Cycling Advice for Women
My Best Advice for Women Cyclist
In no particular order these are things I have said over the years to friends, customers and myself. If you have more advice to add please join the conversation in the comments at the bottom of this page.
Research, learn and learn some more
You may find a great local shop, but unless there is an experience girl there, they won’t be able to tell you from their own experience. Boys are made differently, even their thinking is different, which makes for some things not to be comparable. (Saddles, shorts, clothing, etc.) Try to learn from as many people as possible, test ride, and ask a ton of questions. Don’t stop learning or asking!
fi:zik Vesta Saddle
Invest in a a good bike seat and bike fitting
You should not have any numbness or pain when you ride your bike normally. If you start training for Ride Across America or something like that, it may be different. A two hour ride should be fun and enjoyable, make it so.
Also, make sure your favorite bike shorts aren’t causing problems. With a seam or stitching in the wrong place, it can cause a ton of problems.
The wonderful woman behind Lovely Bicycles posted a great article that I could never do justice. Go read over there about bike saddles and the female anatomy.
Be careful shaving down there, especially the first few times before you ride
When you first start riding, purchase a new saddle or change your bike fit, it is very important to take note of these changes when you are shaving or trimming your crotch area. This goes for any area that is touching the bike saddle. In grown hairs, shaving burns and all those things can be heightened by cycling shorts and saddles rubbing up and down for many revolutions of your pedals.
Try some sort of butt and “cooter” lube
You may not realize you are chaffing or rubbing areas. Also, many have an anti-bacteria add in. My favorite is DZ Nuts “Bliss”.
Women’s Cycling Shorts, saddles and handle bar tape/grip wear out
The same as you look at your drive train and tires, keep a good look on these things before they cause you problems.
Photo Credit: Dirt Divas UK
Find other women to ride with
Even if it is once a month and you have to drive, do it. This spring I made a vow to do my best to ride with a local women’s ladies mountain bike group the Dirt Divas or atlas ride with some of them when time allows. The social aspect, the motivating factor, the “belonging” feeling and finally to motivate OTHERS, are all reasons to do it.
Women cyclist should ride with the boys
It will make you stronger and faster.
Become self reliant
Learn how to change your tire, clean your chain and the basic lingo so you can maintain your bike with your local bike shops help. You don’t need anyone else for those basic things, plus you’ll be safer when riding if you know these things.
“There’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.” – Madeleine Albright
Try to remember the first time you went bike riding with a group, tried clipless pedals or entered your first race. Make sure to smile at the start line and encourage. Competition is healthy but women will be the back bone of making this sport a success, I can promise you that one.
You are a woman, you are an athlete and you should be proud of all these things together.
It has been over a week since updating you about my 30 days of biking challenge, so here is a quick update.
Day 1 : A 19 mile road ride
Day 2: A daily commute of 5 miles to Davidson, NC – take the bus from there to Charlotte and then a mile commute. In the evening I reversed it
Day 3: I only did the end of day commute, riding the bus completely stinks and makes me feel that I’m in a 14 ton coffin. Avoided it for the past week.
Day 4: em:pwr cycling lunch time group ride and then the bus/commute home.
Day 5: A early morning mountain bike ride before work.
Day 6: Rode my mountain bike into the weekend by knocking out 12 miles after work on the singlespeed 29er. I also scurried home to build up the new Airborne Goblin 29er.
Day 7: A shake down mountain bike ride at Lake Norman State Park. Adjusting my cock pit, getting used to gears and suspension
Day 8: A 28 mile road ride on the 29er mtb for fit and adjustment reason
Day 9: 7 mile afterwork mountain bike ride
Day 10: Built up a friends new Airborne Goblin, tweaked his new Stevens cyclocross bike and test spun around.
Day 11: (Today) Changing out some bits on my Goblin and beating it up around the block.
5 Pieces of Advice for the Bike Shop Manager
It is frequent that questions arise towards me for recommendations on how things should be done, or changed within the bike industry, especially bike shop management or culture. Maybe it’s the name Bike Shop Girl that brings it out of the person? I like to think it’s my charm and large brain…
With an outsiders perspective, here are some recommendations I am giving to active or maybe new bike shop managers.
Visit many corporate retail stores near you and take notes
Most shops want to keep that “home grown” feeling. I’m not recommending to lose that, if anything harness it but don’t forget in the end you are fighting to win customers over. Retailers that I recommend to visit include The Gap, REI, Apple, Best Buy, and Starbucks. Did they give you breathing room for when you first walked in? Did they great you warmly? Was the store clean and organized? Did the staff present themselves well and provide help when needed? Were you ever lost in the store? Did you feel rushed? How was the checkout process if you purchased something?
Visit them often and compare notes. These companies pay good money to train their staff, merchandise their store and have great processes to make sure all these things are handled correctly. Save your money and learn from them. Pull from as many great ideas as you can, use the ones that you can relate to.
Clean your bathrooms as if your mom was visiting
I visit a lot of bike shops, and I always ask to use their bathroom. You can really get an idea of how a shop is run behind the scenes by their bathroom. Are there magazines of half naked women? If you have one bathroom for men and women, ask your male staff to put the seat down every time they use it. Better yet, make it mandatory. If your staff has to clean the bathroom daily, they will keep their pee in the toilet and not leave greasy chains soaking in the bathroom sink. I understand some staff’s need to use the bathroom sink for this use, but let the chain soak in a water bottle and wash it off in the sink. Don’t leave it in there. I also don’t think anyone will be offended if the kit you rode into work was in there, I will be offended if it is hanging chamois side out right next to the toilet (where my face has to be!)
Think before you buy
Never write a pre-season order when your rep is still sitting there. Ask feedback from staff, compare numbers from the last 2 years and purchase wisely. Pre-seasons, discounts, and bulk buying is great a great thing that many companies offer, remember that it is ONLY great if you can sell it before the bill is due. Too many shops get sucked into saving 5% on their order and at the end of the season they are left with SKU’s they were required to purchase to make minimums. It doesn’t matter if you save $800 on an order, if you have a pair of $3,000 cost wheels sitting on your shelf for 2 years after you have payed the bill. Those wheels have COST you money by sitting there after you have paid the bill. Depending on margin, there is a change you needed to sell 2x, or had 2 cycle turns on that wheel set to make money when you factor in paying the invoice, losing floor space, and how the cost of the wheels tied up money from being spent on better turning product.
Never buy something that you or your staff wouldn’t use
There is a reason special ordering is around, promote it. If there is something you think is great, bring in one to test out. Let someone try it out, purchase more based on that review. Your staff will sell more of something they believe in, help them do this. Teach your staff how to properly special order a product, require money down, require a time period to pick up and if it isn’t convenient ask the customer if you could drop it off or ship it to them (based on weight, shipping cost and the ability to ship!) If special ordering is treated properly most customers will be happy to wait. You can get me the EXACT bike I want, built and in my hands before the weekend? I’ll be the first person to test ride it? – Direct quote from a customer I had. One season I proved my shop owner wrong, that special ordering is possible and most customers won’t mind a bit! Special ordering over a 1/4 of the bikes sold in the store.
Pick and train your employees as if you could do the same of your children
Teach them manners (customer service), morals (trustworthy and dependable), cleanliness (pick up after themselves and their customers) and a healthy attitude (give them a chance to ride their bike.) You aren’t their parents, and it isn’t your job but to have a stronger company you need to make your employees stronger. They are more valuable than your low margin inventory.
If you have experience running a bike store, or any other retail establishment please add your advice and tips in the comments below!
Burn 24 Hour Ladies Discount!
The guys behind Burn 24 Hour race in Wilkesboro, NC are trying to get more ladies to enter their race. If you haven’t heard about this race it is THE 24 hour race in the southeast. Anyone that is anyone has raced this event during its lifespan. Now it is your chance to do it for 20% off.
The BMCC and the B24 want to see you on the trail. The women’s classes have suffered the last couple of years at the B24. We’ve set attendance records both of those years so there’s no excuse for you not to come race. After a brief hiatus, we’ve added the Women’s Duo category back to the fold. Currently, the solo female class is a no show but The Betty Project is back and so are the Dirt Divas to contest for the Women’s team podium. In efforts to entice you to to join the field, we’re going to reduce the registration fees for all lady’s categories. Enter coupon code BIKE SHOP GIRL to receive 20% off the current fees. After you register, check out bikeshopgirl.com for Motivational Mondays, product reviews, news, race recaps and all things relevant to women’s cycling.
2011 Sea Otter Dual Slalom Photos
During my stay at Sea Otter something happened to my mentally and emotionally that I can’t explain. It’s a bit more deep than I want to get into on this post but one of the after affects was wanting, no yearning, to take more bike racing photos. Saturday afternoon before we packed up for the day, Neal and I hiked up the dual slalom hill to watch the final heats of the races. While I had no experience of this type of racing, besides what I have seen in the magazines, it was thrilling. It took a BMX track and pulled it downhill. In fact it looked SUPER fun. Everything I love, downhill, speed, berms and a short sprint!
Here are some of my favorite photos I took during the 20 minutes on the course. Feedback and criticism are encouraged!
Sea Otter Ladies Lounge
One of the things I am very excited about for the 2011 Sea Otter Classic is all the “ladies” focused events! On Sunday there is a full day of events scheduled to get women more active in the cycling lifestyle.
Sea Otter Ladies Lounge Sponsored by SRAM
Rebecca Rusch, pro athlete, endurance racer, and all around great person, has put together the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour for 2011. The first stop is the Sea Otter Classic where she is hosting the Sea Otter Ladies Lounge.
April 14-16th, 2011 (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) from 2-4pm
Meet and mingle with pro-women cyclist like Rebecca Rusch, Team TIBCO, and the list goes on.
Mini-tech clinics, that’s where Bike Shop Girl comes in! I’ll be there everyday to help with maintenance, 2×10 MTB technology, trail side repair and so on.
Have questions or ideas of what we should talk about? Comment away!
Group Riding Fears
Fear is an interesting animal. Some people lack the normal types of fears, they are the “fearless” and can be found back flipping bikes or driving fast in the rain. Fear to me is self preservation and common sense, tied with adventure. Which part is larger, which part is stronger and what direction will you be pulled?
First times for events in your life cause fear for most. First date, first kiss, first time you ride a mountain bike, and so on. Yearly, I have “first fears.” First ride in the dark, first group ride, first fall, first race, and so on. Some are thoughts, and not major fears but others cause me horrid nerves and anxiety.
Last night I went for my first group ride of the season, it was a great experience and reminded me why I love riding with others. BUT before the ride I was nervous and feeling sick. Was I fast enough for the group I picked? Would I crash and be that person that crashed in front of everyone? All of these thoughts were running through my head as I drove to the trail.
I tried to pre-ride to shake the nerves from my legs, but it didn’t work. I need to get in with the group and start riding! Thankfully this group is filled with many of my friends and past customers. They knew me, they joked with me, and my nerves were washed away within a quarter of a mile.
Get Out and Conquer Those Fears
Moral of my story is if you are scared, we all have been there. Look at me, I’ve been riding over 12 years with groups and my first of the season still makes me nervous! Ride with friends, and loved ones. Be strong and ride. If you are scared, go off the front or fall off the back. Ride with someone that knows your level and what you are capable. Follow them, ask them questions, and if you still are worried we are here for you. Let us know how we can help you!
New Steering Wheel on the Surly Sled
Tonight (Tuesday, March 21, 2011) is the first Dirt Diva’s group ride of the year. As this is the first season I’m not working retail I was very giddy to get back in the saddle with a large group of fellow women that love cycling. I also knew to keep my respected name in the area I would have to get my bike to stop creaking before the group ride.
Over the weekend when I was riding Fisher Farms my handlebar kept popping and my rear disc kept whining. Now, I couldn’t have that continue as it was driving me batty! After a long grocery shopping adventure last night I was ready to check over the bike and make needed changes. Until both lights in my garage popped. Did I mention it was 8:30pm and dark now outside? Even darker in my garage… Never fail, I pulled out my contractors lights and set them up.
Look into the light...
Next I loosened up my stem to clean out any dirt that may be causing the creaking. Oh yeah, my handlebar was cracked. Gotta love aluminum handlebars and Thomson stems…
Time to swap out the the carbon bar I’ve had laying in the corner and try out the Ergon GC3 grips with bar-ends I’ve been waiting to ride on a straight bar. Everything happens for a reason…
Then it was time to cut housing before I strangled myself or a passing by squirrel… and finally tuned up my brakes with the cleaner line of housing.
It was a quick 30 minute change of parts and rearranging on the Surly Sled. I do adore this bike, even though it is probably the most “heap” of parts bike I have ever owned but it also probably the one that has seen the most mileage, abuse and scenery.
Why Women’s Specific 29ers Don’t Work
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to test ride on a local trail a few women’s specific 29er mountain bikes. As I had mentioned in the past I was very excited about this new idea of women’s sizing in 29″ technology but that is where my research ended.
The idea of fitting smaller individuals (men or women) on to the larger wheel technology has been something that I’ve had hopes for. A few years ago when the 650b movement started I was completed behind it for that reason. The 26″ wheel, to me, is not the solution for everyone based on how they ride and where they ride. People deserve options, an example of this is why 3″, 5″, 7″ and 9″ suspension systems exists.
Back on topic, riding women’s specific 29ers
I didn’t have the ability to check saddle fore and aft, saddle to handlebars or any specifics other than seat height. Now that my disclaimers out of the way….
The bike didn’t handle well. I don’t know how else to say it…. The geometry of it all doesn’t make any sense. Take a normal size 29er, keep the wheel base the same length and shorten the top tube. What you get is a very slack, very flip flop, very slow handling bike thanks to changing the head tube angle to something that would mimic a 5″ travel “all mountain bike”.
To a point I understand why they did this. Shorter top tube to fit women with shorter upper bodies.
My Opinion : How to fit women on 29ers
My bike fit is 140% female. I have a super long inseam and super short upper body, even my arms are short. This is my take on fitting my own personal 29ers. Longer top tube than I would ride on a 26″ bike, and an inch shorter stem. My effective length from saddle tip to handlebars hasn’t changed, but how I achieve it has. My handling is changed to make up for the bigger (heavier and larger) front wheel and often more raked out fork. Faster steering is achieved with the shorter stem and my front wheel isn’t tucked up under me either.
Your Bike, Your Opinion
Fitting mountain bikes is a very dynamic effort. It’s not as straight forward as fitting someone on a road bike. You take everything that you know from fitting road bikes, tie in your own mountain bike experience and then tie in the person RIDING the mountain bikes own feedback. Test ride, try out things, and repeat.
Depending where you ride, how aggressive you ride, and your own body type (size, shape, fitness, strength & flexibility) every bike will fit you different. A bike out of a box most likely won’t fit you. How the mechanic that built the bike probably won’t be how you need it to fit.
The above feelings about how the 29er women’s specific bikes rode is my own experience, I ride aggressively, I push my bike and body every time I’m out riding. The handling of the bike was too slow and did not excel for technical riding. Inquire with your local bike shop, talk about bike fitting and your own needs!
Today was foretasted as a beautiful days, at its peak it was meant to hit 55º and be the gorgeous Carolina Blue skies that I love dearly! When I left my house this morning at 8am, it wasn’t close to 55º and I would bet it was closer to 20º in the shade.
Why am I telling you all this?
Never Under Dress on Your Bicycle
My upper body was warm, I decided to wear a long sleeve jersey and my team thermal wind-stop jacket. I didn’t wear long pants, nor warm gloves figuring that knee warmers and tall wool socks plus long fingered gloves would cut it.
It didn’t. 3/4 through the ride my right foot was numb and my legs had the burn of the cold. I didn’t complain, I did go slower but I didn’t complain to my riding partners.
As I entered the shower, I didn’t realize how cold I really was. I looked down at my bare naked legs and could see exactly the areas that my knee warmers or socks didn’t cover. There was a 3″ line between my socks and knee warmers and again around my hip area that looked like a sunburn, and god did it hurt when the warm water hit it. I quickly shout out for a camera from my girlfriend to take a picture of my legs. I didn’t need to hurry her as the lines are still there 6 hours later.
Windburned Cycling Legs
I’ve never done this one before, and I can promise you I never will again.