These are the pedals you have been using since the big wheel.  The are flat, sometimes with small grip pegs sticking out.  These do not require any special shoes, are the easiest to use and are also the least effecient of the pedals listed.

Toe Clips and Straps

Take the above platform pedal, and and a cage with strap.  These can be tightened down on your shoe to give you some ability to pull up on the pedals, as well as keeping your foot in a relative position.

Clipless Pedals

You have probably heard horror stories of clipless, or clip-in, pedals.  Chances are if you have tried them, you have toppled over one or two times.  Requiring special shoes, special pedals and a high confidence rate.   I recommend to try learning how to clip in with a friend, or your favorite local bike shop.  Being locked into a trainer also helps as you don’t have to worry about falling over.

Clipless pedals (also clip-in or step-in) require a special cycling shoe with a cleat fitted to the sole, which locks into a mechanism in the pedal, holding the shoe firmly to the pedal. Most of today’s clipless pedals lock to the cleats when stepped together firmly, and unlock with when the foot is twisted outward. Clipless refers to the lack of an external toe clip (cage), but not to be confused with platform pedals without toe clips. – Souce: Wikipedia

Do I Need Clipless Pedals?

Good question, visit our follow up article on the advantages and disadvantages of clipless pedals.

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Can I Wear Guys Cycling Shorts?

The easy answer to the question “Can I wear guys cycling shorts?”

Yes!

The hidden answer after that is, as long as they fit you.

For a very long time women were lucky to have various types of moderate level shorts.  There has been a few companies that come to mind that have been doing women’s cycling shorts well. These companies are : Pearl Izumi, Giordana, Sugoi, and Sheebeast.

Even with these brands, for one reason or another I’ve still worn about 50-75% of the time, guys shorts.   One of those large reasons are bib shorts, which is another topic in its own, I love them and not one company has made a good women’s design bib.  This has left me wearing guys bibs.  Other reasons are team sponsorship, right now the shops team kit are guys bibs, which is fine with me.

Reasons Not to Wear Guys Shorts

Length of chamois.  The pad/chamois goes high on guys shorts as they have more “package.” This freaks some women out as it comes well in front of the pubic bone.
Chamois size.  Remember that whole women’s design?  That goes with shorts too.  Women tend to need wider chamois in their shorts.  Just make sure the chamois doesn’t end too quickly for you or end where the saddle will rub.  That will leave you with several saddle sores.
Inseam length.  Companies tend to put a shorter inseam on women’s shorts compared to men’s.  This is another reason that I wear guys, I have long legs and the 6″ inseam on girls shorts are just too short normally.

Recommended Guys Shorts/Bibs to Try

Bontrager RXL
My go to shorts for the past year since I found them.  They have different materials through out the short to help with compression and the chamois is made to mate with their inForm saddles.

Gore Power Bib
– One of my new favorites if you read my article a couple days ago.  One note, do NOT get the Men’s Xenon bibs as the chamois has a break in the middle.  Can you say “camel toe?”

Final Thoughts

Don’t let your local bike shop confuse you, your favorite pair of shorts are two fold.  The first is the dressing room test, is it comfortable?  The second is to make sure it fits well on your favorite saddle.  Seams away from the edge of your saddles and that the chamois doesn’t “fold” in half and start pushing up on soft tissues.

Men’s or women’s : who cares as long as it fits?

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Losing Those Last Extra Pounds? Try commuting

It is a known fact that as we age it is harder to keep the weight off.  Not only are our own bodies changing and making it more difficult, but as well as limited time and more responsibilities.   It was much easier in school, or a younger age to go for a run, make a healthy dinner or join a sports team.

Lee said women should not let the findings discourage them from exercising at all, but they may want to make small changes now to prevent later weight gain.

“I think the easiest thing is actually commuting,” she said, suggesting people walk or bike to work, and if they drive, to park farther away from the office.

If seven hours a week are just too hard to fit in, Lee said people might want to consider vigorous exercise such as jogging, which can cut the weekly time requirement in half.

Originally found at Reuters

Several years ago, I learned that choosing my bike for errands would help keep the extra pounds off.  This habit also keeps me happier at work and my brain fresh.  I’m not a member of the gym and save a decent amount of money in gas and auto expenses.  Normally, this money is fed back to the cycling habit but its a healthy habit I plan on keeping for another 10 years.

Make sure to check out my other site, CommuteByBike.com or follow on Twitter @BikeShopGirlcom

Video : Unboxing the Raleigh Clubman

We recently took delivery of a 2010 Raleigh Clubman. In this 6 minute clip we go through the basics of unboxing a bicycle. A full review will be available on http://www.CommuteByBike.com soon.

A walk through building a bicycle up from the boxed form.  This is how most bikes show up to a bike shop, except for those boutique, build from scratch variety.   We skim through some sections in order to get you through the whole unboxing, which normally takes 45 minutes to an hour.

Unboxing

Tools

The basic tools are used were :

Park Tool Allen Wrench Set

Feedback Sports – Sport Repair Stand

Park Tool Cable Cutter

Photos of the Build Day

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Lab-Gear 99 : Full Review

Lab-Gear 99 Mid & T

The end of October I was approached by Lab-Gear to review a few of their new woman’s line, 99.  Today we are going to go over the pro’s and con’s, as well as share some photos of the different shirts we reviewed.  First, make sure to read our preview from December.

The Process

One thing very unique about Lab-Gear was the process of ordering these garments.  You go through a whole build out picking sizing, color weighs, and options.  The options include a GT Stripe (racing stripe,) thumb holes, and various stitching for the cuff and collars.

After submitting your order the customer service is top notch.  At anytime it is telling you where your order is along in their system.  Finally, you take delivery.  They are wrapped up nicely like a brilliant gift for you.  Made exclusively for you!  It happened also, to be delivered on my birthday.

99 T


This is a lighter weight long sleeve top.  Easily worn with jeans or on your favorite long ride.    We chose to build out our 99 tops to match well together as you can see in the photos.  Due to this being very close to your skin, if you are sensitive to wool, you may get itchy while wearing this top.

Merino wool does its job, even though a very thin (tshirt like) top.  This guy will keep you warm by itself on slightly chilly days, or team it up with the 99 Mid to have a very warm outfit.

With the fitting we decided to order the top to be a fashion fit.  Not too tight, but a normal size you would by from a clothing store.  The shirt fits well, but is on the shorter side for the size it is fitting.

99 Mid


As an outerwear top it is not quite a jersey, not quite a full on jacket.  It reminded me a lot of a track style jacket.  The Mid has a higher collar, thicker weave of merino and a zipper collar.

We ordered this top a size bigger than the T as it was going to be worn over other tops.  Teaming the Mid and T up together is going to be the perfect spring morning ride apparel.   The colors we decided on go well together for the pieces separate or together.

Final Thoughts

The cost are high for these tops, but merino wool comes at a price, as does customizing to your own liking.  At the time of typing this the convert of currency from AUS to USD is:

$130 for the Mid
$78.35 for the T

After a couple months of weekly use, washing, wearing and riding in - these tops look brand new.  This isn’t normally the case with wool, you often get pulling or threads snagged.

The Mid will be a great purchase for multi use, and the T is a dream if you are a fan of wool.

This product was given to me at no charge for reviewing.  I was not paid or bribed to give this review and it will have my honest opinion or thoughts through out.

The Best of the Best : Bike Trainers

This morning I was, brutally, reminded that some areas of the country are still in the freezing cold and in the need of bike trainers.  There are other reasons to ride a trainer outside of weather.  Including dedicated training intervals, warming up at races and even darkness can force us inside on the dreaded trainer.

The New York Times recently published an article on various bike trainers that a woman tested for 90 minutes at a time.  The article got me thinking about all the hours I spent on the trainer in Maryland and Massachusetts.  I hated every minute of it and even the famed “rollers” that were supposed to be 100% better, stunk.

Technology of Highend Trainers

As anything, technology is increasing and trainers are becoming an experience instead of a chore.  Computrainers and the Rock and Roll trainer are really pushing the envelope.

Computrainer

The best indoor trainers on the market, in my opinon.  These trainers hook up to you computer, using a profile or set thresholds the trainer changes resistance on your tire to make it feel very real life.   They also can be set up to 8 trainers connected to each other, then to the computer.  This allows you to ride with others, race, draft and really interact with others. 

I’m a bit spoiled as we have a fitness center inside of the shop I manage. We have 8 of these Computrainers and host multiple classes or rides per day.  You can really use this as a training tool and optimize your time during the off-season or daylight savings.

The catch on the Computrainer is the cost.  Starting at $1649, these trainers are for the diehard users.

Rock & Roll from Kurt by Kinetic

If you want to see a different way of thinking, check out the Rock & Roll.  The movie below can say more than I, so I’ll stop now.

The Rock & Roll will create a core strength as well as aid in the hard resistance on your body that you normally may feel on a trainer. 

Now, if you want the best of both world – take a Computrainer resistance unit and mount it to a Rock & Roll base unit.

Cycling Gives Women Feelings of Freedom

As a young child I always going out on my bike or out on a run to get out. I wasn’t one to play video games or watch tv, I always needed to get out.

Because of this the bicycle gave me a freedom further than my two feet. I didn’t need my parents, boyfriend or anyone to aid me in getting where I wanted to go. Exploration and adventure were a pedal stroke away.

“I think (bicycling) has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.”

Susan B. Anthony’s words, spoken in 1896, ring true today. Courtney Ramey, a dedicated bicycle commuter, agrees with Anthony: “It’s easy. It feels great. It’s freedom.” Pam Polizzi loves that “biking gives you a great deal of freedom in getting around the city easily.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/03/10/NSPP1CAFIB.DTL#ixzz0hsrYwouB

Today this is going one more step as women seem to be hesitant to get out on the road or bike trails to try this new skill. The second they do try it, they feel empowered and free of all the ties they left at home. The children, errands, work week or BlackBerry can go on hold for a couple hours as they ride.

What about riding a bike makes you feel free?