Mailbox Cycling shorts

Mailbox Question: Larger Sized Cycling Shorts

Daily I receive a good amount of email questions from the Ask a Question form. As I find frequently asked or interesting questions I will be answering them from the Mailbox.

Mailbox Question

I have decided to begin to ride a bike to lose weight and get fit. I am currently a size 18/20.

I want some gel bike shorts but not only can I not find any big enough but also none that are big enough for my chunky thighs. I don’t want saddle soreness to put me off so can you suggest any answers? The bike gel seats that you can buy to go over the saddle seem to be made for small mountain bike saddles and mine is a normal wide sprung saddle.

My Opinion

There are two parts I want to address, the first is finding a pair of shorts that fit.

Many manufactures have women’s XX-Large shorts that fit much like an 18/20. Also, I’ve had great success with women over size 14 wearing men’s shorts or bibs. I highly suggest trying a bib short on (it will feel weird in the dressing room but amazing on your bike) as the spandex is removed from your waist and pulls everything together under your jersey.

You mentioned gel short and saddle. I try to push folks away from gel under your rear as much as possible. The first reason is that gel compresses after some saddle time and causes more pressure in areas you don’t want. The second reason is that it wears out/moves and breaks down rather quickly. If your handlebar and saddle are in proper height you shouldn’t feel any extra pressure that you wouldn’t when seated on a wooden chair.

Recommendation

Pearl Izumi has a good Select In-R-Cool short that goes up to 2x if a shop doesn’t have anything near you. If there’s a good shop near you try on things, don’t be scared of the guys. When you are trying on, use underwear but no after you buy them!

Disclaimer: I work for Pearl Izumi but those are awesome shorts.

 

Women Bike Mechanics

Women Make Great Mechanics, Specialized is Helping the Cause with Training

A great article by Kath Bicknell was posted on Flow Mountain Bike. The article made some key points about how women make great mechanics and how better training could specifically make the void disappear of highly skilled women in the bike industry.

Taking it a step further, I believe that if we take the time to single out women to pave the path a little bit more for more advanced training it will open up and encourage more women to work in the industry. Think about this, if every shop had a couple women on the floor and behind the bench, and every shop bike ride had a women as one of the group leaders… how much more inviting would this be to women and men alike?

As a woman working in a bike store, you’re definitely an anomaly. Last time I worked at a bike shop, every now and then, a customer would ask to speak to one of the ‘guys’. ‘Ask me your question, and if I can’t answer it I’ll go and get some help,’ I’d say.

Things usually went pretty well from there. If help was needed, I’d call on our female mechanic, just to make a point.

In a sport that still attracts a lot more men than women, it follows that female staff in the bike retail sector aren’t as common either. This can sometimes lead to the unfortunate assumption that women aren’t as skilled as their male counterparts, or can’t provide the same level of customer service and advice.

Read the full article here.

Photo credit: Kath Bicknell

sweaty bike commute

Commuting Basics: If You Arrive on Time, You’re Late

Bike commuting is a passion of mine. The joy of swinging a leg over my bike to get to my next destination is freeing and can make any day feel complete. One thing I realize as more friends and readers are getting into bike commuting is that there can be a hugee lack of preparation for going by bike and the stress that involves. There are many topics on this subject, but today’s point is this.

Just because you rode your bike does not mean you should walk in sweaty and rushed.

Too many times in my experience bike commuters are running behind because they didn’t give themselves enough time. For those showing up early they are sweaty and need time to “cool off.” Selfishly, I want bike commuting to be looked at as a viable alternative to many people’s car commute. Helping give it a good image and taking a bit of time to be presentable and ready to go when your day starts will go a long way!

Suggestions for looking like you didn’t commute

  • Time can be your friend. Give yourself built in time incase of a flat tire, mechanical or to try a new route to work. I’ll often wait to drink a cup of coffee for when I get to work, that way I have time to stop sweating before I wipe off and change.
  • It’s not a race. Enjoy the ride and don’t rush it. If you want to rush off somewhere on your commute, let it be the ride home where you can be sweaty in the comfort of your own couch.
  • Wear wicking clothing and have spares. I wear a running t-shirt in the wicking material, or an Ice Breaker light weight wool t-shirt. Unless it’s under 70 I come prepared with a different shirt. The same goes for the bottom, except I bring extra unders! Working in a bike shop I’ll wear the same pair of jeans 3 or so days straight, leaving them at the shop but bringing in clean underwear every day with me.
  • Action Wipes. It’s like a shower in towel, disposable and all natural. Start from your face going down, it will leave you feeling clean and you won’t be salty the rest of the day.

 

Saddle Recommendation Header

3 Women’s Saddle Recommendations

The question of “What is your favorite saddle?” is a very popular question in tweets, emails and in shop conversation. It is also probably one of the most user specific question around bike fit. My bits are not built like your bits, my seat bones are not the same width as your seat bones but I can give some generic feedback of my “go-to” saddles for women.

Pro advice: Make sure you check your saddle measurements prior to swapping out any of these seats! This includes height, and the distance of where your sit bones are most comfortable on the seat to the handlebars. Every seat will be different but these are good x/y starting points to measure off!

The Most Popular Women’s Saddles I Recommend

 

Fizik Vesta

Fizik Vesta

 

If you don’t know where to start with a new seat, start with this one.

When swapping out bike seat during a women’s bike fit this is normally the first seat I try. The channel through the middle section allows some relief on your girly parts and the wider sit bone area on the back of the seat keeps you well supported. This saddle was once on 100% of my bikes but as my handlebars went lower I had to switch to something with a flatter front to back profile and not a drop in the middle.

Tip: Make sure the area where your sit bones hit is level!

 

 

Specialized Ruby Pro

 

 

Specialized Ruby Pro

If your handlebar is lower than your saddle height than try out the Specialized Ruby. The relatively flat back area of the saddle and flexy middle section allow for a leaned over position. This saddle doesn’t have a ton of padding some if you are relatively upright it may be a bit too tough for your sit bones.

Tip: This saddle does come in different widths, so make sure to get your butt properly sized!

WTB Deva

WTB Deva

This seat is a bit narrow so if you are on a super upright hybrid or mountain bike the saddle may not support you properly. Saying that, this saddle has been a goto for cyclocross season for many years due gel inserts in the firm and pretty flat surface.

Tip: This saddle is not as tall as many others. You may need to move your seat up significantly.

(Yes, I like white saddles. It always makes a bike look faster in my humble opinion!)

Bicycle Categories

Bicycle Shopping: The Three Common Styles of Bicycles

So you are in the market for a new bike, but you don’t know where to start? You aren’t alone!

When customers walk in to my bike shop starting their hunt for a new bike one of the most important things I ask is this: “where do you want your bike to take you?” In upcoming articles I will help you answer that question and continue to empower you in cycling. Today’s article is focused on breaking down the three most common styles of bikes and what their most broad use is. These styles or categories are: Road, Mountain, and Hybrid.

When I quickly count on my fingers the different styles of bikes that most good bike shops carry, I come up with 14 (I promise I only have 12 fingers). 14 categories of bicycles to confuse you, overwhelm you and lead you down different avenues, maybe even putting you on the wrong category so that you never ride that new bike hanging in your garage. These 14 categories don’t even include the different kinds of mountain bike wheel sizes, fat bikes, or thoughts of road bikes.

Today, we’ll be using wide strokes to paint a picture of bicycle types that can be helpful as you start your hunt for a new bike.

Road Bikes

Trek Road Bike

These bikes have round, drop, handlebars. If you haven’t been on or near a bicycle in a while then you may refer to these as a “10-speed.” They are efficient,  fast, and tend to have a more leaned over and “aggressive” feel (but not uncomfortable.) They are meant to be comfortable for the long ride, and have many different sub-categories for different uses. Triathlons, gravel races, bike touring, and so many more things can be under this category. A solid road bike that doesn’t have parts you will be replacing within the first season of heavy riding normally starts around the $1000 range.

Mountain Bikes

Mountain Bike

These are widely popular as they are the all terrain vehicle of bikes. Knobby, fat, tires that allow you to roll over things and go on various terrain. Most kids start off on these, and they can be found in many department stores so they are often the “gateway drug” to bikes. Your everyday bicycle shop mountain bike is between $350-650. Anything under $500-650 is probably not meant to go truly mountain biking, but instead plays the part for when you go down dirt paths, gravel and off pavement. A sturdy “single track worthy” mountain bike normally starts around $800.

Hybrid Bikes

Hybrid Bicycle

Though I’m a pretty performance oriented cyclist, the hybrid is my favorite category of bikes. This category is what will get folks out of the gym, off the treadmill or better yet, off the couch! The hybrid is decently efficient on the road, but normally has an inverted tread to allow for some sand and hard packed gravel riding. The fit is a bit more upright, feeling more comfortable to the rider going <2 hours. While there are extreme hybrids costing $2k with disc brakes, carbon forks and features similar to a road bike, rather these bikes normally start around $350-500 for a nice sturdy, comfortable bike with parts that will last. The hybrid is a bike that any cyclist should have in their garage for grocery getting, bar hopping and greenway cruising. There is a chance you’ll grow out of this bike when you decide you want to go further on the road, or hit more aggressive mountain bike trails. That is okay, the hybrid will always have a place in your collection.

Light & Motion Lights

This Little Light of Mine, Using Lights at All Times

This is a drum I have beat a decent amount in the past, but I need to beat it again as the summer days get longer and people are riding their bikes more and more. There are many reasons I believe you should have a front and rear light on blinking at all times on the bike, at the end it is safety and keeping you intact on your bike.

Reasons to Use Front and Rear Blinky Lights All The Time

  • I have been left hooked in a major intersection and fully believe a front light would have made the old man see me
  • Make yourself easier to spot
  • It makes cars more aware of you, and the space around you. In my experience with a rear blinky light it seems cars give you more space as they pass
  • Habit to turn on your lights
  • Why not??

Recommendations:

My favorite light set is the Light & Motion Urban 200 Combo Kit (support BSG and buy through that link!)

Balance Bike Session

Balance Bike Session in Oundle, England

Over the weekend a friend/follower on Twitter mentioned that he was headed to a balance bike session. Quickly, I asked him to take some photos to share!

A quick blurb on the day from Mat

Trying to get nippers riding bikes in a rural area of England…lots of issues here with kids in villages not riding/not starting to ride, for no good reason. Loads of mums starting to ride and it’s great seeing mums and kids starting to hit the roads again.

See the complete set over at Mat’s SmugMug gallery

Balance Bike Session
Balance Bike Session
Balance Bike Session

Lights on the trail

Mountain bike night rides

A guest post by Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA.

I am planning to do some mountain bike racing this spring and thus have been trying to get some extra miles on my mountain bike.  Living in the middle of Atlanta makes this difficult, especially during the week.  Luckily I’ve discovered a local Tuesday night no-drop trail ride.  I’ve ridden this ride a couple times recently and am pretty happy about the added miles that I’m getting without having to go too far or change my schedule too much.

I would like to say that when I first started riding a mountain bike, I thought that only insanity and a love of medical bills would cause someone to try this in the dark.  It was a challenge for me to make it through an entire ride in full sunshine, so why would someone make it harder by limiting what they can see?  As I’ve ridden more and mountain biking has become more intuitive for me, I’ve figured out why some cyclists choose to ride at night.  Night rides are great because:

  1. Winter days are short and dark.  Night rides provide the opportunity for mountain bike fun despite the short days.  Just make sure to bundle up, because the temperature gets colder the later into the night you ride.
  2. In the summer, when daytime temperatures are unbearable, riding at night decreases your chances of being disgustingly sweaty and getting  sunburned, thus increasing your chances of actually enjoying the ride.
  3. Weekends fill up quickly and 9-to-5 jobs leave little time for day time rides.  Night rides fit nicely into a busy schedule.  (I do get a little less sleep on night-ride nights.  I guess something has to give.)
  4. It’s a new challenge.  With just ambient light and a headlight to guide you, your brain has to adjust it’s depth perception and you have to react to the trail more quickly.  It requires you to step up your game.
  5. It’s fun to roam around in the dark woods.  It feels a little like being a high school hooligan (yep, I said hooligan), a little mischievous.
  6. (Don’t tell anyone that I said this, but it gives you the opportunity to ride trails that you might not be able to ride during the day–trails labeled “No bikes” or some private property trails.  Sshhhh…that’s a secret…I’m not saying it actually happens.  I’m just saying that it could hypothetically happen.)

I still consider myself a night-ride beginner, but every time I finish the Faster Mustache Tuesday night ride, I come home with new advice for myself, so I thought I might share some of that with those of you thinking about trying it.

  1. Plan ahead– I was planning on a night ride a couple weeks ago and got home to discover that I had forgotten to charge my headlight battery.  No light, no ride.  No plan, no ride.
  2. Be prepared–During a recent night ride I broke my derailleur hanger.  Luckily someone else had come prepared with zip ties and a chain breaker.  Otherwise, I would have had to walk the several miles home.  You should be fully prepared for every ride you go on, but the risk of walking home/back to the car in the dark and late at night underscores the importance of preparedness.
  3. Double check that your light is fully charged–Having ridden with a dying light before, I can tell you that it’s not fun.  Riding at night is already a challenge.  Not having a light makes it just plain dangerous.  Charge your light and if you think that your ride might outlast your light, bring an extra one.  I ride with the Niterider MiNewt Pro 750.  My night rides are about 3 hours and it hasn’t failed me yet.
  4. Know the trail or ride with a friend who knows the trail (and is the same speed as you)–I’m new to the in-town Atlanta night ride.  The other cyclists have generally ridden these trails hundreds of times or are pretty quick and can keep up with those who are familiar with the trails.  I am neither familiar or quick enough to keep up with the group (only girl on the ride usually…).  This makes for some frustrating moments sometimes.  I often get to trail intersections and have no idea which way to go.  I’ve discovered that I’m pretty good at either picking the wrong direction or not seeing the turn at all.  One of the guys usually comes to track me down or makes loud enough noises so that I can find my way back to the group.  I try to laugh about my adventures alone in the dark, but it can be frustrating.  That said, if you’re going to ride at night, pick a trail that you know pretty well or make sure your riding companions will ride at your pace or come find you when you get lost.
  5. Don’t give up after the first time–Night riding is hard.  Your brain will have to adjust its depth perception skills.  You can’t see as far ahead as you can in the daylight, so you have to react to the trail more quickly.  You might get lost at some point.  Don’t let those things convince you not to try it again.  Give it another shot.  It gets easier and more fun, I promise.
  6. Find a local late-night eatery–You know how hungry you are after every mountain bike ride? Night rides are no exception, so know where the closest late-night joint is located.  We always end our ride at a local pizza place and when we roll up at 11 pm, we’re always the last people in there.  A beer and some slices make the perfect midnight snack before we all split up to head home and go to bed.

For those of you who are night-ride experienced, did I miss anything?  What other advice do you have?

Michelle beer handups

Ladies Night, a Guest Post

I belong to a newborn bike team that was formed by a popular LBS as a way to bring more cyclists into the sport. I’m one of three women on the co-ed team and, through sheer terror that I will lose any fitness and no longer be able to keep up, I’m the most consistent woman on the group rides in town.

It’s certainly not because I’m the fastest. Not even by a long shot. I’m a forty-two year old mother of teenagers that only started riding anything more than a commuter bike in 2010. I believe in cycling for transportation and for health. I think cyclocross is the greatest sport ever invented and, someday, I hope not to crash my mountain bike every time I get on it. In other words, I’m just an average chick that likes to ride a bike. Yet I can’t seem to convince many other average chicks to join me out there.

I think it has to do with the fact that it’s intimidating to be a woman in a group of very fit guys. And when I say very fit guys, I’m talking about the fastest cyclists in our community. Nice guys, but very fast. Most of the group rides we do have a “catch-up” segment that allows the group to re-form before moving on down the road. I’m usually the last one in, or next to last if I’m having a good week, and often a few of the guys will swing around to accompany me to the end. This is what keeps me going. I love these guys and, though I hold things up, they always encourage me. Still, I will do just about anything to not have to be the one to ask them to dial it back a bit.

And they are guys. Though we may all keep a Lady Schick in the shower, cycling is a very testosterone oriented sport. With the one-up-manship, crude language and large amount of spitting, it’s hard to convince a girl friend that pedaling a bike for two straight hours in a harrowing pace line is sane, let alone fun.

I think women have a place here though. All of these guys have wives or girlfriends that only want a bit of encouragement to get them regularly riding. There are plenty of women in the LBS glancing at the zippy new road bikes, but talking themselves out of it because they have no one to ride with. Well, dammit, I’m going to do something about this. I’ve learned from the best how to be encouraging and supportive and it’s time I pay it forward.

March 2013 will see the start of a new Weekly Women’s Ride in our community that is fun, inclusive, and all female. No intimidation to keep up with the guys, no worries about how those funny shorts look, and no spitting. We will ride for the sheer joy of the wind in our faces and for the happy-hour margaritas we will consume when we’re done.

But I’m not done with the guys. As the year progresses, maybe I can convince one or two of the women to tackle the Thursday night group ride with me. Then, a few weeks later, maybe someone will try Tuesday Night Worlds. If I’m really successful, there will be a group of women enjoying cyclocross with me in September. The crowning achievement, however, would happen when another woman and I get on the front of the November gravel ride and we hear a masculine gasp from the back say “Can you gals slow it down a bit?”

Michelle Windmoeller Michelle Windmoeller first learned to ride in 1977 on a used gold chopper-style bike with a wicked banana seat. Since then she has toted schoolbooks, kids, household furniture, and, literally, a commercial kitchen sink on her bike. Based in Columbia, MO, Michelle owns Blue Cypress Solutions and writes about health and wellness issues. She officially invites you all to join her for a long, leisurely ride in Missouri sometime. She’ll bring the PBR. Photo Credit: Kate Woodard

Charlotte Winter Short Track Series

Race Preview: Charlotte Winter Short Track #1

Your first of a season are always nerve wracking. First group ride. First wreck. First long ride and so on. First are scary for the unknown and for the stress you put on yourself.

Tomorrow is my first race of 2013. The first race of the Charlotte Winter Short Track Series. A training race if you could call it that. A 45 minute interval set in the middle of a 3 hour ride. Riding to the course, pre-ride, race, and then another hour of riding after.

I can tell you now that I’m nervous, but in a healthy “I can’t wait to get my adrenaline pumping” kind of way. This afternoon, after I drive home from Chattanooga/Atlanta, I’ll be swapping out a front tire and riding down to the course to preview. From there I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, I don’t know where my legs stand against the girls that will show up and in a hyper focused way – I’m not too worried. This short track series holds so meaning to me and I’m super stoked to be able to race all 5 Sundays of the series!